I always know there’s a post formulating when I have multiple conversations in a short period of time on the same subject. This week, it was three conversations in less than 24 hours, and they were all about the stories we tell ourselves.
It started with Kelly Goyer, a guy I admire greatly for his authentic exploration of his own story, and going through it to get beyond it. He’s a generous and careful thinker and listener…such great qualities in a coach. We chatted on Skype, having just reconnected because we’d been out of touch for a few years. I asked him what he was working on these days, and he said he’d been to the Minnesota Men’s Conference, which had greatly influenced him. The annual event was started by celebrated poet Robert Bly, credited with launching a “men’s movement” in the U.S. after the publication in 1990 of Iron John, a treatise urging men to reconnect emotionally with mythical and traditional masculine archetypes. The conference proceedings focused on storytelling, deconstructing myths and getting at what stories we tell ourselves vs. what are the real stories, Kelly told me.
We talked for a fair bit about that experience and process. That evening, the subject came up in a conversation with my daughter, and the next afternoon with my sister-in-law. After the subject coming up three times in less than a day, I decided someone must be trying to tell me something. After some research I found a post by coach Michael Hyatt suggesting a 5-step question-and-answer process to determine whether or not a story you’re telling yourself is actually true. So I decided to try it out…and here were the results.
- Become aware of the Narrator. Half the battle is simply waking up and becoming conscious of the commentary running through our minds. Most people are oblivious to it. It is especially important to be alert to it whenever we experience adversity or trauma.
Ask: Am I telling myself a story right now?
The story for me has to do with this project, the Pink Notebook blog and book. Am I telling myself a story about it?
- Write down what the Narrator says. When the story starts playing, take a minute and jot it down. Try to get it word-for-word. It could be, “I’m not a gifted public speaker.” Or, “I’ll never reach my goals.” Or, “He’ll never go out with a person like me.” Whatever the story is, get it down.
Ask: What is the story am I telling myself right now?
The story is that lately I’ve been focused on whether/if I can make a worthwhile book out of the Pink Notebook blogging I’ve been doing for a little over a year. That was the original intent, and it seemed like a good idea at the time, but now I don’t know. I feel like there are millions of people out there like me, but I can’t find them, or they’re not interested. I don’t know if I have what it takes to find those people, and then see if the content serves them or not.
- Evaluate the story the Narrator is telling. It’s easy to confuse the Narrator’s voice with the Truth. But the Narrator is only offering one perspective, based on previous experiences and—too often—fear. We don’t have to accept the version of reality the Narrator is telling, especially if it’s disempowering and prevents us from reaching our goals.
Ask: Is this storyline just a limiting belief?
Hmmm. That’s such a good question. I feel like the correct answer is yes, but…you know. I do believe Hyatt is right–my Narrator is only offering a single perspective, and a lot of it does emanate from fear. What if it’s a failed attempt? What if I just don’t do all the right things to build audience? Worse…what if nobody is actually interested?
- Affirm what you know is true. You can either live life based on past experiences, current feelings, or the Truth. As one of my mentors often says, “Most people doubt their beliefs and believe their doubts. Do just the opposite.”
Ask: What do I know to be true?
What I know to be true. Okay. Well, I know that my sharing in my groups is often met with recognition, and acknowledgement of common experience. I know the people who do read it respond graciously that it is of value to them. But the truth is that I don’t know if what I’m writing about, and/or the way I’m writing it, has an audience. That’s not fear; it’s acknowledging that there’s some significant information I don’t have.
- Write a new script. We don’t have to be passive spectators in our stories; we certainly don’t have to be victims. While God is ultimately sovereign, we have agency. Our choices matter—more than we think! They can affect the outcome.
Ask: How can I make the choices that create the best possible story?
My new story starts with a change of attitude. Instead of fear of failure, and doubt of my own capability, neither of which are real; I will start with some facts and related actions.
Fact 1: I’ve been writing for more than a year and have only written an average of 2 posts/month. I know that serious bloggers write a post a week, minimum.
Fact 2: I have done a little work to reach out to my audience (auto-posting on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter), and a little SEO work on each post, but beyond that, I haven’t done much, if anything, to promote the blog.
Fact 3: I don’t really know much about the subscribers I do have, never mind who/where are the ones I wish I had.
New Story: Instead of guessing, or wallowing in fear of what may be, I’m going to take action to learn more about my existing subscribers, by doing a feedback survey online to them to seek their opinions and feedback on The Pink Notebook. With that new knowledge, I will make changes as appropriate (i.e. more frequent posts, shorter (or longer) posts, etc.) and then commit to posting each week. I will ask existing subscribers to share the blog with anyone they think might be like them and interested. And then I will see where I am. And then write the next chapter of this new story.
Thanks, Kelly, and Michael, and Lucy and Vicki…Again, I am reminded how important it is to ask questions, and then listen.
Ask & you shall receive,
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so…”
–William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act II, Scene II