That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! Is that why you are stuck?
When Jim Loehr’s The Power of Story came through my mail slot, I remembered that I hadn’t ordered my free book from Bookwise this month, so they just sent me one. I’m glad they did. It’s a good one, not about how to write fitction, but how to write truth, how to write your own life. And in life, as in fiction, writing is rewriting.
Loehr explains how our minds are hard-wired to think in terms of narrative, of stories, and how the false stories we repeat to ourselves keep us from achieving the joy, love and success we desire from life. The subtitle of the book is Rewrite Your Destiny in Business and in Life. Much more than just positive thinking, Loehr uses this metaphor to help Fortune 500 executives, athletes, and other professionals change their stories to acievce wnat they really want: deep relationships with their spouse and children, vibrant health, joy and fulfillment in their work, time to enjoy the money that they make.
He emphasizes the need for engagement with whatever activity we are doing–focus on being present in the moment and putting all of one’s energy into the task at hand. He calls the common lack of engagment at work “presenteeism,” the word for people who show up but who are disengaged, unfocused. This disengagment can be due to poor nutrition, lack of sleep, lack of exercise or habitual lack of focus from multitasking. I know that my performance is affected by these things, not the least of which is dozing off at my desk in boredom.
While you won’t find any new information–you know what it is that you need to do and aren’t doing, though you may not be so aware of the stories you tell yourself to keep your self comfortably in denial –the logical explanations and real life examples fit into the metaphor of writing a story, with you as the hero of your life. The difference of his book is the structural outline of how to make the changes in one’s story and then take the action to embody those changes. For example, he suggests to corporate VPs that they encourage their subordinates to exercise while at work, to provide healthy alternatives to canteen and cafeteria menus, to limit meeting times, and to encourage people to take time for children’s activities such as ball games and school plays. He tells them to lead by example.
Loehr gives a storyboard for revising the old stories (excuses, self-deception, denial) into new stories, based on one’s purpose in life. First, write down your purpose–what do you want to leave behind when you die? What do you want people to say about you? Why are you doing the things you do? Then pick an area in your life that does not support that and think of the changes you might make to realign your life. One man left his cellphone in his car, so that he would not be distracted from his time with his wife and chidren. Another man made a point of calling home to speak to his sons at 8pm every night that he was travelling so that he could talk to them and stay in relationship with them.
Once you have your purpose and your new story about what you are doing, you set up action rituals, record your performance on them and repeat those actions for ninety days. The twelve step programs have used “90 meetings in 90 days” for decades to get people making enough changes to support their new life-affirming story. After you have a new habit firmly embedded in your subconscious along with its new and purpose-filled story, you choose another new ritual to establish. Loehr provides a strong framework for changing the stories to help the reader revise all life limiting stories.