6 Ways to Change Your Story. What Book Are YOU Writing?

You are the author of your life – Chalmers Brothers

I recently heard Chalmers Brothers speak about his book Language and the Pursuit of Happiness. The way we observe ourselves dictates how we live as well as our perception of the world. Something else Chalmers said was that the “explanation is not equal to the event”. The USA loses to Belgium in the World Cup. That is the event. My explanation might be, “But they made it to the group of 16”. Your explanation might be that Tim Howard (the goalie with a record 16 saves) is the only worthwhile player on the team. A Belgian’s explanation might be that it was preordained. Same event, different explanations and obviously, different perceptions.

We can get so blinded by our perspective, that if we never question our beliefs, we start to confuse it with reality. Let that sink in for a minute; we confuse it with reality. I can remember when I was a restaurant owner some twenty years ago. The brothers that sold me the restaurant, wanted to sell me another. I did some number crunching and figured that at the pace the sales were dropping there was no way to make a profit. When I went back to the brother’s to explain this, they were dumbfounded. They had for some 20 years run a profitable restaurant chain; never in their wildest dreams did they ever predict that sales would go down instead of up. This idea was WAY out of their paradigm. Well, of course, after about a year, their last remaining restaurant eventually failed. The story they were writing was not equal to the event.

So how do you improve your explanation…or change the way you write your story? Here are some ideas:

1. Language. Think about the language you use. I recently had a client who said “Fat people can’t wear stripes” referring to himself. I said “I’m curious about fat, tell me more?” Him, “Hmmm. That was mean. I wouldn’t call anyone else fat.” Me, “How does it make you feel?” Him, “Horrible”. Think about your self-talk. What language are you using? If you wouldn’t call your assistant, boss or spouse – lazy, stupid, dumb or ugly, maybe it’s time to switch up the language you use.

2. Observer. Be the observer. An executive I coached last year had a huge breakthrough when he realized that he had to be the observer when it came to conflict. So if he was pushing back on a deadline at work or negotiating on a car, he was much more effective if he could mentally take a step back and observe. It helped him disconnect from his primal reaction of fight or flight. When he was the observer he was less tied to explanation of the event. He could listen, observe and detach. Stand outside of yourself and observe the landscape. You will soon have a totally different perspective that may serve you better.

3. Grand Illusion. Chalmers posits that we all think that everyone else sees events from the same perspective; as he calls it – “the Grand Illusion”. I have experienced this in many of the companies I’ve worked for. We roll out the new plan and expect immediate buy-in because the higher-ups think that the entire company sees their perspective i.e. the potential results; whether they be long-term or short. In their eyes the rationale and long term benefits from the new plan are self-evident. Quite often, they are not. Most employees see any change in the organization as a bad thing and frequently jump to the conclusion that their job is potentially at stake. Don’t assume everyone sees the event from the same perspective; it’s nothing but an illusion, the Grand Illusion.

4. Serving. Is your thought serving you to the end result you want? If you are interviewing for a new job and go in with the thought that you’ll never get this job….uh…well…you probably won’t. If you present the new initiative to your boss with the attitude that you will succeed; odds are you will. I’ve seen so many folks go into an exam and when asked, “Do you think you will pass?” They answer, “I’m not sure; probably not.” It’s the old adage, expect the worst and hope for the best. You don’t want to be overly confident because – What? You might actually succeed? It is easier to explain failure this way. “Yeah, I knew I would never pass”. Think about how your thoughts are not serving you and the results you want.

5. Listening. Chalmers says that listening is not hearing. I get caught up on this one frequently. I can ask my son a question like, “When are you going to Charleston?” and then forget about listening to the response. I can hear him just fine but I’m not registering the answer. Most likely my phone just went off with some kind of notification that 99% of the time is meaningless. I frequently listen to audio books and there may be some passage that sends my thoughts off in a different direction like…sleep is important…yeah I need to get more sleep…I’ll tell you who needs more sleep is my son…maybe I should get him to listen to this book…forget it, he won’t…he never listens to me…uh…what was that last passage? …was it something important….should I back it up…wait I’m driving that’s not a good idea…that causes accidents…I don’t want to be a statistic…sheesh…did they just say something about REM sleep….and so on. It can be difficult to pay attention with a ticker tape going off in your head. Stop the distractions. Turn off the phone, or the radio, or your computer monitor and be present. What’s more important here…when your son leaves for Charleston or a Facebook notification….I thought so. No one ever says hear up…it’s listen up.

6. Shift. Look for paradigm shifts. Look for opposing viewpoints. My father has always famously said he went to Korea a Democrat and came back a Republican. I’m not suggesting you enlist in the army or travel to Korea but you can seek out different sources. Different explanations. Test your beliefs. When you have an array of explanations available it’s much easier to not be as tied to the interpretation. If you disagree with the direction the Accounting department is going, go ask some questions that will prove you wrong. “Can you tell me again what the advantages are of the new XYZ system? And how much time is this going to cut from Month-End?” Look for the shift. Every good book has a shift. The hero finally decides to take on the dragon. So what shift do you need to make to challenge your beliefs?

So imagine the book you are authoring. Is it an adventure? Is it a drama? Or a comedy? The amazing thing is that you are holding the pen. You get to create whatever you want so choose wisely.

Untether The Balloon. 5 Ways To Detach From The Outcome.

I’ve just spent a few days on the West Coast and met up with a great college friend. We spent a lot of time talking about “Not being attached to the outcome.” She shared an example of a conference she attended where, a group of 30 had to divide into three learning groups. There was no guidance as to how the groups needed to be put together but that everyone in the group had to agree with the makeup of the group. That’s a tall order. She said they spent two days trying to divide up the groups. She was tracking certain folks she wanted to be with, but the turning point for her was letting go and not being attached to the outcome. She ended up in a group sans any of the folks she was tracking but it still proved to be a great group. Letting go of the outcome let her be open to other possibilities.

I was coaching a client this week who wasn’t sure they wanted to do an Ultra Marathon (over 26.2 miles). So I asked what the worst case scenario was and he said a, “To not finish.” I asked, “What is so bad about that?” He said ” Well, I guess I could try again, especially if it’s an injury”. Exactly. We don’t need to be so tied to the outcome….it is…what it is. Let the balloon go and let it float away.  Let. It. Go. red_balloon_by_snnr

So how do we let go, become untethered from the outcome? Here are some steps to try on for size:

1. Meditation. This seems appropriate since non-attachment has its roots in Buddhism. Spending even five or ten minutes on mediation each day helps you to let go of thought. It’s not like you stop thinking, but you learn to let go of thoughts as they come into your mind for ten minutes like little balloons lifting off. It helps you learn to let go of the story. Let the story balloons go as you meditate.

2. Open. Be open to all avenues. I have several ways to get to work. Some are longer, some have more red lights and some are prettier rides. Mess up your ride today. Go a different route. Quit being on auto pilot. I bet you don’t even remember the last drive you took to work. Let go of the assumptions of what is around the next corner, what will happen if your daughter drops out of college, or if you call back that client you aren’t sure about? What if you let go of the fear of quitting your job. Be open to possibilities.

3. Paradigm. Some paradigms are meant to be broken. A paradigm is a set of rules in your head. Many of these paradigms are built on the back of ghosts. If you struggled for money as a child, your paradigm might be about making a million dollars being THE only sign of success. If you only notice that thin people are successful, you might think you can only find success once you are thin. If you had a bad relationship with someone who is Korean, you might think that your child is doomed if they date a Korean. If you don’t want to be attached to the outcome, examine your paradigms…they are likely built on the ghosts of the past.

4. Acceptance. Last week I had the pleasure of hearing Brene Brown speak on her inspiring new book “Daring Greatly”. As Brene pointed out, it’s amazing how we all spend so much time judging each other. I can be devastated by a friend looking me up and down and assume they are judging my clothing selection. I can lose sleep over the fact that my neighbors must be mortified by our uncut lawn. I can make my child change what they are wearing to hope that they are judged by the pink polka dot socks and the purple suspenders. As Brene pointed out, everyone is busy being self-conscious and worried about their own thoughts. So how would you be without that thought? Let it go and accept.

5. Enough. You are enough. Let go of the struggle. You are perfectly you and no one else is exactly as perfectly you. Don’t wait for the next raise, or to hit the lottery, to lose twenty pounds or to marry the guy with the Ferrari. You are enough right now and forever. If you can be enough…right now in this moment…you can be enough even when you fail. Be enough (because you already are).

I have to say that I’ve been working on this for several years. It doesn’t happen overnight, but if you stick with it and reflect on your progress, you will evolve into that floating balloon and let the wind take you where it will…and oh what a ride!