By Bill Harley
A useful question I often ask myself and my coaching clients is: What is the story you are telling yourself about that situation?
It’s a natural human tendency to try to interpret for ourselves “the truth” about any experience, relationship or problem we have had or are having. Often these “truths” are only half-truths or even untruths that keep us safe, but prevent us from growing intellectually, socially and spiritually.
During my college years, my family was pressing me to pursue a particular career path that I intuitively knew to be toxic to my being. To close off this career path to myself, I intentionally failed a key final exam. The immediate problem went away, but for years afterwards, I told myself the story that I had failed in this path, that it showed some flaw in my character, and that it was shameful. For about fifteen years after that decision and interpretation of “the truth”, I distrusted my intuition and worked very hard to avoid failure at anything and everything. As a result, I went down career paths that were only slightly less toxic for me than the one I avoided by failing the exam.
Eventually, I discovered the career I am now in and intuitively knew this was it—it was the path for me that held passion and deeply meaningful service to others. And I came to realize that “the truth” of my situation was different than what I had earlier concluded. In fact, my intuition had saved me from a toxic career pathway back in my college years, and now it had guided me again to the right path in my later years. The years in between when I distrusted by intuition were years when I was off the path. This revision to the story I was telling myself freed me to honor my intuition along with my reason and emotions; and it accelerated my growth in my chosen field.
All of us tell ourselves stories about situations in our lives. Many of the “truths” in these stories are ripe for revision. Suspect stories include: Trusting my intuition gets me into trouble; I am not good in relationships; I am a loser; I have no creativity; I’ll never blossom in life; People will take advantage of me if I give them an opening, etc. See if you can come up with some other examples from your own life of stories you are telling yourself that may be keeping you too safe to grow. Jean’s and my book explores these concepts in more depth. It’s entitled, Now That I’m Here, What Should I Be Doing?