The Stories You Tell Yourself Make a Difference

Monday, December 5 2016

ordealadventureThe stories you tell yourself will determine how you deal with the experience of being stressed. Your stories influence your results.

Very early in my career as a coach and leadership trainer a major organization invited me to lead a series of spaced learning leadership courses across Canada. I was to be fully committed for 3½ months, which meant that during that period I would have no time to work with any other clients. Ten days before we were due to start, they cancelled. And paid nothing. (Let me a add that they are no longer in business in Canada.)

This was incredibly stressful. No income for 3½ months was a big deal, especially as we had just bought a house.

I had a choice: I could whine and feel sorry for myself or I could tap my inner strength, think positively, and move forward. Either way I was telling myself a story.

For the first few days the stories I told myself were not positive: we have a new mortgage to pay; I don’t know what I am going to do; it’s not fair. There were probably other negative stories. But, that is what they were – stories. Instead of looking for opportunities elsewhere, I wasted several days. However, I was lucky and the week after the first contract cancelled I scored an even better opportunity with a company that has been a great client for many years.

That experience taught me to be careful about the stories I tell myself. Strive to become aware of your stories and learn when you are in danger of getting stuck in them.

Negative stories, ones that don’t move you forward, can be changed. It won’t be easy, but as you grow in your ability it will become simpler.

Steps to dealing with stress:

  • Think of the story as a dream. It is not real and you don’t have to let it negatively affect you.
  • Don’t act on it, no matter how bad it may feel. Reframe your thinking.
  • Take two minutes and write down all the negative thoughts and feelings.
  • Spend the next two minutes considering your opportunities. In my case, after I changed my story and started calling on perspective clients I found a great new opportunity.
  • Choose to believe that good things can always happen and accept that your approach impacts the outcome.

The stories in your head make a difference. Choose positive stories for success.