Stories have power. Stories shape the way we think, the way we feel, the way we respond to certain situations...stories matter.
Especially the stories we tell ourselves.
(That's an underlying premise of Stoicism. Stoicism has nothing to do with being stone-faced and not showing emotion; Stoicism is a practical philosophy that says while we can't control everything that happens, we can control how we respond.)
How you decide to respond, to whatever happens around you and to you, is up to you--and responding the right way is a lot easier if you tell yourself the right stories, especially about yourself.
That's the premise of a cool new book by Bruce Kasanoff and Amy Blaschka, I Am: Escape Distractions, Unlock Your Imagination and Unleash Your Potential. Their goal is to shift the stories you tell yourself, not just from negative to positive but at a deeper level, so you can unlock your imagination, creativity, and aspirations.
Bruce and Amy don't target your rational, logical, orderly side; plenty of books do that. Instead, they trust the power of your brain and heart to come up with amazing possibilities--to let you wander, explore, imagine, and experience as you discover ways to unlock your full potential.
Sound like a tall order? Maybe not. Here's one of my favorite portions of the book, partly because it's about willpower and determination (persistence is critical for achieving any huge goal) but also because I tried it--and it works.
"I am persistent.
"I don't give up easily.
"I fight for what's right. For what I believe in and for whom I love and admire.
"I search for the truth. My truth. And the truths of others, never satisfied with what's on the surface, always digging deeper, letting my insatiable curiosity drive me. I want--and need--to know.
"I'm tenacious, in all the best ways.
"I don't get discouraged, even when things don't go my way. I use setbacks as motivators, criticism as fuel to be better.
"I know deep in my bones that what I'm doing matters and is important not only for my soul but for the lives of others. As I stay the course, I remain sweet because I know I will eventually succeed. And it is that thought of achieving my goals that motivates me to keep going."
Read that passage--out loud--to yourself before you leave for work. Or before you start a difficult task. Or whenever delaying gratification, withstanding temptation, overcoming fear...whenever you need to stay the course and do the things that matter most.
At first it might feel strange (or even uncomfortable) to read that passage out loud, especially if you're like me and tend to stick to "rational" ways to improve yourself. But give it a couple days. It sinks in. It starts to inform how you not just look at things, but feel about things.
For example, I read that passage out loud once a day for three days, including this morning before I tried to do 1,000 pull-ups. (I sometimes come up with stupid goals to challenge myself, like the time I did 5,000 pushups in one day.)
About a third of the way into it, I wanted to quit. That's what happens when we do things that require us to just put our heads down and do the work--at some point the distance to the finish line seems too far, and we want to quit.
But I didn't. I reminded myself that I am tenacious, in all the best ways. I reminded myself that if I stayed the course I would eventually succeed.
And eventually I did, even though it took me longer to do 1,000 pull-ups than I expected.
But that's OK. I set a goal, I hung in there, I did the work...I was persistent.
Today, I am persistent.
That's the power of the stories we tell yourself. Start telling yourself the right stories.
And you'll start getting the right results--the results you want.