The Stories We Tell Ourselves

“I’m already too busy.”

“I worked hard today, I deserve it!”

“It’s been a busy day, I deserve to relax!”

“No one will read it anyway so why bother.”

These are just some of the story starters I use myself to tell myself stories to justify things I do. Whether it’s that piece of pie after supper or the drink in the evening, I would tell myself a story about how it was okay because …

We all do this at some point – tell ourselves a story of some kind. It helps us to justify our decisions.

I began to pay attention to these stories a few years ago when I returned to teaching after being away for several years. I began to pay attention to the stories I told about my work, the other teachers, the students, the parents, and the community.

I noticed I used these stories when justifying why I might have done something that had a different choice. Or why I reacted a certain way. Or what was the real reason I was thinking that way about a certain event or situation. What was the story I was telling myself?

Checking your Leadership Stories

As a leader, I’ve didn’t always do this. I would make decisions or react in a particular way without reflecting on the story I was telling myself about the situation. Sometimes things worked out but sometimes things didn’t. Then I would tell myself more stories about why instead of reflecting on what I was telling myself.

Metacognition – the act of thinking about your thinking, is a critical when in a position of leadership. But, like many leaders, I didn’t really know what to do. When I began to examine the stories that I was telling myself, I began to be able to delve deeper into how my decisions and what I was doing were being directed by these stories. This act of examining the story provided me insight into the decisions I was making. As I became more and more aware of how these stories affected my decisions, I began to see they were also connected to my life habits which in turn were foundational in how I was approaching the work I was doing, the relationships I had, the interests I was pursuing, and other aspects of my life.

Making Changes – Telling Different Stories

A few years ago, I had an operation that severely limited my mobility. It took several months to regain the ability to do the different things that I had enjoyed doing. In that time, I ended up gaining weight. Like many others, I began to try to lose what I had gained. It’s been 2 years and I am still struggling.

So, I began to really pay attention to the stories I was telling myself about this situation. I noticed that even though I knew I needed to lose weight, I was still telling myself the same stories about food, working out, and being active. What I noticed is that I hadn’t changed those stories – the habits I had before the injury had continues through the weight gain and continued on. As I analyzed these stories, I began to see how my habits were sabotaging my attempts to make changes which in turn were leading to stories about how I couldn’t do this. By taking time to delve into these stories, I see how that is not true but I had to make changes to the story.

What Stories Do You Tell

What stories do you tell yourself as a leader? About your work? About where you work? About the people you work with?

Not all stories are positive ones but all stories give us insight into the actions we are taking, the decisions we are making, how we interact with people, and the people we choose to be around.

If we want a different ending to what is currently happening, paying attention to the stories we tell ourselves is important to making change to the habits and decisions we make.

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