The story you tell about yourself to yourself, to other people, to your choices and beliefs is the story you will continue to live. As I said to a client who wants to be an actor, “If you want to tell yourself a different story, you have to start acting in a different play. Right now you’re just keeping yourself in the same role day in and day out, or perhaps taking on different roles in the same…exact…play.”
That’s the other thing we do—we stay within the same story, but we try on different costumes thinking we’re playing different roles. But that just means you’re still playing out the same story. If you’re sick and tired of Hamlet, then get out of it and go audition for something else. But doing so is fearful to people as all they know is Hamlet. People would rather stay with what’s familiar (and keeping them unhappy) than try on something new. But if nothing changes, nothing changes.
Is this perhaps something you’re doing? If so, why? What’s the benefit to being sick and tired all the time, bored and frustrated? I mean—really—what’s the benefit?
If the answer that comes to you is, “Well, it’s all I know,” then that’s the fencing you’ve created around yourself. If you say, “I’m afraid to” that’s just more fencing. As Neitzsche said, “Fear is the mind killer.” But only if we continue to understand its true purpose.
What does that mean? Fear is to be feared, right? I mean, that’s what FDR said. “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.”
The thing is, he wasn’t saying, “Be afraid.” He was saying we need to be cautious of fear and to not go there. At least, to not let it lock us up and control us. We can be afraid to change our stories because we don’t know anything different.
But if nothing changes, nothing changes.
It doesn’t matter how much you tell yourself you want something. It doesn’t matter if you try for that plum goal. If you have a story—a script—running in you (programming), then that’s the outcome you’ll have every time. If you are a computer programmer and you use C++ to have a robot do somersaults, and then you use COBOL to create the same program, you know you’re going to get the same result: somersaults.
But when it comes to the programming running (unconsciously) in our heads, we don’t realize that most of the time. We think that if we tell ourselves the same story in a different language, we’ll get a different outcome. The Three Bears in Russian is still The Three Bears if told in Swahili. The situations we put ourselves in may seem different (Swahili sounds different than Russian, so it must be a different story!), but if the outcome is the same (our houses of straw and sticks get blown down, while the one of bricks does not), then it’s not a different story.
If you (unconsciously) believe you’re a failure and you’ll fail at anything you try, then you will find a way to make that happen. No matter how elated you are at some opportunity, if you let that old program run the show, you’ll have the same outcome.
There’s a difference between knowing with certainty you can’t and telling yourself you can’t. You could get into a situation and realize you’re physically unable to finish a task—say a race—then you truly can’t. But if you go into that race and are physically able, but you have I can’t do this running in your head somewhere, then you’ll drop out.
Yes, yes. I know. Blah blah blah. You’ve heard all this before. You KNOW this, right? Sure.
So why are you still having the same outcome?
Why are you sitting on the edge of your bed, bemoaning another lost opportunity? Another #$%-up? That nobody loves you?
I’m all for the occasional pity party as I think (short) ones cleanse the soul, but if you’re always there, then there’s some kind of programming you keep feeding into yourself to get the same outcome.
Maybe you keep unconsciously on purpose (yes, I said it that way) choosing situations where you know you’ll fail to prove that to yourself.
Or maybe you do keep choosing situations where you could succeed, but because you believe failure will happen, you force that same outcome.
“But I don’t want that!” you say. “I hate feeling that way! Why would I keep doing that to myself if I feel so awful?!”
Good question. And I don’t know. I don’t even know why I do it, still, sometimes (yep, I’m still a work in progress.) Sometimes I have to just tell myself to cut it out and then go cold turkey. But other times, I have to spend some thought round it to sort out the why.
You are the author of your story. You are the editor, the publisher and the seller.
Sure, you can have themes in the different stories (my books do, and, in fact, all the outlines of stories I’ve written down have some of those same themes), but they’re different stories. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my—if not the—most favorite book of mine, but I’d get sick to death if that’s all I could read.
So throw out the old, tired, dog-eared, broken-spine story of yours if you’re sick of it and start a new one. This is tough, I know. But it’s worth it. I went through about five versions of my newest book, Coming Home, before I was happy with the story. I don’t mean drafts of my current version. Rather, I mean I wrote hundreds of pages I essentially threw out (I still have them, but they’re filed away as “failed” attempts.)
But those “failed attempts” got me to what I’m now very pleased with.
If you’re sick of your story, you can guarantee the people around you are, too. Even if they love you dearly.
To continue the point above, sometimes we have to live the same story over and over again before we get something on a deeply fundamental level. Sometimes we have to get stuck in our own Groundhog Day the way Bill Murray’s character did. Finally he got the lesson(s) he needed, and he moved on.
That may be why you keep living the same story. If you think that might be it, how could you therefore start becoming aware of what it is you think you’re needing to learn from it? How could you let go of your fear of learning the lessons? Let go of the fear of putting down Hamlet and picking up 2001: A Space Odyssey?
Questions? Comments? What are your favorite self-sabotage steps? Email me at heather (at) smallchangelife (dot) org or drop by my Facebook page and leave me a message, leave a comment below or feel free to start up a conversation in the discussion forum. Story story story. Fast story story story. A story story story. Big story story story story. Your story.