Unlearn old tricks to learn new ones.
The stories we tell ourselves, define our behaviours and results.
Humans are wired for stories. We love listening stories and we identify/connect with those that resonate with us. As we go through life experiences, we design our own stories.
When we remember something from the past, our brain activates different parts of itself and every time it re-constructs the memory of an event in a slightly different way. We do not store memories in a full-size version in our brain; we will re-define them a little bit different every time we think about those memories, or about those stories we construct for ourselves.
This is very powerful in itself, because it means we have the inner power to re-define/ re-write those stories which do not serve us well anymore.
- “What’s my story about this (specific matter)?”,
- “What do I tell myself about….? “
These questions came up many times in the discussions I had this week – the theme of my 1st week of work this year, seemed to be: “what’s the story I tell myself on this matter….? “.
Becoming aware of the stories we tell ourselves about our believes, our behaviours and actions; is incredibly powerful and gives us the opportunity to choose between:
- Continuing telling ourselves the same story OR
- Changing that story, if it does not serve our purpose well anymore.
Let me bring it to life with an example:
A couple of years ago, one of my clients, was given feedback, by his boss; he was told he was taking too much charge, he was tough and challenging and he needed to be a bit more people focused.
Now my client wanted to be a good employee and he learned to be more people focused, so he dialed down his toughness and took less charged, put people more forward, etc. So, he was praised, and promoted for doing the right thing.
Fast forward to now: his new boss gives him feedback and tells him he is focusing too much on the people around him doing the right things, and he is not tough enough and not taking enough charge.
As you can imagine, he was slightly puzzled. He was doing exactly what he did before and showing the same behaviours which brough him praise and promotion before.
Where is the issue now?
New context, new environment, new behaviours? …. Maybe.
Can it be in the stories he started telling himself at a certain point, and the associations he created between his believes, behavious, actions and outputs: praise, promotion, results, etc.?
Both bosses and feedbacks might have been right, or both might have been wrong. It does not really matter anymore. What we tend to forget is that the feedback we get is from the perspective of the other, the one giving the feedback and it is his/her perception of our behavious (not of us as a whole). We also forget when we get feedback to ask which of our behaviours/actions, made the person, giving feedback, arrive to that specific conclusion. I know I never really asked “what in my behaviour made you think that?”
Because we do not validate that, our brain goes on and fills in the missing information with what seems to us (from our own perspective) the most suitable information, and creates a story, which we will start believing in, and because we will think about it multiple times, every time we will re-define it a bit more and it becomes truer to us.
Nothing wrong with this process, in many situations it serves us good, and we change for better.
However, issues could arise in the following 2 cases:
- when we start constructing the stories without any valid initial information, and we end up with a detailed story which will not serve us well, but which we will continue re-define and believe in.
- we do not re-evaluate our old stories. Some stories might have served us well in the past; but situations changed, and we changed as well; so those stories are not true anymore; but we forget to re-construct them.
The two issues above lead to limiting believes which will hold us where we are, and not allow us to enhance our performance and achieve what ever is our next stretchy step.
I leave you with a couple of questions:
- What stories do you tell yourself?
- Are your stories still true? Do they serve you well?
- Should you re-think (some of) those stories?
Challenge the stories you tell yourself and choose to change the behaviours and believes which hold you from performing at your best.
Unlearn old tricks to learn new ones which will get you closer to your next goal!
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