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Changing Our Stories, Changes Our Lives

Last year, four years overdue—thanks to a pandemic-induced halt on elective surgeries and a subsequent prescription for blood thinners due to stents—I braced myself for a medical rite of passage: my first colonoscopy. Just to add to the fun, the doctor suggested an upper endoscopy. At that point, the best I could hope was that they used the scopes in the right order!   We have all heard how bad the preparation for a colonoscopy is and that is before we get to the two procedures.  So, I braced myself for a crappy (pun intended!) few days!  I spent the days leading up to the procedures, dreading them. Turns out, neither the prep nor the procedures were as bad as what I was led to expect. I wasted a lot of time worrying about nothing at all.

We all tell ourselves stories. These stories may be based on our own past experiences, or those others have shared with us. Often times, this leads to angst, dread, and a lot of wasted energy and time.  The tales we weave about our experiences shape our perception of ourselves and our place in the world, often distorting the actual event. Have you ever listened to two people talk about the same experience from their own perspective?  The stories are generally the same, but there will be nuanced differences, especially in the role of the storyteller.

So, what happens when our internal storyteller gets carried away, turning a molehill into a mountain? We become our own worst enemy. We overthink, focus on potential negatives, and succumb to “what if” scenarios, traps that put us into a downward spiral of anxiety and self-doubt (much like the fear I had built up before my procedure). But most times, the reality is far from our worst fear. The interesting thing is, no matter how often we go through this cycle and find that our fears were unfounded, we will do it again next time.  For me, that highlights a critical lesson: we are the author of our own narrative. The stories we choose to believe in, build on and retell ourselves shape our experiences, our reactions, and ultimately, our reality.

If we let this go unchecked, we can fall down a rabbit hole of anxiety and self-doubt, ultimately robbing ourselves of time and opportunity.  I can say from personal experience, once you fall down the rabbit hole it’s very hard to pull yourself out of it.  But what if we tackled this head on and wrote our narratives more positively? Our narrative can be our hero, caped in resilience, capability, and personal growth. Yes, we may have to take care of something that is unpleasant—-but we can get it done and move on without worry of what could be.  This type of narrative bolsters our spirit, fuels our confidence, and teaches us that we are the authors of our own story.

So next time we have something unpleasant planned, whether it’s a difficult conversation at work, a big presentation, or a personal matter, instead of worrying about how bad the experience will be, try writing a different narrative.  Focus on the positive outcomes that will come from getting it done, visualize your success, and walk into that task with full confidence that you will get that job done!  Rewrite your narrative, and then live it!

“Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen, keep in the sunlight.” – Benjamin Franklin

Are you ready to rewrite your story?  Share your journey with us and let’s work on this transformation together!