As a writer, I’ve always loved the idea that we are the authors and editors of our lives and our careers.
But as empowering as it can be to know that the decisions in plot and character development all come down to us, it can also be a challenging idea to swallow.
That’s because it means we’re not sitting on the sidelines anymore. It compels us to stand for what we want.
It is, though, more basic than revolutionary. It doesn’t need to be hard.
Living and working in a way that fulfills and challenges you comes down to three basic things: choices, needs and strengths.
All of them start with the story you are telling yourself. And that’s where that author/editor thing comes in.
When you don’t believe in possibility, it’s hard to visualize doing something different. When you do, your options start to expand.
When you buy into “I don’t have a choice,” you’re likely to keep making the same unfulfilling one over and over. When you let that go, you empower yourself.
When you’re not willing to step up and ask for what you need, you’re deciding ahead of time that you’re probably never going to get it. When you are, doors open.
When you are afraid to stand out, it can be challenging to stand for the life you love living. When you’re not, life feels a lot more authentic and more “you”.
You get the idea. We all have experienced this. (I experienced it just last week on vacation when I had to ditch my story of “I can’t hike steep trails” in favor of “I am perfectly capable of climbing up onto that glacier. Just watch me.”) And yet, revising our stories is not often where we look when we feel stuck. In fact, I’ve had clients who resist this kicking and screaming… until they try it.
It doesn’t take a wholesale reinvention to start things moving in the direction that you want to go. The small adjustments and tweaks you make to your stories along the way can be even more powerful.
Once you’ve changed your mind, you’re standing in an entirely different place. Things look different from there.
Here are 7 simple ways to start telling a different kind of story:
- Make a choice about what you want to experience. When we’re bored, stuck or not fulfilled, it’s often because somewhere along the line, we have accepted that. We can decide instead to challenge ourselves and look for opportunities. We can be intentional about how (and who) we want to be. This is (always) up to us.
- Understand what it is you’re really after. What is it that you want your job or relationship or lifestyle to provide? Is it a stepping stone to your big vision? Do you want to grow in certain areas? Have you outgrown it? Are you trying to get a need met? Do you wish to move forward or settle in?
- Own what you’re great at. Identifying your strengths with a coach or through an assessment, and looking for the situations, relationships and opportunities that will use those strengths creates natural momentum. Or as my grandma used to say, “you need to use the gifts God gave you.”
- Notice what you dismiss. When a friend’s pleasures and accomplishments bring out your snark, anger or “must be nice,” that’s a warning sign. Dismissing other people’s choices or lifestyles is a direct path to a story that is not serving you. What is it telling you?
- Take charge. If you’re yearning for change, that’s an action sign. Too many people let their workplaces manage their career, let others manage their relationships or live by expectations. Pay attention to what energizes you, and go get a little more of that.
- Work with a purpose. Grounding yourself in your personal values and priorities and knowing how your choices fit into those can change your everyday experience dramatically. That’s what real life purpose is about. If you need to, write yourself a personal mission or manifesto and use it to remind yourself of what matters.
- Manage your energy. Check in with yourself throughout the day. Notice how you feel when working on certain types of tasks. Notice how you feel in the morning, during work, at the end of the day. Reschedule as much as possible to coincide with your natural energy patterns. Positive energy breeds possibility.
Try out a few of these small steps and see what stories you uncover (and which ones you decide to change). I’d love to hear what works for you.