You are always telling yourself and others stories. Those stories include the meaning you attach to your thoughts, beliefs, and experiences, and you may frame them as positive or negative or neutral. How you frame your views, beliefs, and experiences largely determine your overall mindset. It also plays a massive role in your overall success and well-being.
- The Victim: The narrative of the victim is a most debilitating mindset. Believing you are a victim disempowers you and removes your agency, your ability to take action and achieve some end or goal intentionally. Telling yourself and others about the external factors or events you believe victimized you reinforce your belief that you cannot be more, do more, have more, and contribute more. Many people refuse to see themselves as victims and have reframed what are negative experiences as the events that empowered them to succeed.
- Circumstances of Your Birth: You cannot change the circumstances of your birth, a derivation of the victim mentality, and a beautiful sounding excuse for not becoming what you might become. The story about scarcity, poor relationships, or a lack of education may garner sympathy from some. Still, the best biographies you will ever read are about people who succeeded in spite of the circumstances of their birth. You can rewrite the narrative you tell whenever you want to, even if it isn’t easy. Success is a choice, not a birthright.
- It’s Everybody Else: It’s the western capitalist society that prevents you from succeeding. It’s the politicians, big companies, your parents, your manager, and your company. If you tell yourself a story about all the people and external factors that prevent you from having what you want, your confirmation bias will work overtime to identify proof that it is true. Well, true for you anyway. You’ll also find others who will validate your belief as a way to confirm their beliefs. The evidence is to the contrary, as there is no end of people succeeding who are subject to those same external factors. A better narrative is one in which you are the protagonist, not a redshirt. Success is individual.
- I Don’t Know How: This is the story of being helpless. The clinical term is learned helplessness, a sense of being powerless and unable to act. No one knows how to do anything until they take action and learn, and they never learn anything until they try. You may be surrounded by people who accept your belief that you can’t do something, but their acceptance doesn’t make it true, and it doesn’t improve your position in life. A better story is the one you tell yourself about your desire to learn and improve your position. Success is an auditor and demands much of you.
- Missing Resources: This is the story you tell about not having the money or the connections or some other set of resources you believe you are missing. The resources are important, they are available, and you can acquire them. To do that, you are going need to tell yourself a story about a scrappy upstart that exercised their resourcefulness to get started. Resourcefulness is more important than resources when it comes to success.
- Past Failures: The narrative here is the one in which you tried and failed. On financial disclosures, you will always find the words “past performance is not indicative of future results.” This warning is there to remind you that past success doesn’t guarantee future success. Oddly, the opposite of this is true more often when it comes to success; past failures are indicative of future success, provided the person seeking a result varies their approach and persists. You cannot be a failure, as it isn’t an identity. You can experience failure, a universal experience. Every success follows a history of failures, and that story is so typical as to be unremarkable.
- Not Good Enough: Imposter syndrome is the voice that tells you the story that you are not good enough and that someone will eventually discover that you are what you appear to be—if people aren’t already aware now. Some people are less competent than you who are succeeding because they tell themselves a different story, one that describes their desire and the massive action they are taking to create some result. That story is available to you, should you decide to make it your own.
- It’s Too Late: This tale is about how you would have, could have, and should have, but your time past. This narrative looks to the past while eliminating the fact that you have a future. You absolve yourself of the responsibility of creating that future when you locate the possibility of some result as existing only the past, something that cannot be changed, ignoring your ability to create your future, something that is within your control.
- I’m Too Busy: You may tell yourself that you don’t have time, but time is the only thing you have. The story sounds good when you describe how busy you are. You have work and family and other commitments. A lack of time cannot be an excuse not to build the life you want. A more useful story is the one about how you prioritized what was most important and invested in creating the life you wanted instead of drifting.
- It Doesn’t Matter: The story the cynic tells themselves, so they don’t risk being disappointed is that it doesn’t matter what they do, what they contribute. What you do matters. The ocean is made up of tiny drops of water, each one being a part of something much larger, and something much more powerful, all of which creates a certain environment that supports life. Who you are and what you do matters. Your success improves the lives of others, some of whom are your people. It also affects others who are impacted by what you do.
Tell yourself a better, more empowering story.