What is your unwritten story? How to get out of your own way
The world of coaching is fascinated with stories. We all tell stories. They are an incredibly important part of our narrative for how we document our experience in life. But the stories we tell ourselves also reveal so much about our patterns and habits, about our limiting beliefs that block growth and change.
Here are some stories I've heard recently:
- ‘I’m just naturally not a sporty person’
- ‘There are no decent single men out there'
- ‘People like me don’t start their own businesses’
- ‘I’m too old to start a second career’
- ‘Leadership is only for very confident people’
We all know these kinds of stories, and whether we like it or not, we see how they have an in-built self-fulfilling prophecy that reinforces the same beliefs and behaviours. As a result, they stay a true story, but they also close us down to new possibilities.
But I'm not talking about those stories today. I’m talking about the yet unwritten stories that come when we dare to imagine alternative realities for ourselves. It’s the "what if?, could I?, dare I?" moments. These might bring different possibilities in our work, our relationships, our lifestyles or in where we live our lives.
They usually come to us when we are away from our everyday lives; on holidays, out on long walks in the countryside, where we have permission to disconnect from the hum-drum and connect into something bigger. Or they drop into our early morning thoughts or late-night musings when the truth of what we want can catch us unawares in moments of stillness and quiet, or where our anxieties and worries shine a light on our dissatisfactions.
These stories are rarely fully formed plans. Like the ethereal sentiment of dreams, they are fluffy, intangible, made up of half ideas and flashes of inspiration. It’s what makes it hard to share them or write them down, but there is something about them you can’t let go of.
They excite us – because deep down we know that they represent a part of us that wants to live more fully and alive, and for whatever reason can’t find a voice or a place at the table in this current reality. They show a possibility of us living some aspect of our life in a way that feels much more aligned with who we really are.
They also scare us – I’ve had many clients who have not dared to say what they want out loud because they know when they do, something else unravels. If they start to admit that they want for something else, there is a reality here today to deal with too. It feels messy, hard, complicated. What are we meant to do with this new admission?
They get quickly dismissed – overshadowed by the distractions of everyday life and work. Or rejected by our practical selves - seen to be dreaming above your station or abandoning the realistic needs of our everyday lives. When we can't see how we can actually make them happen, we feel silly that we ever thought them possible. This is where those other stories come in, with its ready-made and well-rehearsed arguments that stop them growing or being an instigator of change.
The greatest tragedy, in my humble opinion, is the unwritten story that was dying to be told. It saddens me to hear of lost ambition, unacted on instincts or passions that died before anyone saw its light.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my own new story, and how grateful I am for having the courage to dream a new life in Ibiza and then to follow through with making it happen. It started out as a seedling that I dared not talk about or believe could be possible for me. I went through all of the usual defences. "Do I deserve it? How will I afford it? Can I do it alone? But, I don't speak Spanish!"
And yet I nurtured and supported it so it could grow and become a reality that, today, gives me a life full of aliveness, contentment and new possibilities.
Top tips for supporting your seedling new stories
Get a coach
Of course, the coach is going to say that! But I always invest in coaching when I want to make a change. We can’t fight those stories that hold us back by ourselves. They are deeply ingrained, and we need to be challenged to get beyond them. You also need to be guided to think more expansively when it comes to how you will practically make it happen. Most people think too small or they miss out on possible solutions and this stops or slows any progress.
Visualise the shifts
Don’t worry about perfecting the new story, but instead think more about what you want to be/feel/do differently. It may be that you are fixating on an idea that isn’t going to give you what you need, so doing the foundation work to know what you actually care about is vital. Journalling can be very helpful for this and the lockdown is the perfect time to do it.
Let in the excitement
We stop ourselves from dreaming for fear of feeling disappointed but it’s the power of the anticipation of a more aligned life that will propel us into it. Enjoy it. Don't deny it! It is by allowing yourself to experience it often that your practical side can start to help you find ways through rather than shutting change down. I kept my excitement alive by having a special playlist that I played as soon as I started to think about the new story. Find your way of savouring it.
Don’t waste this unique time we have. This is a very special moment for change. Everything is possible with the right support. I can’t wait to hear your new story.