Everyone loves a good story. We love to hear them, and we love to tell them.
Sometimes they come out a little garbled, like the ones my niece Hannah would tell when she was only 3 or 4 years old. She'd get so excited and animated, but we wouldn't know what in the world she was talking about.
Others stories are epic, told to children of various cultures and time periods over centuries.
We all have a story. Our personal stories are a combination of truth, perspective and, sometimes, good old-fashioned fiction. We often choose what we want to emphasize
size in the yarns we weave about our lives, and that affects how we live. I read an interesting article a couple years ago about the fact that sometimes we needed to tell new stories about our lives, ones that made them work better. Sometimes our old, stale stories hold us back.
So, I've got a story to tell, and it's rather short. I've been telling myself that I'm not a very organized person for years. I knew I had certain bursts of what I like to call brilliance in this area, but they seemed short-lived. Then I'd fade back to my normal, disorganized status quo.
Well, several people have done my taxes over the years, and at least two of them mentioned how organized my materials were. The first time I was told this, I quickly shrugged it off. "No, I'm not organized at all." I wondered if he were just being polite.
The next person who told me said it emphatically, "You just don't know. I've seen people bring their materials in a bag and drop them on my desk." I thought, well compared to that, I guess I'm organized.
Then I kept thinking about it. What if I really were more organized than I'd believed all these years? What more could I be accomplishing if I believed that I could work through things systematically? What confidence I could have about accomplishing my goals? I reflected on the fact that I love organizing things into files and notebooks, finding places for things to go, and cleaning up clutter.
I was stunned. That old story had impacted my life in such a negative way. My behavior had often become a self-fulfilling prophesy. I decided it was time to switch to a new story. In this one, I really was able to accomplish things because I really was somewhat organized. If I made a mistake, it was just that -- a mistake, not a pronouncement that I was incapable of getting myself together. I felt excited about the possibilities.
Recently, I gave a friend a compliment about her looks. She immediately rejected it and began complaining about her pants. I became indignant, "I gave you something and I want you to accept it!" Everyone around me began to laugh at my passionate response. But I knew that if she kept telling herself a negative story about her looks, it could affect her in ways she hadn't considered.
What's your story? Is it one in which bad things always happen to you and there's nothing you can do about it? Or is it uplifting and full of gratefulness and wonder? Whatever you're telling yourself is directly linked to your perception of life, your abilities, and the joy you may or may not be experiencing. So if your story isn't working, start writing a new one. It doesn't have to be long, one sentence will do. The results might just amaze you.
Tabi Upton is a trainer and workshop leader, freelance writer and counselor. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.