The stories we tell matter. They impact how we see ourselves, our world, and the possibilities for our career and life. We form them out of our individual beliefs and arrange them similar to chapters in a book. When we put them all together, we become our own stories. The more we believe the stories, the more we become them.
This chain reaction looks like this:
Words > Beliefs (Stories) > Belief System > Mindset > Actions > Results
At each stage we have choices around how we will react and what we will tell ourselves—to either fuel our performance or lead us down an unproductive path.
I experience the powerful effect of story and mindset in my work with clients at various levels in their development as they become more effective leaders. I’ve learned it’s important to first understand the story we tell ourselves and then how we can recreate a story that fuels greater success even in difficult situations.
Let me share some of my clients’ stories to illustrate:
One of my clients has 20 years’ experience in the marketing world but questions what she has to offer another top-tier firm. Her story could either be:
“I have 20 years of experience so I understand the business and can add value.”
“Who cares that I have 20 years of experience?”
Another client has an MBA from a top school and has worked in the finance industry for 10 years, but he questions whether he can successfully find another job because it’s a tough time in the market. His story can either be:
“The markets are tough right now, so it’s impossible for me to get another job.”
“I’m a talented investment adviser with a proven track record, and I’m going to keep moving forward regardless of the challenges I may face.”
A third client has no post-college degree or leadership experience but has had success with sales, and she has recently been promoted to a management role and has confidence that she will be effective. Her story could either be:
“I have no management experience and am not right for the role. I won’t be successful.”
“I’ve been successful in my previous role and have overcome challenges, and I will do the same here.”
In these scenarios different interpretations can enter my clients’ minds depending on the beliefs and stories they tell themselves. These stories can dramatically alter the actions they take and results they get.
What would be the stories you would tell yourself if you were in the situations above?
Creating a powerful story is not simply about pretending that every situation, good or bad, is wonderful. It’s about putting it in perspective and understanding that one event does not define you or your future. Opening a venture that wasn’t successful doesn’t mean you can’t be an entrepreneur, for example.
The key is to be aware of the words and stories that are streaming through our minds and how they support us in reaching our highest levels and move us toward our goals.