Why Focus On Internal Story First?
When we talk about crafting a reinvention story in the context of reinvention, we generally think about the story we’re putting out about our career change and concentrate on how to tell that story to the world in a way that makes sense. It’s a very tactical, practical process of pitching yourself.
However, when you think about stories more deeply, there’s a level beyond the surface story you tell the world—it’s the story you tell yourself. And sometimes, what you’re telling the world isn’t aligned with your internal narrative. The story you tell yourself is what you need to focus on first.
For example, when presented with your dream job, you may say you’re confident you can do it, but inside, you secretly doubt you have the skills to deliver. When there’s a mismatch between your internal and external stories, it creates cognitive dissonance. Battling to take actions that are not congruent with your inner beliefs drains energy, making it difficult to get traction on your goals.
Crafting Your Internal Story
START: Identify your current story.
Step 1: Tune in to the conversation in your head. Get the raw data down, brainstorm, tap into your daydreams.
Notice the recurring themes.
- What’s the story you tell yourself about your life, its challenges and why it is the way it is? Get the raw data down, brainstorm, tap into your daydreams. Spend a day making notes as you’re listening to the conversation going on in your head. Make note of what you find interesting, what you’ve noticed, and especially the recurring themes. Many times, once we start noticing it, we realize we’re telling that same story over and over again.
Step 2: Outline the facts that have given rise to your story.
Identify the series of events that happened–just the facts, not your interpretation of them!
- Fact: I was fired from my job Interpretation: My boss was a jerk Would this stand up in a court of law?
Step 3: Distill your story down to one sentence, “I have x, y or z situation so I can’t have what I want.”
- You may see that you’ve been repeating variations of the same story.
Step 4: Identify the point of your story—why are you telling it? Get to the essence of your emotional truth: the ‘reality’ you’re invested in.
- This is when you get to the essence of your emotional truth, what you’re invested in having be real for you.
‘Always’, ‘Never’ or ‘Not possible’
- Emotional truths tend to be global, sweeping statements that involve ‘always’, ‘never’ or ‘not possible’ or some variation on those themes.
“Is this a truth I want to be living?”
- Then you can determine, “Is this a truth I want to be living?”
Step 5: Uncover the emotional subtext of your story. That chatter in your head creates a feeling state.
- A lot of times we know we’re feeling a way, but we don’t realize we’re feeling a particular way because we are telling ourselves a story. What am I saying to myself that’s causing me to feel this way? Is this what I want to be feeling?
TURNAROUND: Craft a new story.
Step 1: Describe what you’d like to happen. This is when you choose your narrative arc; when you step out of victim into power.
- In this moment, at this step, you identify what you want, not what’s happening to you. This is a very subtle shift, but this is where you begin to own your story. Where do you want it to head? Frame this in action mode like ‘I’d pitch and land a column for X publication” and stay away from passive mode which invites magical thinking ‘I become rich and…’
Step 2: Shape your story.
- This where the fun begins. Now we start to shift. Look at what’s happened and redefine it. We look at situations going on in our world, and we define those things in the way we choose.
Step 3: Choose a positive justification.
- This is where you start to pull in your big vision and say, “What is the point? Why am I doing this?’ Instead of defining what happened as difficult, we can define it as character-building or something that delivered a new skill set that we didn’t have before. We’re in the midst of making our dreams happen.
Step 4: Pinpoint your transformation.
- Who would you need to “BE” in order to live your new story? Identify what “truths” you’d have to let go of, what beliefs, habits, and patterns you’d need to give up, and what emotional shifts you’ll need to make.
Step 5: Give it a timeframe
- Draw a bright line between the old and new story. Mentor saying “Up until now.” You can say to yourself, “Up until now, I’ve had dates that have only gone for a couple of weeks.” You open the door to change. Anchor your new story in a specific, do-able time frame.
Step 6: Tap into new feelings.
- Emotions are a powerful force that can provide fuel to propel you. This is where you consciously change your emotional subtext. Go beyond happy and make a list of descriptive words: powerful, confident, excited, engaged, peaceful.
Step 7: Enjoy the suspense of your story.
- It’s OK not to know how it’s all going to unfold. Not knowing does not automatically equal ‘bad’. All good stories have suspense. Now it’s not about the not knowing. It’s the suspense. Client example: “I had this story of relationship difficulty, but now my story is going to be one of ease.” The suspense is how is this going to unfold?
Some things to keep in mind about stories…
Most stories we see in the world are consciously shaped
- A press person once told me that when they were talking about Osama bin Laden they were very careful to use the word ‘eliminated’ vs. ‘killed’ because they carried different meanings. That is power, and we have the same power to choose and shape our story.
You get to choose which data you want to include in your story.
- We have the ability to say, “Yes, I want to let this in. No, I don’t want to let this in. This should be my story. This shouldn’t be my story.” That requires that awareness of what you are saying to yourself about this. Then, if it doesn’t support what you want to accomplish, decide to change the narrative.
Objectivity is a myth.
- Though we may see both sides of a story, we’re never completely neutral. We’re always on one side of the fence or the other, and we want to make that a conscious choice. In that choice, you determine what you’re going to be experiencing. Is it going to be something happy, pleasant or negative?
Crafting your story is an exploratory process.
- At times, you’re not necessarily going to know what’s going on. That’s okay. You just want to be able to hang with the not knowing and explore. If you take it as an exploratory process, there can be a lot of richness and depth to this.
You don’t control the outcome.
- You may try to control the outcome of your story, but that’s a road to stress and frustration. Control is actually the flip side of the victim space—both come from a sense of powerlessness. One is forcing, the other is abdication.
Making conscious choices is your real seat of power.
- The true space of power is choice, even when it comes to your own actions. (How sustainable is it to force yourself to take action?) When you’re conscious, you’re making choices, which flow much more easily.
Coaching Action Steps
Click on this link to download the Reinvention Story Action Guide. Get ready to dive in because there are lots of exercises!