This is How to Control Your Story
These are stories I tell about myself and the reality of them:
- I have deep empathy for people, yet I have snapped at people or gone 0 to 60 in frustration with my parents.
- My genes are not good, which is why I’ve worn glasses since I was a child, gotten LASIK, and have revert back to glasses again. (And also why I haven’t done ultramarathons.)
- I’m a DECENT leader but I’m not a GREAT leader, otherwise I would’ve “made it” by now but still explains my mild success.
But ask my wife or any of my friends and they’ll refute all of the above storylines! So what’s the truth?
Let’s deconstruct an easy technique that will help us rewrite these storylines and uncover some truths about ourselves.
Supposedly, sitting with meditation brings profound insight and newfound knowledge that will change our lives. By meditating, we discover that thing that’s wrong about us. In discovering it, we can finally fix ourselves and then we’ll all be billionaires! That’s how it works, right?
I’ve been doing a version of meditation for over 2 years now, and along the way I’ve had numerous moments of clarity and discovery, but never an a-ha moment that redefines who I am.
Yet, what has sunk in is what Headspace and Andy Puddecombe has taught me repeatedly, over and over. He’s applied the same tip to practically solve everything! From overcoming sadness to dealing with anxiety to even running. Just a few issues ago I wrote about this same tip and how if you don’t want to go exercise, let yourself think it, and then go exercise anyway.
“Through meditation, we familiarize ourselves with anxiety-inducing thoughts and storylines. We learn to see them, sit with them, and let them go. In doing so, we learn two important things: thoughts do not define us, and thoughts are not real. Within this newfound perspective, we are able to gradually change our relationship with anxiety, differentiating between what is an irrational episode and what’s true.” 
It’s literally just a thought. Thoughts come and go all the time, so why not let the bad thoughts pass by faster, such that it doesn’t linger in our mind.
The takeaway is simple: dwell in emotions less and take action regardless.
Strategies to Prevent A Negative Mindset
We all want quick-fixes or lifehacks that’ll immediately change our lives, and then POOF — transform us into a billionaire!
Yet, deep down, we know what it really takes is consistency and hard work. Over time, we will achieve that success.
Given what’s going on in the world with the pandemic, partisan politics, and (worst of all) no movie theatres, it’s HARD to keep the needed positive mindset to propel us forward.
In this section, we explore key strategies to prevent a negative mindset, ensuring our eventual success.
First, let’s get on the same page on what it means to have a negative mindset.
The stories we tell ourselves make up our identity and dictate what we believe we can and cannot do. Such as: 
- “I have to be perfect.”
- “My life is harder than anyone else’s.”
- “If I ignore it, it will go away.”
- “I’m too young, or I’m too old.”
If we can admit to ourselves that we each think that sometimes, then we can move on to fixing that negative mindset.
In this great article by Robyn Castellani of @ForbesWomen, she gives us 5 tips based on science. I’ll breakdown 2 of them, which I found to be unique and rather insightful.
- “Stop consuming junk stories.” — Junk stories are those designed to rile up your emotions. Castellani equates junk stories to junk food — tons of sugar and of no nutritional value. And just like a bad sugar rush, it’s a flood of emotions and can be, “addictive, destructive and dangerous. Junk stories tend to create junk thinking, and it’s literally bad for our brains.”
- “Don’t plan. Do one thing.” — A rather simple lifehack, the technique is when you’re starting to feel overwhelmed or negative, literally just go do something. It could be anything, but do take action. Maybe it’s the easiest thing on your to-do list, or maybe it’s going for a walk. “Whenever you take action, any action, it resets the chemicals in your brain from overwhelmed to empowered.”
Stop, Ignore, Do.
When I was at the University of Central Florida and taking several undergraduate classes, all the quizzes, tests, labs, and homework were piling up longer than the line at Everest. I remember many nights feeling so overwhelmed.
And that’s exactly when a negative mindset creeps in!
- “Maybe I’m in over my head.”
- “Maybe I’m not not smart enough.”
- “Maybe I’m not organized and efficient.”
- “What was I even thinking?!”
Yet, has life gotten any easier? If anything, the decisions and the responsibilities we have now are more consequential.
Let’s we dig into one super practical advice that should become our go-to technique whenever we start feeling overwhelmed and that negative voice starts whispering.
Here’s my 3-step process to getting stuff done, which just happens to to be a fancy acronym, SID!
- Stop — Give yourself the permission to stop worrying and chill for a second. In fact, while you’re at it, smile too.
“If you smile often enough, you end up rewiring your brain to make positive patterns more often than it does negative ones.” — @FastCompany
- Ignore — Next, give yourself permission to ignore everything else going on in your life. Ignore the deadlines, the fact you may be late, or that you forgot to pick up something. You know you can’t solve them all literally right now, no there’s no use in wallowing in that mental space.
- Do — Finally, just do anything. Pick something that’s a good balance of “high value” and low/easy skill. The goal is to get a win immediately and then build on that momentum.
The difference between what SID and what you have learned elsewhere is in deciding what is “high value.”
For example, you could do email for the next hour:
- working chronologically, or
- scan for the most important ones (e.g. from the boss, work has stopped until you weigh in, team is waiting on you), or
- send emails that start your actions/initiatives.
Any of the above fits the criteria of doing something, which is better than feeling overwhelmed. Yet, the art is in figuring out quickly what is the highest value action.
How to Change The Narrative (In Your Head)
Not sure what’s been going on with me lately, but I’ve been having a hard time changing the narrative in my head. In other words, been getting into too much conflict lately.
During these stressful situations, instead of being patient and giving others positive intent, I’ve been a hair-trigger away from saying something that I would surely regret.
It’s supremely disappointing because (A) I write a newsletter that preaches positive intent (!!!), and (B) how am I ever going to become the next Fortune 500 CEO or activist that changes the narrative, when I can’t even manage my own “smaller” issues?
That’s why I’m talking about real advice we can do everyday to reinforce better change. And a reminder to me to focus!
“Consider an argument with your partner. When in a heated exchange with a loved one, we often lose track of the disagreement itself and focus on being heard — on getting the last word, on winning.” — Tony Robbins
In other words, we start focusing on ourselves… at all costs. A side effect is the doubt it seeds in our mind. “Why is this happening to me? Why can’t I resolve this? What did I do wrong?”
For me, an argument seeds negative thinking. And all that negative energy subtracts from the positive gains we could’ve been making.
Here’s what I plan on doubling down on.
- Trust is the root of it all. — You tell me about an argument, and I can argue how it started because of lack of trust. The real reason for almost every disagreement is that we didn’t trust the other person — trust in what they said, trust in their intent, or trust in their belief. Extend an olive branch and trust.
- Say only the good. — “That’s known as the Pygmalion effect: for better and for worse, the stories we tell about people tend to become true. When people are told, “you’re the kind of person who performs well under pressure” before doing a high-stress task, their performance goes up by 33%.” — @ForbesWomen 
- Visualize awesomeness. — “What does your perfect day look like? How do you want your big presentation at work to go? How exactly do you want a first date to go?” Take a few minutes to truly visualize what success or an acceptable resolution looks like. Do this and your subconscious mind will follow suit.
Trust, say good things, and visualize. Slowly mold negative thoughts into productive ones.
Ready To Level-Up?
- Headspace: Meditation for Anxiety
- Want To Change Your Life? Change Your Narrative. Here’s How. by Robyn Castellani
- How Stories Change the Brain by Paul J. Zak
- Change Your Story: Your Three Steps to a Breakthrough by Team Tony
- How to Reprogram Your Mind: Taking a More Active Approach to Designing Your Life by Team Tony
- Here’s How To Reprogram Your Brain To Achieve More Focus On Your Goals by Anthony Moore
- Let Go of Fear by Stopping the Stories in Your Head by Angela Gunn
- How Smiling Changes Your Brain By Vivian Giang