How do we create the story we want to live?
This is what I strive to do in my work. I strive to enable people/organisations to become aware of the stories they carry and which shape their behaviour or the behaviour of their staff. I then help them deconstruct these stories and identify where they came from. They choose to keep those that aid them on their journey while casting off those which hinder them. I then facilitate a process that helps them stay on the path of the 'new story' that leads to their vision.
Whilst this process helps people in identifying their 'old stories' and behaviours, these are often so well-worn that they cannot be changed overnight. It is hard work to become conscious of our unconscious behaviour. However, in order to change our external narrative we have to work with the internal narratives that we believe about ourselves.
I am as guilty as anybody else of returning to behaviours that do not help me in the 'new story' that I want to live. A strong part of my 'new story' is my development as a writer. I know that I can write, I have been published in the past and my book, Narrative4Change had been accepted by a publishing house before Covid.( Unfortunately they were forced to retract due to the pandemic.) I also want to have some of my poetry published and I have done so in the past, so again I know I can do this - so why don't I?
In the book Narrative Coaching, David Drake offers some great techniques that help us identify the three areas that we need to work on in order to manifest our 'new stories. These cover mindset, behaviour and environment. He states that each day we make hundreds of tiny decisions that either keep us on the path of the old story or take us towards our new story. These are all reflected in those 3 areas.
As an example, my mindset often makes me believe that I am not a writer and cannot be a writer. This is heavily connected to having no formal academic qualifications and never attending University. (The fact that I have been published and had articles published in academic journals does not stop me believing this as a core truth.) Due to this mindset my behaviour, when it comes to writing, is not consistent. I do not prioritise my writing highly as I have that underlying belief that it has no real worth. Hence in my environment I prioritise other things and give them time, like taking out the dog in the morning, or tidying the flat. It is not procrastination, (though many of us may call some of our self-sabotaging beliefs this,) it is failing to give worth, time or place to that which we want to happen.
This behaviour can be linked to many different activities that we feel we should be doing, that we know we can do and that we want to happen. Whether it is physical training, being in nature, creating firm boundaries - the list goes on. So how do we change it? David Drake offers that we start to identify and create a difference in those 3 areas. So for example; in my mindset I have to accept and believe that I can write and that my writing is worthy of being published and being read. This means that in my behaviour I need to create a habit/routine of writing every day and prioritise it above other things. This means that in my physical environment I block out time to go into the study and write for an 2 hours every day. Also, I need to have the confidence and courage to ask my partner to support and understand me in this, take the dog out if needed and to not disturb me while I am writing. Yet I still struggle with it.
I think it is the changing of the mindset that is at the crux of the battle for me. So much of my mindset (I prefer the term personal narrative) is based on the stories I was told and brought up with. I was born in 1964 where there was, (and still is,) a strong narrative of compliance linked to being a 'good girl.' So much of what I heard and experienced about being a female was linked to being good, quiet, accommodating, not making a fuss, not taking up space. Even when I became a mother, the story I heard was that I should be self-sacrificing and give all for my children, to always put myself after others. It told me that other people's happiness, my children's, my partners, my parents was worth more than mine. Living in that narrative for 57 years has a strong, strong impact and it feels very counter-intuitive to say, "no, I don't want to do that," or "I will not do that." Yet it is what I want my daughter to be able to say and I want my son to be able to hear it from the person he chooses to be in a relationship with. So I continue to try and be my own narrator and create the story I want to live and it is hard acknowledging that at the end of it all, the responsibility lies with me.
I am actually making two thread bangles of different colours, one for my old story, (other people and their needs are more important than mine) and one for my new story, (my words are worthy of being written and worthy of being read and I am a bloody grown woman!) I am hoping that as I move my hands about throughout the day, that they will act as a reminder to me that I am the author of my own life despite the stories I have been told. It is time for me to acknowledge my responsibility and my worth in creating and living the life I want to happen.