Michael Hyatt is a bestselling author and the former Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. He writes, speaks, and consults. Recently, I listened to his podcast, Change Your Story, Change Your Life (#038).
If you haven’t heard it yet, go listen to the podcast. (It’s okay. I’ll wait. 😉 )
(For those of you who didn’t listen… Quick summary: Michael talked about the “narrator” we all have in our heads. The stories we tell ourselves. He shared an example of a story he was telling himself that had a negative impact. He also described how he changed that.)
After listening to the podcast, I was shocked to realize I had a voice in my head telling me a very negative story. I was surprised because I think of myself as an unusually positive person. I have a lot of practice reframing experiences and changing my expectations.
I was also surprised because that negative narrator wasn’t telling the story in “my” voice. It was someone else’s voice I was hearing. The voice of a close friend who had given me some harsh feedback.
You see, I had set a goal to enter a bodybuilding competition. I wasn’t taking it seriously though. I wasn’t consistent in following my nutrition plan. Consequently, my progress was slow and somewhat sporadic. I can still remember him telling me that what I had already accomplished in improving my fitness level was like climbing a hill, while competing with bodybuilders was like climbing Mt. Everest.
I responded to that comment with a lot of hurt and anger. But that’s not why it was on repeat in my head. It was on repeat because, deep down, I agreed.
For the last several months, every time I’ve looked in the mirror, I have been fighting to defend myself. I didn’t accomplish the goal I set out to meet. I didn’t even give it a very good effort. I let myself down.
How do you silence a negative voice like this without going back in time?!
Michael shared five steps to take:
1. Recognize the voice in your head. I realized that I was the one telling the story. Not my friend. I was using his voice, but I was the one beating myself up. I was the one who put the story on repeat.
Once I realized it was ME telling the story, it was pretty easy to recognize when it was happening. Whether it’s your own voice, your mother’s, an ex-husband’s, etc., recognize that YOU are the one telling it.
2. Jot down what the voice is saying. Personally, writing down what it was saying was no problem. It had been on repeat so long that I could practically quote it. Take the time to write down what you’re hearing.
3. Evaluate whether this story is empowering. Clearly, the story I was telling myself was not empowering. I was alternating between shaming myself for past choices and defending myself from any blame. Nothing there that would spur me towards action.
However, it was powerful for me to simply see what I was doing. I had to admit a couple of things:
1) The goal that I failed to achieve was still something I wanted to accomplish.
2) Making excuses for my past behavior wasn’t going to get me to my goal.
Ask yourself, “Is the story I’m telling helping me?” If the answer is no, now it’s time to:
4. Write down a different story, and
5. Start telling yourself the new story.
For me, admitting that there was still a goal I wanted to achieve was huge. And that led me naturally to a new story. Now, when I look in the mirror and don’t see the results I want, I remind myself – I am taking action to reach my goal.
Maybe for you the change is that simple. Writing a new story where you decide to take action. Or maybe it requires the type of reframing that Michael described, where you identify another aspect of the truth of your situation and make that your story instead.
Is there an area where you need to make your story more empowering?