What Story Are You Telling Yourself?

While I place great emphasis on how coaching clients are perceived by others, the foundation of our brand is based on how we see ourselves. For better or worse, much of our self-concept reflects how we experience our current situation, transitory circumstances that can change on a dime. When things are going well, we feel highly effective, and when things are going poorly, just the opposite. This is the natural play of the mind, which requires  our guidance to maintain a positive perspective. We can support our mind by:

  • Paying attention to how we view challenges that we face
  • Telling ourselves a more positive story about challenging situations.

For instance, one of my clients, let’s call him Brian, was hoping for a promotion. He was very disappointed when a peer was selected instead and suddenly became his new boss. Here’s the story that Brian began telling himself: I should have been the one who got promoted. Senior leadership doesn’t see my potential. Everyone knows that I got passed over for that role. Maybe I’m not as good as I think.

You can imagine how this story affected Brian’s self-concept, let alone his future possibilities. Through coaching, Brian developed the following more positive version of his story: (New manager’s name) will be under a lot of pressure to meet new, probably unrealistic expectations from senior leadership. In my current role, I’ll be able to begin a new project that I think I’ll really enjoy. This summer, I’m going to feel comfortable actually taking my vacation.

Brian developed a more positive perspective by shining a light on the bright side of his not receiving a promotion—the same situation that fostered his prior negative point of view. You can brighten your perspective and lay groundwork for positive outcomes by completing the same exercise that Brian used in coaching below.

  1. Identify a challenge or negative aspect of your current work life that you’d like to improve.
  2. Jot down the story that you’re currently telling yourself about this situation.
  3. Respond to the following questions to surface a more positive perspective. (Note: Some questions might not quite be a fit; just respond to those that work.)
  • Are there aspects of this situation that could serve you?
  • What silver lining could this situation present now or in the future?
  • Are there resources you could call on to support your success?
  • What are you doing well in this situation?
  • How can you use this situation for your personal development?

The story that we tell ourselves about our current situation establishes the trajectory for how things will likely unfold. Tell yourself a positive story and create a positive future!