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The results you get from the stories you tell

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Stories are the way humans define and create life. 

Photo by Neel on Unsplash

Imagine yourself as a sculptor. You have your sculpting medium in front of you, ready to be molded or chiseled into any form you want it to take. 

Without a firm vision in your mind of the end result, what would you end up with? Well, if you had past skill at creating something you’d probably sculpt what you’re good at.

Like let’s say you’re really good at sculpting dogs. Your trained mind might take over, and you’d find yourself sculpting a dog… like every time before.

Now as an artist you might be fine with this. You might be known for your dog sculptures, and every time you sculpt a dog you consider the refinement of your skills a good thing.

But let’s say that you reach a point where sculpting dogs is no longer fulfilling. You find yourself longing to start sculpting new creations. But you are so skilled at creating the same thing over and over, you find yourself inexplicably once again sculpting a dog.

This is what the stories of your mind are like. You sculpt your life experience from those stories. Those stories, and the sentences they contain, are like the skills in the sculptors mind.

Your brain loves to rely on what it already knows. It’s comfortable, and it’s safe. But we’ve all had moments in our lives where we recognize that habitual behavior is no longer creating something we want.

Habitual behavior is created by habitual thinking, which is just telling the same stories over and over in our minds.

Pretty much every action your body takes, from eating to yelling at someone, is preceded by a thought. A thought likely attached to a story line in your head. Story lines create meaning, they give context to what we do.

For example, we don’t just eat a sandwich. We eat a sandwich because it’s a food attached to our culture. Perhaps there’s a story in our mind about it being an easy food to eat. Maybe we tell the story that it’s a balanced meal with carbs, proteins, veggies, and fats. Maybe we associate sandwiches with the experience of being young. Or, we might have changed the story our brain tells about eating sandwiches after hearing a story about carbs creating fat.

Your brain always attaches meaning to things. It does this by thinking sentences that create stories, and then those stories are translated into chemicals that our nervous system understands. These chemicals are called emotions, and they cue us as to whether something is good or not for our survival.

So you see, stories have a very powerful role to play in your life, and directly affect the results you get.

How do you create different results? You’ve got to tell different stories, and that can be the hard part. But here’s how you do it:

  1. Determine the result you want to change. Write down the result you’re getting now, and the result you WANT to get. WARNING: if your result hinges on someone else in your life changing, that result is doomed to failure. The result has to involve you and you alone.
  2. Write down the story that has been creating the result you don’t want. The perfect question to prompt your brain to tell its story is “Why?” You can ask “why do I keep getting this same result?”, or “why do I keep acting this way?” Take a cue from the toddlers, keep digging with why. You’ll know when you hit on an enlightening moment. WARNING: when you prompt the story, you will prompt the emotions. If you’re going to do this work, you’ll have to feel your way through it.
  3. Contemplate the story. Look at how it’s been tying into the results you keep getting. Like the sculptor’s skills, your brain is highly skilled at telling this version of the story.
  4. Rewrite the story. This is the hard part, because your brain is not skilled at telling a different version of the story, and is far more comfortable with the old one. But if you tell a story about being a victim, you need to rewrite it into a story about resilience. If you tell a story about being poor, you need to rewrite it into a story about abundance. If you tell a story about bad health, you need to rewrite it into a story about the good health you have experienced, even if it’s just in your big toe!
  5. Be determined to tell the new story from now on. This is not a denial of reality. This is a recognition of the other side of reality the stories in your mind have been blocking you from.

Remember, you sculpt your life experience through your stories. Life is not happening to you, you are making it happen. If you’ve lived in the same house for years, it’s because you’ve never started or stuck with a new story in your mind about a different home.

Anything new you’ve ever created in your life has always started with a sentence in your brain that flourished into a story. If you have unrealized stories, it’s because the old story was more comfortable and won the battle.

Rewrite your stories, re-sculpt your life.

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