*I consider this single tip to be one of the most powerful.
Have you ever stopped to take note of what stories you are telling about your life? Not only the stories you tell others, but more importantly the stories you tell yourself? This might be a hard pill to swallow but you're living in the same "story of my life" because you keep insisting on holding on to your stories for dear life. I promise you if you start to observe your same old stories and choose new ones then your life WILL change. If you don't believe me then try it for yourself. The caveat is that you may have to tell a new, better story as many times and with as much dramatic emphasis as you tell the old one. The good news is it won't actually take as long for things to shift.
You see, we like to hold on to our old stories; even when they're sad ones. We revel in them. We even begin to enjoy telling them! There are so many reasons to hold on to them. They give meaning to us. They justify us. They validate us. They excuse us. Who would we be without them? That's why they're so hard to let go of. The problem is that while we may feel they give us what we need on some level, when we remain stuck in them, then WE REMAIN STUCK IN THEM. Get it?
We have countless stories we tell all day long, some trivial and some monumental. I remember many years ago when my kids were in early elementary school. They attended a school where pretty much every kid's parents were married. At that time I was picking up a lot of broken pieces in my life. In many aspects, I felt very alone in the world. I would go to their school events, always showing up as the single mom. I would hear other parents talking about getting together with other families but I was never invited.....I wasn't part of a couple so I guess no one ever considered inviting me. I would sit in the auditorium at a school concert or play and be the only one without a spouse. Do you see the story I had going on in my head? The one I continued to tell myself? I would leave the events with a smile on my face but feeling like a complete outsider, sad and dejected. Events that were supposed to be enjoyable left me feeling horrible. And that's just the school events. There were many other areas of life where I would keep this story alive.
One evening, I stumbled into an event quite by accident.....a Halloween party with parents from my children's school. I, of course, had not been invited. Long story short, I found myself walking back to my car alone on Halloween night (it was snowing, no less). This street happened to be in a neighborhood that went all out for Halloween every year. All the homeowners would dress up, sit outside and pass out candy. As I walked down the street I could see in the windows of the homes. I had to watch all the families having Halloween parties as I walked by alone, tears streaming down my face, my daughter still playing at the party we weren't "officially" invited to. This street was literally like a Norman Rockwell painting with Halloween rather than Christmas as the focus. It was picture-perfect. By the time I got to my car, I was having a pretty good cry. A funny thing happened next. As I was driving home, "telling my same story" to myself, I began to laugh hysterically. It was actually comical how pathetic I felt! As I was thinking about myself walking down that street in the Halloween snow, watching the picture-perfect families, I thought "Wow! That would have made a great movie scene." I couldn't help but laugh! And with that thought, I realized that I WAS THE ONE telling this story. No one else. Yes, maybe I had not been invited to the party, but it's not like the host was rude. She had asked me to stay. I'm the one who felt uncomfortable being there alone while everyone else was a couple. That was on me not her. I had to keep my same story running......the story that "I'm a single mom. I don't fit in here with these other people. Everyone else has the family they wanted. I don't". Because after all, that was the truth wasn't it?
That's exactly when I decided to change my story. Yea, ok, so I could find some truth in the story.....but so what? Did I want to keep feeling the way I was feeling? No, I did not. I started telling myself a new story, and I STOPPED telling the old one. My new story revolved around all the benefits of being a single parent. There actually are some you know! It included aspects about all the ways I really enjoyed being involved with events at the school and how I felt a part of things rather than how I felt separate. I didn't waste time contemplating if every detail of my story was ALWAYS accurate or not. For God's sake, it's a story after all! I can tell myself any story I want to tell. (Most of the stories we're telling aren't always accurate anyway. They're all based on our perception at that moment.) And as I did this, my mind would start to look for ways to validate my new story. This is what the mind does....it looks for validation. So, rather than finding all the ways to validate what an outsider I was, it would find validation for all the ways I completely fit in. And THAT changed how I felt!
I can still remember just a few months later sitting at the Christmas event in the school auditorium. I looked around at all the parents watching their kids on stage. I felt completely different in that audience for the first time. I used to look around and feel alone. Now I felt happy. Nothing had actually changed except for my mind and the story I chose to tell myself. My mind was no longer searching for evidence to validate my old story. It was totally content to simply do what I was there to do.....watch my kids perform in their Christmas concert. And I enjoyed every minute of it.
So, here's the most important point. Telling a better story for yourself doesn't mean that you invalidate the old. Some of the events that take place in life are painful. It doesn't mean you have to excuse them or even excuse the people that may have hurt you. It means that you can DECIDE to honor where you are and accept what happened in the past, but CHOOSE to stop telling the story and close the book. You can make it part of your library but you don't have to take it out every day and keep reading it. You don't have to LOSE your story but rather USE your story. Use it for your benefit, to evolve you and make you a better version of yourself. Use it to serve others who might be going through the same thing. But remember it was written in the past. It's now old. Write a BETTER story for yourself and if it serves you and makes you feel good then that's the story you should be keeping alive. All others should be moved to the archives and only be called upon when they can be of service as reference material.