When I work with clients, I base a lot of our work around a foundation of what I call “dream it, design it, live it”.
It doesn’t matter whether the focus is a complete lifestyle overhaul, a deep dive into what’s next at work, or sustainable strategies to reach that goal— this underlying philosophy gets results.
At the heart of how we do each of these three things is story. That’s because there are few things more foundational to our experience of life than the stories we tell ourselves and others.
Our stories influence what we see, how we show up, where we show up, what actions we take — even what we believe to be possible.
The problem is that our stories aren’t facts. They’re narratives, and as any good writer knows, every storyline is open to be examined, revised, thrown out, recast, improved upon.
I’m a writer as well as a coach, so “crafting a story” is something that naturally resonates with me. But psychology backs me up here. Our brains are always creating stories, trying to make meaning from our experiences.
With awareness and effort, we can better understand the stories we live by, take an active role in creating them and ultimately, make them serve us better.
This four-step process can get us started:
Discover. Stepping back long enough to question “the facts” of your experience reveals a lot of stories. Once you’re able to get that little bit of distance and awareness, you can begin to sort through them, question them—and ultimately transform what needs transforming.
Once you’ve identified the story, it’s important to know that it is not “wrong,” even if it’s not “true.” It likely serves a purpose. It might be a important lesson waiting to be completed or a doorway to up-leveling your life. It might give you a clue as to where your next area of focus wants to be. It may hold the resolution to a longstanding concern.
Dissect. This is the empowering part. As soon as you can see your own stories and stuck places, you have a brand new choice. What would you like to do about that? Is there a better, more inspiring story that is equally true? It’s time to dissect it like a reviewer might. Does this story hold up, is it that interesting? Who are the important characters, the villains and heroes? What’s the plot?
With every new story comes new strategies, new ways of being, new possibilities and new action plans. Knowing which actions, attitudes and ways of being align with the new story is how you begin to write a new narrative in your life, how you create a new vision, a new chapter, a new set of standards. One little story at a time.
Deliberate Response. It sounds simple, right. But in reality, living into your new stories takes practice. It takes time. It takes choice. Instead of reacting to a bad day at work with a story about how terrible your boss is and how you need to get out of there, you might instead, stop for a minute, breathe and remember that you are the storyteller.
If you’re the victim in your story, your reaction is a lot different than if you’re the person who overcame the challenge of a difficult day or learned something valuable about the kind of work you now want to be doing (and not doing). That’s when reaction can give way to a more deliberate response. Now, you’re equipped to make real choices in that moment about which actions give life to the story you want to be living.
Design. Re-seeing your life through the lens of story opens up an amazing amount of possibility. But how do you become the person who is actually living that version of your life? This is where having a clear vision, strong standards and designing your mindset, action plans, support systems and environments all come into play.
It’s where you experiment with what it’s like to change roles, write a new chapter in your life, or tell a story that naturally pulls you into a happier way of being. When you regularly put yourself into new roles or new storylines, notice how that feels and keep experimenting, changes start to happen quickly. The next thing you know, that new chapter has arrived.
Here’s a coach’s challenge for you:
Identify one area where you’re feeling stuck, one area where things aren’t moving the way you’d like. If you were to tell me all about it, what story would you be telling? Does it need to be rewritten?
Photo credit: interruptions via photopin