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Change Your Story, Change Your Destiny


GUIDING QUESTIONS: What are the stories you tell yourself? Do they help you or hurt you? Are they pushing toward your dreams and the life you want to live, or are they the ropes holding you back?


History will be kind to me, for I have the chance to write it. - Winston Churchill


 A little girl and her dad were walking through the zoo when they saw a huge elephant tied to a tree with a small rope. The girl stopped in confusion and looked at the elephant wondering why this big animal was tied to this small rope. There were other elephants playing in the water, sleeping in the shade, and eating food, but this large elephant was stuck, tied to the rope.


There were no chains or cages holding this elephant back, just a small rope.


It was obvious to her that the elephant could easily break away from the rope whenever he wanted to, but for some reason, he didn’t.


The girl asked her dad, “Why won’t the animal just break away from the rope and go play with his friends?” Her dad, having seen elephants tied up like this before told her, “When elephants like this were little, they would try to break away from the rope but they couldn’t because they were so small. As they grew up, they were conditioned to believe they could not break away. Even though they are big and strong and powerful and can obviously break away from the rope, they believe the rope is still holding them back and they never even try to break free.


It didn’t make sense to the girl. All the elephant had to do was walk away, but he didn’t.


Dr. Jim Loehr is a performance psychologist who has worked with some of the best of the best athletes in the world. He says, “One of the most important dynamics of human performance is the story we tell ourselves. More important than what happens to you is the story you tell around what happens to you, before, during, and after the occurrence.” He says our lives are run and controlled by the stories we tell. Something happens to us, and we immediately tell ourselves a story about what happened based on how we perceived it. We become the heroes, villains, or victims of our own story, and our destiny becomes tied to the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.


The story that the elephant above told himself was that he was not strong enough to break through the rope, so he stayed tied to the tree when he didn’t have to. The elephant had all the strength in the world, but he couldn’t escape because he let the ropes hold him back.


The beliefs he held about himself, the beliefs that came from the story he told himself, held him back despite his tremendous strength and ability.


What beliefs - or ropes - are holding you back?


Dr. Loehr says we can change our reality and break through the ropes that tie us down when we become aware of those ropes and actively pull against them. We can do this by understanding the power of the stories we tell ourselves and working hard to change them.


Kobe Bryant is a great example. During the 1997 Western Conference semifinals against the Utah Jazz, an 18-year-old Kobe shot four straight airballs: one with two seconds left in regulation that could have won the game and three during overtime, the last with four seconds left.


What would you say to yourself if you were in his shoes? What would be the story you told yourself?


In an interview, Kobe was asked, “How does someone get passed that mentally? Some people don’t come back from public humiliation. How do you get mentally and emotionally strong enough for it to not bother you?”


Kobe said you first have to look at the reality of the situation and then get over yourself; nobody really cares about what happens to you as much as you do. You can then analyze why those airballs happened. The reality was, he went from playing 35 games in a high school season to playing 82 games in an NBA season. He didn’t shoot air balls because he wasn’t good enough; he shot air balls because he was weak and tired because he was an 18-year-old rookie trying to figure out the NBA grind.


Kobe never allowed anything to mentally hold him back.


Kobe managed the story he was telling himself so that it helped him and didn’t hurt him. That summer and every summer after, he took what he learned and trained to be ready for the next big moment.


Dr. Loehr says the biggest barrier people have is our own brains and our own beliefs about what we can and can’t do. Your biggest barrier is not your talent, ability, or potential; your biggest barrier is the story you are telling yourself.


What can you do with this information? You can start telling yourself stories that will help you, not hurt you.


Dr. Loehr has worked with over 400,000 people, and the first thing he has them do is write their old story - the story about how they got to where they are, stuck in the pit and being held back by ropes. 


When you take the time to write down your story, you can start to see what is fact and what is made up. In a Ted Talk about how your story can change your life, therapist Lori Gottlieb said stories are the way we make sense of our lives, but we are all unreliable narrators of our own stories. Not only are we unreliable, but research shows we tend to prioritize and dwell on negative interactions more than positive ones. This "negativity bias" is rooted in our evolutionary past, where threat detection was crucial for survival. This is why it is so important to write your own story.


Dr. Loehr has found that two magic numbers in changing your mindset and life by writing your own story are 6 and 90.


He says that you want to rewrite your story 6 times over 90 days. Our brains are plastic and open to new learning. Its purpose is to give you what you want and need, and if you give it the right instructions, if you tell it what it is supposed to think and do, you will be amazed at what it can do.


But our brains have been loaded with too much junk, baggage, and bad thinking, and you have to get the bad stuff out so the good things can come in. When you do that, you can live with clarity, love, joy, and peace, and you become much more likely to get what you need and want. 


You can change your brain’s operating system!


So think about who you really want to become. Think about how you want to feel. Think about what you want to do, who you want to help, and how you want to live your life.


Then write it down and think about it over and over again for the next 90 days and see what happens!


STEP ONE


1 - Write your old story. What is something you are dealing with right now? What is something that has you stuck or is holding you back? Why are you stuck, and how did you get here? What are you feeling and why do you feel this way? 


Dr. Loehr says writing it on paper in cursive is best practice.


STEP TWO


Write your NEW story. Who are you going to be? What are you going to do? How are you going to feel? Why do you want to be what you want to be and feel what you want to feel? What do you need to do to get where you want to be and feel what you want to feel?


Here is a prompt you can use:


1 - What do you want to do, who do you want to become, how do you want to feel, and why? This is the fuel that keeps you going through the good times and bad times.


I will be a _____________________________________________________ who _____________________________________________________, and I want to feel _____________________________________________________.


To do this, I will _____________________________________________________.


Every day I can _____________________________________________________ to help me get closer to being a _____________________________________________________, but I know that some things can get in my way. To overcome those barriers, I will _____________________________________________________.


STEP THREE


Go to your phone and set an alarm for 15 days from now. Then do that until you have set 5 alarms over the next 90 days. Remember, it takes time and energy to change your thoughts, but if you can change your thoughts - if you are willing to do the work, you can truly change your life!


Remember, changing your thoughts and your life takes time and energy, but you can make this happen if you are consistent and just keep going.


For a PDF version of this, click here: Change Your Story, Change Your Life

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