I am sitting here on a chair, looking at a computer screen and punching away at the keyboard. That is so simply what is so. If I was to record what I am doing right now and you were to view that recording that is what you would see – nothing more and nothing less. Yet, you and I would not leave it at that. We simply cannot help it – we’d make a story about it. One of you might say to yourself: “How sad that he is sat on his but staring at a screen typing away. Hasn’t he got something better to do?” Someone else might say: “Wow, look at the size of that computer screen! I’d like one just like that.” And someone else might be thinking “Great, he is doing something useful with his time rather than being a couch potato.” None of these stories is what is going on.
In the real world stuff simply is. You and I do not live in the real world we live in our stories. We can transform our lives simply by constructing empowering (inspiring) stories rather than limiting stories. Let’s make this conversation real by sharing an example. I write a business blog (The Customer Blog) and on Thursday I looked at how many times my latest post had been read. I didn’t leave it at that. I made a story that went along the following lines: “I am losing my touch. Look at how few people have read what I wrote. Is writing the blog worth all the effort that goes into it. I spent hours researching and writing for what? Maybe it is time to give up….” That story left me feeling miserable.
Then on Friday evening a reader of the blog emailed me: he told me that he enjoyed reading my latest blog post and asked my permission to take it and circulate it to his Chamber of Commerce membership. Suddenly I was delighted! What was the story I was telling myself? “If my writing makes a difference to even a single fellow human being then it was worth writing. Maybe I do have something to offer and contribute to the world. It is definitely worth the effort and I should continue with the blog.” Notice that all that changed is the story that I was telling myself. In the real world I wrote a blog post. I looked at dashboard which displayed the number of views of the latest blog post. I got an email. I replied to the email. Nothing more, nothing less. Nothing in my circumstances changed – absolutely nothing.
I also notice that I have been telling myself a limiting story that has limited me and my living. Here is how the story goes “My neck hurts. My back hurts. Every day I am in pain. I cannot do what I took for granted – tennis, badminton, cycling…. I am old. Living is a struggle. How will I get through tomorrow. I am not contributing to my wife and children – I come home after work and just rest in my bedroom. What use am I? I am letting my family down. What will happen if I can no longer work? ……..” Is it any surprise that my experience of living has sucked and I have not been in communication with my friends?
Yet, I am back: the confident, powerful, caring Maz is back. How? I changed the story that I have been telling myself. That is it. Nothing in my circumstances has changed: my neck still hurts, my back still hurts, I still have to take care on what I do and do not do. At the same time everything has changed: in my new story, I am a powerful person who has something to contribute including setting an example of how to live when stuff is not working out as you would like it to. The circumstances of my life as simply constraints that test my desire to live and contribute fully.
Lesson: you and I can transform our experience of living without having to change or wait for our circumstances to change. We can transform our experience of living simply by creating and recreating (constantly) stories that leave us relating to ourselves as powerful human beings who have something useful to contribute and who can make ‘a dent in the universe’.