Change Your Life By Changing Your Narrative
Do you want to change your life? The key is to rewrite the story you tell yourself.
Often, we tell ourselves we’re good at some things and not others. That becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You say, “I’m not good with money,” and sure enough, financial freedom eludes you.
Much of our confidence comes in the way we speak to ourselves. Conversely, a lack of confidence comes from our internal self-talk.
Here are a few steps to changing your narrative, many of which may surprise you.
1. Change Your Narrative With a Growth Mindset
Carol Dweck, the foremost researcher on the subject, compares growth and fixed mindsets. She says that a growth mindset is one in which we see failures as opportunities to grow and learn.
A fixed mindset, on the other hand, believes that there is nothing you can do to improve. It says people can’t change, you’re stuck with your flaws, and failure is a sign of weakness.
Fixed mindset people will say, “that’s just the way I am,” instead of stretching outside their comfort zones to learn and grow.
Changing your narrative means embracing the possibility that you can learn new things. You are not limited by what you’ve already done, and you can withstand the discomfort it takes to discover something new.
2. Understand the Origin of Your Internal Narrative
Sometimes, a limiting personal narrative stems from a difficult childhood. If you felt your parents weren’t there for you, you went into survival mode.
Instead of exploring your environment with curiosity and playfulness, you became hypervigilant.
You craved certainty and clear answers to keep yourself safe. You feared failure as a sign of unworthiness. You told yourself making mistakes meant you were stupid, so you avoided taking risks.
That created a limiting internal narrative that kept you small and prevented you from reaching for more.
Often, the critical voice inside your head is an extension of authority figures from your past. If you were told you couldn’t do certain things or witnessed your parents being overly fearful, you might take on an anxious internal narrative.
Changing your narrative means challenging that voice and creating a new one of your own. You do this by unveiling evidence to support your new story.
Make a list of accomplishments to prove you are capable of doing hard things. Make another list of risks you took that paid off. You can even remember failures that moved you forward and what you learned from them.
3. Create a Cohesive Story of Your Past
Changing your narrative requires making sense of your past. It means telling the truth about what happened and refusing to make excuses for parents or caregivers who fell short of meeting your needs.
It’s not about blaming your parents. You may have heard that you have to understand or forgive them because they did the best they could. But that’s beside the point.
When you tell yourself a story about your childhood that is untrue, you prevent healing and make changing your narrative more difficult.
You can even create disease in your body when you refuse to acknowledge your authentic emotions. That means it’s imperative that you stop sugarcoating your past.
It’s common for adult children with traumatic childhoods to paint an inaccurate picture of a happy family to protect themselves from the painful truth. You hold onto a view of your parents as loving and protective even when they rarely demonstrated love or protection.
Perhaps, they have shown quite the opposite with rejection, abandonment, and putting you in frightening situations. You must be willing to speak the truth about your past to create a brighter future.
4. Change Your Expectations
In research studies, expectations impact how we react to a treatment. This is called the placebo effect and proves the power of our minds to control our outcomes.
If you expect to feel better after taking a certain medication, chances are you will. If you expect not to feel better, chances are you won’t.
The same principle applies to your internal narrative’s influence on your outcomes. You get what you expect rather than what you deserve. If you begin to expand your possibilities and expect more out of life, you will get it.
This is not the same as positive self-talk. In fact, research shows that positive self-talk can have negative effects if you don’t truly believe what you’re saying.
Changing your narrative does not mean lying to yourself. It means questioning whether what you’re telling yourself is true.
Just because something happened in the past, for example, does not mean it will happen the same way in the future.
5. Add the Word “Yet”
Marketing expert Simon Sinek explains how changing your narrative has the power to change your life. On the flip side, sticking with the familiar story you tell yourself will limit the scope of what’s possible for you.
Sinek tells about an interaction with a homeless woman in which he helped increase her daily income by changing the wording on her sign. As a result, his subject earned in only two hours what she normally made in a whole day.
Rather than working the rest of the day at her new higher wage, she packed up her belongings after two hours because she believed she had met her daily quota.
Simon Sinek suggests adding “yet” to the end of any such limiting beliefs. In his video he uses the example, “I’m not famous – yet.” All of a sudden, the possibilities for your life become endless.
6. Avoid Missing Tile Syndrome
If your floor or ceiling is missing a tile, you will tend to focus on the gap rather than the surrounding tiles firmly in place. As a healthy human being, your brain is wired toward this negative bias (which is useful as a survival skill).
However, you can train your brain to focus on abundance rather than lack. This is called gratitude, and it’s a huge predictor of success.
Gratitude is not the same as pretending things are different from what they are. You simply choose to focus more on what you have than what you’re missing.
Changing your narrative to one of abundance will bring in more of what you want. In the same way, increasing your expectations will attract better outcomes, and gratitude for your current circumstances will have a similar effect.
7. Changing Your Narrative With Self-Compassion
You may have noticed you’re hardest on yourself. You’d never berate someone else for making a mistake the way you do yourself, or call them a failure for falling short of a goal.
Self-compassion means offering yourself the same level of support and understanding as a friend or family member. Be kind to yourself when things don’t turn out the way you planned.
Treating yourself with kindness will create an authentic change in your internal voice, rather than trying to fool yourself with positive mantras.
It’s common to fall back on your old story that things will never change when you feel you’re falling short.
When you fail at something that was important to you, remember the importance of a growth mindset. Failure provides evidence of your effort and courage to stretch outside your comfort zone.
8. Feel a Range of Emotions
We tend to identify certain emotions as positive and others as negative. But all our emotions have something to tell us. It’s necessary to engage with them in their entirety for a healthy, balanced life.
Approach your feelings with a spirit of curiosity and non-judgment, and remember that they are all valid. Rather than running away from your emotions, feel them.
When we feel “bad,” we tend to rationalize our feelings or shame ourselves for feeling them.
Rationalizing looks like: “It’s not so bad,” “Other people have it worse,” or “I’ll get past this soon.” All are true in the long run but not authentic to how you feel in the moment.
Practicing mindfulness meditation will help you stay present with your feelings without judging them. Rather than fighting with your thoughts, you simply observe and accept them.
Changing your narrative is more than Pollyanna’s thinking and positive self-talk. It requires taking an honest look at your past and creating a cohesive and reliable story about your life.
With the tools you’ve learned in this article, you can quickly and easily rewrite your narrative in an authentic way.
Rather than overriding your emotions, you will get in touch with them. At the same time, you’ll supercharge your potential for success and connection, both with yourself and others.