4 Ways to Change the Story of Your Life

“The universe isn’t made of atoms, it’s made of stories.”

A poet named Muriel Rukeyser wrote that. I believe she means that we make sense our lives through the stories we tell about it—and ourselves.

Some are positive, such as “I’ve always been good at talking through tough situations.” But say you grow up always being picked last in gym class. You might tell yourself that you don’t like exercise, and it doesn’t like you.

That limiting story could stay with us through adulthood. Gym class is long over, but you’re still telling yourself that fitness isn’t your game as if it’s a fact. And so you miss out on the benefits of movement because an outdated story is stopping you. (Like this writer from Experience Life.)

But a painful story isn’t a block of granite. It’s nothing but a set of thoughts. You can take it apart, inspect it, and put it back together in a way that reflects your true strengths and goals. Here are a few steps to help you get started.

Shine a light on your stories.
Before you rewrite old stories, you need to bring awareness to the negative ways you view yourself. Do you think you’re a lazy person? Never good with money? Not cut out for business? Disorganized? Not creative? Spend 5 minutes jotting them down.

Now think about how each of your stories keeps you from taking actions that would solve a problem. For example, you’ll never try to learn more about money if you tell yourself you’re hopeless with it. And then you never will be in control of your money.

Track the story to its source.
When did this belief first surface in your life? Did it begin during a traumatic experience? Did you inherit it from a parent? Tracing your story back to its origin lets you see yourself as a character in a storyline that you can change.

Imagine letting the story go.
Here’s what I mean. What would you do if you stopped believing you were born disorganized? How would your life be different if this story were untrue? Or, how would your days change if you stopped believing that you were not a creative person? What would you do differently?

(Read more on how to stop zapping your own happiness.)

Write a new story.
At meQuilibrium, we believe that what you focus on will flourish. So now, focus your attention on moments when you were organized, or financially confident, or physically active.

Write down as many moments as you can think of. Don’t worry if you’re afraid they don’t “count.” You’re gathering material to write a new story about yourself, not testifying in front of Congress!

Now, write a new, accurate story about yourself and your abilities. Yours could be: “I want to be smarter about my money. I know that with my intellect and drive, I can find the help I need to get there.” Try this with each troublesome story, and see how the story of your life will change.