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We are ruled by stories in our lives. Part of what constitutes our experience of the world is the stories we attach to it, and that applies to our businesses as well (and regardless, for that matter, whether or not you are a formal business owner – you still have a “business”. Whether it’s showing up on time and working in an office and/or leading a team or site, you still run a business and are also be executed by your story. All the things you think are possible, or not, are based on that. You can say, “It’s the truth, based on my experience”, and that’s fair enough, but that’s not the full picture. Your experience doesn’t do anything by itself: it’s your interpretation of that experience that forms your story, and that story is what you base decision-making on.
“So how can I change my story? could be the next logical question. But what if it’s not really changing as much as Choose this?
(I had a fantastic conversation with the President and “Head of Storytelling” of Steller Collective, Kindra Hall, on a recent episode of my podcast. She is an expert in this field and has been recognized as such in many many respected publications, and we wound up discussing storytelling in depth.)
When we are frustrated with the current state of our lives, we can often fall into a space of judgment, blame, and a resulting desire to make drastic changes. This tends to happen as we approach ‘middle age’ in the form of a ‘midlife crisis’.
The reason I put these terms in quotes is that they are just labels placed on what I think can be defined much more precisely. A midlife crisis, to me, is really just the sudden realization that we’ve been living our lives on someone else’s terms. This tends to happen around middle age because the harsh reality of our lives having (in theory) less time in front of them suddenly turns into view. All of our “mañana” thinking suddenly throws us into a panic that our own terms may never materialize.
Related: Why you are the heart of your business and what it (really) means
We could also look back and consider all the wasted time we spent worrying about what someone else told us. A mistake often made in response, however, is to think that the results were all bad or that we didn’t want any of them. The truth is that we have, on some level, desired much of what has manifested in our lives. For example, if we coasted and left on subconscious autopilot, we chose to disengage. It should therefore come as no surprise that what presented itself for us was not what we consciously wanted and instead seemed like a chaotic chain of events.
Now, before you start beating yourself up about all those times you played video games instead of studying in school, or stayed an extra half hour in bed, recognize that it’s also of little use to invite judgment in this situation. By judging your past self, you are simply attaching negative energy to people, places, scenarios, and things that no longer exist. There is only the present from which to make new choices, so why load it with the negative energy of the past?
The purpose of all this is to awaken you to the need for Choose your story, not change it, because being different from what you’ve had so far may not be inherently better.
“But how on earth can I take control of my story,” you might then ask, “when I haven’t been behind the wheel for so long?”
Remember it’s all a story. How you perceive reality is filtered by both you and the narrative you’re running on. If you have a nihilistic outlook and view every human endeavor as futile, guess what… you’ll find it hard to thrive in any of them.
Related: 15 Ways To Drown Out The Destructive Voices In Your Head
A strong enough “why” can resist any “how”
Your business is no different than any other part of your life. If you’re looking to change it, you have to start with your story. What you tell yourself informs your belief system, which is the gateway to what is possible. You can’t just open the door and expect wonders, but you can do the job of unlocking it. If you can bring yourself to a point of “Why not?” you’ll already be running on a very different narrative.
We are often surrounded by business people who think something can’t be done. They seem to exist to do that, and that’s fine; you might occasionally benefit from hearing them, because blind, unadulterated ambition can be detrimental to results (and very often to health). But if you’re running on the right story – that the desired outcome is absolutely possible and you don’t need to dictate exactly how it comes to fruition – then the solutions to “no” will present themselves.
This, by the way, is not the product of magic or life coach gibberish, it’s literally the way your mind works. The Reticular Activating System (RAS) may be a relatively small part of the brain, but it is literally the gatekeeper through which information reaches the conscious mind. It categorizes the millions of bits of data sent to it every second by the various senses, so you can process the important stuff. And that’s what you really want on your side when it comes to setting goals
Here’s the thing about RAS, though: it can’t be intellectually reasoned about…not really. It’s been programmed by years of emotional input, which is why you react instinctively when someone calls your name in a noisy crowd, or notices a pair of eyes staring at you in a sea of people. In order to train your RAS to start noticing solutions and opportunities that will lead to your goal, you need to provide them with information that such things are waiting for you. And you have to convince him that these things are desirable and safe.
This is, again, why the story is so important and why taking your ego out of the equation is so vital. Why? Well, think about it: if you walk around all day complaining about the injustice of the world (and we’ve all been guilty of that at one time or another), that becomes your story, and your ego won’t want to. not that it’s disputed because it lets you out pretty well for any perceived failures. So your story becomes one of victimization.
Is it our environment?
We see confirmation bias in many areas of life: people often have the habit of planting their flag and committing to die on a hill of belief; egos get in the way and they allow the RAS to simply look for evidence that they are right. But imagine what you could accomplish if you harnessed that power to instead find a path to the life of your dreams. What could you do? Where could your business go?
This growing propensity for ego-driven narratives could at least in part be attributed to social media. We tend to bet on tech-opoly a lot these days, and maybe for good reason. By bombarding us with selected images and other information, it’s no wonder our subconscious programming has changed. We’re also seeing an increase in mental health issues like depression and anxiety, which could be explained by a growing sense that we’re not in control of our subconscious.
Related: Eight Ways Entrepreneurs Can Master Negative Internal Dialogue
The first step to a consciously chosen life is simply to bring our consciousness back to the present. Not to judge or try to take control, but to become aware. From there, we can start building a new story from an informed and holistic place. If you can begin to engage with your life and consciously choose more for yourself, you will begin to see more desirable results in your endeavor.