Changing the narrative to achieve success
Written on the 3 September 2019 by Arrow
As children, we are surrounded by stories. The books our parents read to us, the cartoons we watch, the imaginary games we play. As adults we might like to think that story time is over. But it isn't.
We are constantly surrounded by narratives in the media, amongst our peers and in our own heads. If these narratives are positive, they can propel us forward. But if they are negative, they can hold us back.
The sky's the limit until we hit our self-imposed limitations, usually founded in feelings of fear and unworthiness.
So how do we break through these limitations and start reaching our goals. The answer is to change the narrative.
How we limit ourselves
Fear of failure
This in turn can develop into what famed TED talker and vulnerability expert, Dr Brené Brown, calls 'self-handicapping'. Say you're preparing a proposal that requires a lot of researchinstead of doing the work you avoid it. The internal logic goes that if you don't try, you can blame any ensuing failure on lack of effort, which is easier to bear than lack of ability. The problem with this approach: you never get anything done, and your career trajectory will inevitably stall.
To combat this, start with that old adage, 'nothing ventured, nothing gained'. For as novelist JK Rowling said in her now viral Harvard Commencement Address, 'It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all in which case, you fail by default.'i Getting comfortable with failure isn't easy, but it is perhaps the only given on the pathway to success.
Fear of comparison
Two-time Olympic Gold medallist, Abby Wambach, thinks we need to change our approach. She takes the soccer pitch as a metaphor. When you kick a goal, run towards your teammates. They set you up for the shot. Likewise, if your team mate scores, run towards them, and celebrate their victory. Success almost never exists in the vacuum; it is usually the cumulative result of a lifetime of learning and other people's input.
Fear of conflict
One useful tool in these situations is what Dr Brown calls 'the story I'm telling myself'. It's a great way to frame conversations and avoid misconstruing your projections about the other with their reality. Rather than casting aspersions or laying blame, open the conversation with the sentence 'the story I'm telling myself' It will allow the other interlocutor the space to hear you, and open the door to vulnerability, which is crucial to conflict resolution.
Changing the narrative