Changing your narrative, building personal momentum

changing your narrative

In the course of my research for a new book, I came across fascinating studies that demonstrate how humans live up to a narrative that develops about them over time. Your life becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy — and you may not even know it. Changing your narrative can change your life!

Your life narrative might come from your role in a relationship, from people you work with, and even childhood events that lock you in a place in a certain story. These made-up roles and expectations can be self-limiting when it comes to developing momentum for your life and career.

This issue came up the other day in an individual coaching session when a friend said she dreamed of writing a book but felt this was unobtainable since she had been humiliated by failing English twice in high school. She has stuck herself in a place where a dream cannot be realized because of some historical narrative.

Changing her narrative would be: “I have lots of great ideas and an amazing story to tell. My goal is to write a book and I will change my environment to support that, including prioritizing my time, learning the book writing process, using technology that can improve my writing, and finding the editing help that I need. Besides, my high school English teacher was a jerk!”

I’ve learned that historical narratives were impacting me, too.

Changing your narrative changes your life

As I wrote this new book about building momentum in your life, it’s been eye-opening to reconsider the place I hold in the narratives of my family, my marriage, and even among my clients and social media audience.

Sometimes a role I’ve historically played led to esteem from others … but this role might not be useful or even accurate any more. Sometimes a narrative about me came from a childhood story or incident. I’m not even sure some of these things really happened, but it becomes part of the family narrative and sticks.

Part of my narrative comes because I was the oldest of six children. I was held in a place of responsibility and was a back-up parent for most of my teen years. I still have a lot of that narrative running in my life today, for better or for worse.

In many cultures, there is a special place in a family — an expectation and narrative — that comes from being a first-born son. It’s been useful to reflect on how much of my personality has been forged through the chance occurrence of birth order. (I actually wrote a master’s thesis on the impact of birth order in the workplace — quite fascinating!)

I don’t want any of my paths to progress to be blocked because of what people think I should or shouldn’t do based on their stories about me. The good news is, I’m still discovering new opportunities for myself after all these decades in the marketing business. I will be peeling back these layers of personal narratives for a long time.

You and I have a choice to either conform to that prescribed narrative or re-define how we view ourselves based on what is really true. Can you see any narratives that constrain you? Or, maybe they lift you up and nurture you?

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions. He is the author of several best-selling digital marketing books and is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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