What Story Drives You?

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Below is the tastefully edited transcription of the video. (Transcribe your own videos only if you like cringing for a half-hour. :) )

I’ve got three questions for you:

  1. What story drives your action?
  2. Is that story supportive for you?
  3. Is it time to change the story?

Let me provide some more background on this.

I’ve learned from working with people that, really, we have to focus on things in this order: Story -> Strategy -> Plan -> Actions. Most people want to know what to do and how to do it, and that’s over on the action side of things.

“Give me the 7-Step Secret. Give me the blah-blah-blah.” They want the actions, and I understand that.

Where most of the work comes, though, is in their story. (Click to tweet – thanks!)

As we work on businesses, as we work on careers, as we work on the stuff that matters, there’s an external story that we tell about what’s going on. That external story might be what we call our vision, our mission, or our brand – but it’s the external story that we’re telling the world.

Now, what actually drives our action most of the time is our internal story – which is what we tell ourselves about who we are and what we’re doing.

Here’s where it gets really interesting: often, the internal story does not support us in doing what we want to do in the world. For instance, I have a newer client who has a story about wealth that we’re having to work through. She comes from a community that has very deep and antipathic views about wealth that she’s struggling with because she doesn’t agree with those views but here she is. As we start talking about growing her business and getting out there in the world, we’re having to confront those views.

Which story about wealth is going to be the one that lets her drive herself through her adult life? Is it the one that she inherited from her society and from her upbringing, or is it the one that she’s going to take and go forward with from here?

That’s just one example. I’ve got other examples — such as people who never received feedback for anything they did throughout their lives so it created an overachiever complex. Everything they do, they have to do it well above the top because that’s the only way there might be some positive applause or feedback. And it’s not working for them because everything they do has to be so incredibly hard, and they’re missing simple ways in which they could serve others and be served themselves.

The stories we tell ourselves don’t necessarily have to be bad stories. There are successful people who have stories that create successful outcomes for them. For instance, successful people know that to embrace greatness, you have to embrace failure. They can accrue a lot of momentary failures and see the big win, not all of the little failures, as the important piece.

Many people can’t do that. Many people can’t do that because we’ve learned to focus on weaknesses and failures instead of on strengths and big opportunities that we’ve created.

There are stories about receiving help, for instance, that nourish some people and keep other people from doing great work in the world. I’ve got one of those. I grew up where asking for help meant that you were defective and it meant that you would owe someone. You asked for help only if you really needed to – you tried everything possible before you asked for help. There’s a whole story about asking for help and I know where I got that from.

Turns out, that’s not a very useful perspective right now. That’s not a very useful story about receiving help.

The story that actually is important and useful is the one about letting other people celebrate and contribute to your success and that being a strength. In certain places and at certain times, it is an incredible strength to be able to have those people rally around you and fuel you, rather than seeing every time someone does something for you as being a “debt” and leading to the belief that you couldn’t do it yourself.

The thing about it is, we can change these stories. If you think that you’re just damaged goods, you’re always going to be fighting against that. Any success that comes along the way will be viewed in that light. If you view yourself as a robot or as somebody who doesn’t matter, that’s always going to be something you have to fight against.

When we change those stories to be ones that are nurturing, supportive, and motivating – and see that those stories are true of the world …

That’s the last piece. You can create stories that become true of the world through habit, practices, and the communities you build. It’s not that you’re lying, but that you’re changing the way you understand the same set of data, which we’re all able to do. (Post-video inclusion: changing the way we understand the same set of data is often called reframing.)

I’m going to pull it back: story drives us. Action plans, strategies – none of that really does. That doesn’t do the work. It only shows us how to do the work we already want to do or how to play out the story we already have.

What story drives your action? Is it supportive and nourishing for you? Does it need to be changed?

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  1. says

    Hi Charlie
    Great Video. This morning while I was jogging, I reviewed some of the stories I tell myself and few were shocking!

    Thanks for the reminder to look at the stories we tell ourselves. (By the way the length of the video is perfect for what it is!)

    Kind Regards


  2. says

    I loved this, it really resonated with me. I’ve recently realised I have a lot of stories around perfectionism/overachieving which are making my life no fun.

    I just wondered if you had any thoughts on how to change your story. Or really I know how to re-frame into a story that will allow me to flourish and enjoy life, but how to actually live that story? Is it just constantly reminding yourself and practicing living that new story? Or do you have some tips up your sleeve?

    Anyway, thank you for this!

    • says

      Thanks for the comment, Lisa!

      I just wondered if you had any thoughts on how to change your story. Or really I know how to re-frame into a story that will allow me to flourish and enjoy life, but how to actually live that story? Is it just constantly reminding yourself and practicing living that new story? Or do you have some tips up your sleeve?

      I have a few rabbits in the hat. I’ll be pulling them out soon – I just have other rabbits coming out earlier. :)

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