Recently on a trip to Argentina, I met an individual who owing to personal reasons had moved from Western Europe and made the Latin American part of the world his new home. I asked him on his experience living away from his home country. He could have complained, whine about the emotional distress and make a big story of living away from his siblings.
Instead, he said some very hopeful words “Life has been fantastic. In some parts of the world, spending time outdoors and eating on the porch is a luxury. We do it here 8 months of the year. There is nothing to complain.” This individual had mentally and verbally changed his narrative, his story. By changing his narrative, he had learnt to come to terms and live a happy life.
The Stanford Storytelling Projects focuses on deepening our lives through our own story telling. In one of the articles the author writes “Our experience of the world is shaped by our interpretations of it, the stories we tell ourselves.”
Change your narrative, Change your Story, You change your outlook towards life and you change your life.
How do you tell your life story? Do you put life in perspective? When you put life in perspective and take away the negative emotions which usually cause all the drama, life is not that bad. In fact, in most cases, it does turn out to be good.
We need to learn to change the way we tell our story, mentally and verbally.
Think Big: When we think small, we put brakes on our life – constraints on time, finances, resources and relationships. We then tell our story based on constraints. And, our story is fear based, limiting, and lacks the zeal for a purposeful life.
Change your story by thinking big. I mean realistically big. Playing for the Broncos in the Super Bowl finals is not realistic for me (it may be for you – think big!). If I want to learn to play the piano, become an entrepreneur, aim for writing a best seller, of course it is realistic. If you have a son or a daughter, would you not want the best for them? You want them to go to the best university, get a fantastic career and live a joyful life.
When you can think big about them, why not think big for your own life?
Making our experiences meaningful: We zip through life. The days go by so fast. Our kids grow up so fast; we think we are growing old. Time does not slow down. Every other minute is the same as the previous one. It is up to you to decide the best way to spend every minute.
Compared to all other living creatures on this planet, a human being is blessed with a powerful toolkit. We have the ability to think, we have a complex and highly sophisticated intellectual cosmos class nano computer in our brains to process our thoughts and make rational decisions.
When you pause, observe, and process, you have a better chance of understanding the essence of a thought, an action, and a behavior. Leveraging our intellect to process experiences and make them meaningful changes our subsequent narratives.
Staying grounded in well-being: A powerful and positive narrative can only come when we are mentally and physically strong. When you are tense or stressed, there is a feeling of lightness. You feel you are not anchored. You are left afloat creating instability.Visualize yourself in a difficult situation. Did you feel out of control?
Psychologists say for us to be confident and convey a sense of optimism, you have to feel it first in your body. Feel your body being in equilibrium. Feel your weight being spread evenly to your legs and supported. Feel you are standing on a firm surface. Feel you are strongly anchored to the ground. With the feeling of stability, narrate, have a difficult conversation and notice the difference. You’ll feel the locus of control and power within you.
You cannot change the Narrator, but surely can change the narrative. Like the conductor of an orchestra, synchronize your story towards a purposeful outcome.
By the way, as I was getting ready to board the flight and come back to New Jersey from my trip to Argentina, I saw a middle-aged son screaming at his aged mother. She was a woman probably in her late seventies. The son was all upset because he had lost something and was blaming his mother for distracting his attention. The old lady sat there motionless while this individual continued with his screaming. I’m sure there was an element of grief in her on being yelled but also forgiveness for her son. Now, only if the son were to change his narrative….