So, it’s that time again. For some, spring is in the air, bringing with it the restless energy that drives us to get rid of the old, try new things and, in some way or another, renew ourselves and begin again.
For others, it’s the descent into autumn that brings with it a more contemplative countenance. A desire to reflect on what is and what could be and shed that which serves as an impediment for getting from is to be.
For many of us this process involves a lot of external activity – decluttering, deliberately disrupting our routines and conscious dreaming or visualisation work to first see, and then manifest, the new life we want to create.
But this time around I’m going to suggest you try something a little bit different. Something that may not require you to make any change to your external environment at all. This time around I’m going to encourage you to explore the power of the stories you tell both to, and about, yourself as a mechanism for personal change.
Let’s start with taking a look at how you explain yourself via the Story of You.
The Story of You
Here’s a question for you. How do you explain yourself to others? How do you explain the way you think, act and feel? Not sure? Then pay closer attention to what you say over the next few days, especially to people you are meeting for the first time.
Chances are you’ll begin to become much more aware of the Story of You, you’ve been reporting to the world. The story is a kind of explanatory tale that gives reason and rationale for your habits and beliefs. A kind of ‘I am this so I do that’ logic that we use to help others (and ourselves) understand how we came to be the way we are and do the things we do.
Sometimes we tell our story in the negative ‘I am this, so I don’t do that’. Sometimes we are not the original author of our stories. Instead, we’re retelling stories that others, usually our parents, have told about us so many times that we’ve deeply internalised the storyline and can now tell it as if it’s our own.
But here’s the thing. Every person on this planet is a multi-dimensional being, through which many, varied plot lines have been lived. So sure, you might be a responsible first child, an analytical engineer or a super organised accountant but you may be many other things as well. A passionate environmentalist, a hot rod enthusiast, a film buff, a great hostess, a talented musician, a lover of cats, or cooking, or both.
All of these experiences and roles have contributed to your personal evolution. All of them have been necessary to get you to where you are at this present time but no one of them is sufficient to explain all of who you are today or determine who you might become in the future.
So why do we act like they do?
Has your story gone stale?
Is there one of these identities or experiences you notice yourself drawing on more than others in explaining the whys and ways of you? When you meet new people do you always tell the same tale of how you came to be you? And why you do the things that you do?
Think about this for a bit. If you’re itching for a change in career or lifestyle or even just the way you experience your current reality, constantly telling and retelling the same story only serves to reinforce the you of yore that you want to change.
So how can you switch it up and breathe new life into the next chapter of your story?
Add another dimension
A few months ago I was at a meeting with a non-profit where I met the CEO who told me of her passion for driving monster trucks at the weekend. I didn’t really think anything of it until she started to explain that most people are shocked to hear about this side of herself since it’s not what one would expect from someone in her kind of role. It wasn’t consistent with her story so to speak.
Now she was a woman of a certain age, confident in herself and, delighted to be a contradiction to those who might otherwise have pigeon-holed her into a box, but not everyone is that way.
I will often hear people, especially younger folk, elevate one aspect of themselves above all others and use this as the anchor around which to base their whole life. Often this is linked to their profession, even if they don’t really like their job. So someone who worked as an accountant but who also blogs, travels, photographs and works as a community organiser still tells a life story in which the accountant plays the central role. The other four fifths are de-emphasised, not really them, or so the story goes.
But I’m going to encourage you to bring those aspects and dimensions of yourself to the fore and experiment with telling a story of you in which one or more of these plays the dominant role. So instead of explaining the way you think and act through the explanatory framework of the accountant, experiment this week with being the writer, the traveller or the photographer instead.
Create a plot twist
One of the common reasons people seek change is because they are bored. Bored with themselves, bored with the predictability of their lives, bored with having the same conversations day in, day out. In large part, much of the reason that one day can seem to fade into the next is that we always play the same role in the same way.
So what if you didn’t? What if instead of responding to an everyday situation as your everyday self, you changed the plot by performing the role as one of the other dimensions of yourself. Instead of being responsible mum who always makes sure everyone is fed, bathed and in bed on time do dinner as your nineteen year old surfer chick self? Who knows where or what you’ll eat, but you know for sure you’ll have more fun!
Wherever you go there you are
One of the main issues with taking an outside-in approach to change is that, wherever you end up, you are still you. So before you throw out your entire wardrobe, book that flight, quit that job or leave that relationship, have a deeper look and see if you can unearth some underdeveloped characters lurking in your life’s shadows.
Characters who may have been neglected or overlooked or even consciously repressed because they didn’t fit with the life story you previously wanted to live. Perhaps it’s time to bring them out, dust them off and let them have a play. Who knows perhaps it’s will be one of these other you who ends up being the dominant character in the next chapter of the Story of You!
Tricia Alach is an author, work-life coach and wellbeing professional who specialises in helping busy people create more balance, joy and fulfilment in life! To learn more about what she offers visit www.flowmindandbody.com or connect via facebook or @triciaalach