You and I have been telling stories from the time we were kids. In fact, storytelling has been a big part of every society for as long as human beings have lived. Anthropologists tell us that stories were originally shared to help us survive and thrive.
As a leader, you tell stories every day, and the person you talk to the most is yourself. Have you ever stopped to think about what you’re saying? If you’re like most leaders, the answer is ‘no.’ You’re so busy putting out fires that you aren’t aware that some of your stories are making it a lot harder for you to win at work without losing at home.
The reason our stories have such a positive or negative impact on our lives is that our brains are constantly looking for facts to support the tales we tell ourselves. If you think you’re not good enough to reach a goal that’s important to you, your subconscious mind starts looking for evidence to justify your belief, even if it’s not true. Soon your opinion turns into a fact as certain as the law of gravity. Like Henry Ford once said, “If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
If you want to change your life for the better, stop trying to change your behavior and start changing your stories.
Take a minute now and answer these questions:
Do you tell more stories about what you can do or can’t do?
Do you tell more stories about the reasons you’ve been successful or why you’ve failed?
Do you tell more stories about where you’ve done the work required to make progress on high-priority goals or do you beat yourself up because you keep procrastinating on something that’s important to you?
I believe there are good leaders at every level that have too many negative narratives running through their mind on a daily basis. Most people admit that if they do 9 things well during a day and mess up on 1, much of their self-talk is spent ruminating on their mistake. You and the people you choose to lead can’t win the day on a consistent basis until this negative habit is broken.
You can start making a change by deciding what positive stories you want to begin telling yourself today. I’m not talking about saying something you don’t believe is true. I’m just suggesting you find what you’re doing right and tell that story over and over and over. Whenever the negative stories pop into your head…and they will…just acknowledge their presence and choose to focus on what’s going well for you now. What we focus on expands, so even if you start with a small story, it will grow…and so will you.
Once you see the power of positive stories working in your life, start challenging the people in your world to follow your example. Your co-workers, clients, family and friends can change their lives by changing their stories, too.
Let’s Get Better. Together! Bill Durkin