By Ben O’Connell
It is natural for people to make up stories about the things they don’t know or don’t understand. The genesis of all mythology can be traced to such curiosities.
Being open to change has been referred to as the single greatest predictor of career success. If my story resonates a single point, I hope it shines a light on this idea and perhaps inspires others to choose this mindset in life.
The Choice Is Yours
My initial exposure to the “story” concept was in December 2016 during a four-day workshop held in a refrigerated windowless meeting room on the second floor of the Hyatt Place in Lake Mary. Laura kicked off the day by describing the openness diagram and the concept of green lining. Later she explained the “story” concept and the idea that acting based on one’s stories is all about choice. My initial reaction to the idea that I could choose whether to engage with the world based on my stories was, duh; this was obviously good advice and I knew my stories were less than positive most of the time. I had known for some time this was something I wanted to put effort behind modifying, however, I hadn’t ever practiced it in actual life. This was the moment of my initial epiphany on the subject. I leaned back in my chair over the remaining two days as the team and I engaged, worked through our agenda; always keeping in the back of mind, not to be quite so involved with my stories…
Over the next two months, I cataloged and consciously took note of my stories. I observed these stories as they crept into existence and told myself not to wrestle with the negative ones. This provided some benefit in terms of focus and overall mood improvement. Then in March I had the opportunity to attend the Human Element® week-long workshop, hosted downtown Orlando at Laura’s palatial office-home. There were thirteen people in attendance guided by three instructor-coaches. During day one, Laura outlined an exercise to enhance calmness; as thoughts move their way into one’s consciousness, one may choose to engage the thought or choose not to. The analogy was to view thoughts as if they were cars traveling on a highway. One may choose to chase these car-thoughts up and down the road or may choose merely to observe them traveling; watch as they come into consciousness-view and likewise watch as they fade into the distance. This concept was the cause of yet another epiphany about stories. At that moment, sitting in a circle, in a room full of strangers I decided I would use this concept on my stories. When they occur, almost every waking moment, I will choose not to engage them, not chase them, merely observe as they are born; much like that car coming down the highway, then I watch as they disappear out of sight into the distance. This action, exercise, inaction; choice, has enabled me to greatly enhance my calm.
We all tell ourselves stories. We tell ourselves stories about how we think other perceive us. We tell ourselves stories about how we think we are going to be perceived given one course of action on as opposed to another. We tell ourselves stories about how we think others will perceive us based on our perception of who we tell ourselves they are; this requires yet more stories. We tell ourselves stories about how we think different positioning will help us win sales deals we otherwise would have lost. Our stories become layered and complex. We become married to these stories.
I for one took great pride in my stories. I enjoyed the idea that I could rationalize and intellectualize others’ reasons for actions based on logic and reason; if then arguments thought experiments. I listened to my stories more than I listened to others. My stories upon stories controlled the way I would show up to any event and every situation. My stories became the reasons for why I would act, attend a party or ask someone out; likewise, the reasons why I would not act or not attend an event.
The Change I’m Making
Through my team and personal journey aimed at the increase of self-awareness – I learned these stories were doing me more harm than they were good. They were, in fact, the cause of anxiety and stress. Furthermore, I realized there was no way they could actually be true. Several times I tested the stories and would ask those around me if the internal story I told myself about how they were feeling was indeed how they were feeling. It was astounding how often I was incorrect. Letting go of these stories for me is not only a liberating experience; but a life revelation. Transformative even. No longer will the burden of determining others’ motivations rest on my shoulders. If I want to know someone’s reasons; I ask. The stories still occur, I make the conscious choice not to feed them. I watch them like cars going down the highway as opposed to trying to chase them. I invite others to try this practice and hope my story acts as an example.