When we were young, there were no limits to what we could do. We looked at the world with wonder and curiosity and it was ours for the taking – we could do anything. But as we grew up (or at least grew older), we learned about life through our own experiences and the influence of other people. We learned we could fail. We learned others might not approve of us. We stopped trying new things – even thinking new thoughts – because they might be “wrong.” We became afraid.
One of the biggest things that holds people back from living the lives they truly want is the stories they tell themselves. We instinctively turn to the “I can’t do it because” excuse because of fear. And many times not changing – not developing new stories – works. You may feel unhappy, unfulfilled, and chronically cranky, but you think – meh, it’s OK, I’ll just deal with it “later.” And then “later” turns into months, and then years.
In order to move from “I can’t do it because” and “it’s fine for now” to “I’m going to rethink this” try the following to shift your thinking about stories:
- Is what you’re telling yourself factually true? So many times we convince ourselves things are true when in fact they’re our perception.
- Where did the story you’re telling yourself come from? Was it from a person, an experience, something you read? Why did it stay with you?
- What is your definition of success for your situation? Can you break success into bite sized action items? Does it matter how long getting to “success” takes? What story have you told yourself about a timeline – does that need to change?
- What is your biggest fear? Boil down all your roiling thoughts and get to the heart of why you’re unwilling to take action. Think of 3 things you can do to alleviate that fear and take one of those actions – large or small – today.
- Notice if you’re engaging in all or nothing thinking. For example – does looking for a new job mean you quit the one you have while you look? Probably not. How can you find a middle ground in your situation?
- Determine what parts of your story still serve you and ditch the rest. Then (and this is really important) develop a new story to replace what you’ve discarded. Think about how your new story can serve you mentally, emotionally, physically, socially, financially and spiritually.
Taking the time to work through stories can have a profound impact on how you see yourself, your situation, and your future. So make sure your stories serve you, not keep you mired in fear.