Recently I attended a CPD session presented by Coach, Author and Facilitator, Andrew Scott. The topic was Shifting Stories. The session was so interesting, it provided me with a great approach to use for my coaching clients, and it also got me thinking about my own story.
What do I mean by Stories?
We go through life looking through our own personal lens. Our view of the world is skewed. We believe that the way we see life is the same way everyone else see things, but of course it’s not. We are largely the result of our conditioning and experiences from childhood to the current day. Our carers had their own lenses and this influenced how they brought us up. We went to school and began to find our own identity, influenced by our own characters traits, the people we interacted with and our life experiences.
Imagine two people who go to a party. Each person has their own unique experience of the event, dependant on how they feel about themselves, who they meet and what happens to them during the evening.
Perhaps one person believes they are not very interesting, they are shy and uncomfortable going to large gatherings, they feel apprehensive and awkward, they stick close to the one person they know and avoid eye contact with others. They leave early, relieved to get away. This would have been me in my teens!
The other person believes they enjoy meeting new people, they are curious about other people and enjoy engaging in conversation to hear what others have to say. They also like to dance and have a great time on the dancefloor as the evening gets livelier and the music is turned up. They are one of the last to leave and as they travel home, reflect on the interesting people they met.
These two ‘characters’ experience the party in completely different ways. I hasten to add neither is right or wrong, they are just different. They enter the room with different paradigms, they see everything through a different lens. We all have our own unique perspectives; this helps us make sense of our world and determine our ‘reality’.
So lets think about Global Warming and the destruction of the natural word, imagine two people who are passionate about protecting our planet.
One feels that there is nothing they can do to make a difference. They feel they have no personal agency, that the greed of the big corporations will always win and therefore this person feels hopeless, powerless and that the grim future of our planet is pre-ordained. They are angry, overwhelmed and sad.
The second person definitely sees the future as uncertain but knows that the smallest actions make a difference and can influence others. They are determined to make a different and begin speaking out in the organisation they work for, asking for clear policies on how the company will achieve net zero carbon emissions. They begin a local community project, co-ordinating volunteers to plant trees and pick litter.
Which story would you like to be living?
Why Are Our Stories Are So Powerful?
In effect our stories, (we have more than just one!) are built around our self-perception and beliefs. When we come across new information, we have a choice as to whether to question it or believe it. Once we decide that something is true, our mind will look for evidence to back up that truth, this is called unconscious bias. We all have this trait, we are looking for information to support our reality or ‘story’ which confirms our perception of ourselves, others and the situation.
We also tend to ignore or discount things that don’t fit with our story. Often our experiences as a young child can have a big influence on our view of self. When we are very young, we don’t have the ability to question what is said to us. We might be told we are stupid or useless and we may begin to accept this as the truth. If our self esteem is fragile our brains will seek evidence to support our beliefs and so we go through life with a lens that helps to support our view of the world. If our stories are limiting us and preventing us from living the life we want, we can start developing new stories. Here are my tips on how:
How Can We Begin to Shift Our Stories
Whatever it is, before we can change, we need to raise our awareness of the current situation. One of my jobs as a coach is to help my clients to shift their perspective and look through a different lens. Our thoughts tend to form patterns, so to interrupt that pattern, we need to tune in to the way we think. What story are we telling ourselves? What would we call it? For example, in the past, my story might have been, the ‘I’ve left it too late to be successful’. I came to coaching later in my career, having never really found a job I felt passionate about. Is that really true?
I am lucky enough to have worked with Suzanne Mountain, a coach specialising in helping mid-life entrepreneurs to grow their businesses. She has helped me to develop a new story.
Question the Assumptions
When we have limiting beliefs, it means we are making assumptions about ourselves. Our brains tend to ignore everything that would support a new, more positive story. A simple way of identifying your unhelpful stories is to start keeping a journal. It’s helpful to write down your thoughts onto a page. It’s like standing back and looking at things from afar. It helps you put some space between you and your thoughts. It’s worth remembering that thoughts are just thoughts! It’s such a useful habit to reflect on your day and think about how you might take a different approach.
Listen to the words you use, if you hear I can’t, I’m not good at, I’m would love to BUT; these provide clues about stories that are holding you back.
This is not an excuse for self-criticism, always aim to remain curious and keep these reflections light and creative. Note down examples that support your new story, this helps to reinforce it and bring it to life.
Creating Your New Story
Once you get clear on your current story then you can start having fun by letting go of your attachment to it and instead begin to create a new story, with a better, more positive outcomes. What would you call that story? Mine might be ‘I Have All the Skills I need to Become a Successful Coach’. As soon as you create a more positive story your brain goes in search of evidence to support it, instead of looking for the limitations you will start seeing opportunities and synchronicities. Be alert for the return of the old narrative, it will try to come back, especially in times of stress and challenge but now you have awareness of the empowering story you can challenge the unhelpful one.
I love using Goal Mapping to help me and my clients get really clear on new stories.
Nurturing Your new Story
Like any author, once you get the story outline in your head you need to start working on the detail. Make it clearer in your mind, imagine what it would feel like to be living that story. Add in colours, sounds, feelings and rehearse your story in your mind. Are you going to be the hero of your story, remaining steadfast despite adversity or are you going to be the villain who sabotages the dream and finds every possible way to stop the hero from reaching the goal? I personally love the 6 Phase Meditation developed by @Vishen @mindvalley as a way of developing my new story.
I use many tools with my clients to help them find clarity around their current stories, so they can begin to create new ones. Is change possible, absolutely! Change is inevitable but how your view the journey influences the outcome of your story. So why not start writing a new one today!
Please feel free to contact me for a free, no obligation Discovery Call, if you want help crafting your new story and new future.