What Story Do You Want to Tell Yourself?

Nate Biddick, CFP®, AVP, Practice Consulting
May 10, 2019

Whether you believe you are at choice or powerless, able to affect outcomes or stuck in problems, a victim or creator—you are right. 

I believe that the stories we tell ourselves and what we believe about them are the most important thing about us, because what we believe governs what we do. 

Stories are everywhere. Netflix, podcasts and novels fill our attention. Epic fantasies from Star Wars to Game of Thrones grab some people. More realistic stories like those in documentaries grab others.

But stories aren’t just for external consumption. They are also self-created. Our brains are meaning-making machines. Thousands of years ago we’d walk out of our caves, stretch our arms in the rising sunlight and need to be able to protect ourselves by making sense of the story we saw: large-clawed footprints in the mud, forest unusually quiet, the scraps from last night’s hunt gone—there must be a saber-toothed tiger near!

Our internal hardwiring continues to respond to big change much the same way it did to that tiger. If you have been through a major change in your career, you know the stress it can bring: questions about how to do your job, concern for self and peers’ futures, and new dynamics in leading others and being led during times of uncertainty. 

It is even more important to focus on outcomes during this time. But how do you continue to make decisions and keep acting from the belief you are at choice? Here is a question you can ask yourself when at any decision point: What is the story I want to tell?  

Five years from now, when talking to someone going through the same thing, what story will you be able to tell them about your choices? Ten years from now, when your kids or other family member go through a similar situation, will you be able to tell them the story of how you walked through adversity or of how drama overwhelmed you? Twenty years from now, when the stress of the decision is only a faint memory, will you wish you had behaved differently or be proud of how you handled yourself?

Tell yourself the story of your choice before you make it. Tell yourself what you believe that helps you make that choice. By becoming more intentional about the stories you are telling yourself—and what you believe about them—you can begin to self-author and create the story you are living.