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How to shift your narrative

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Imagine we’re taking a walk together. You’re showing me the path you walk every day, pointing things out to me. You’re telling me – this is the root I step over, there’s the tree I admire, and here – HERE – is the rock I trip over. Every damn day.

We stop and look at each other. I say to you:

“If you trip over this rock every day, why don’t you move it?”

You’ve never thought of this before. You’ve been tripping over it for so long that you can’t even see it any more. To you, it’s fused to your path – part of the scenery.

But now, of course you see this is fixable. You see that you can pick it up. Or maybe, it was actually too big for you to pick up on your own, but now I’m here with you. And we can lift it and throw it as far away as possible, together.

Step 1: see your narrative

Here’s one of my favourite things about the work I do: I get to hold space while you figure things out. I am here to witness your thoughts with you, and help make sense of what having those thoughts means in your life.

Because let’s be clear: Your thoughts are creating your reality.

When you’re talking about your career path, your choices, your dreams, you’re also uncovering the things that are tripping you up.

The narratives you’ve been choosing to repeat to yourself over and over again – you can see them out in the open.

You can see which ones do not serve.

Step 2: shift your narrative 

When I left my consulting career for a corporate role – which was a BIG deal for me – my boss, whose opinion I respected deeply, said this to me: 

“But Allison, that’s barely a lateral move for you.”

He said it right after I gave him my resignation. The deal was done. I was still honestly processing it. And those words were so painful to hear.  

For years I thought about that statement. I thought about it and told myself I underplayed my hand when leaving consulting to go to corporate. I thought about it and told myself I was naive for believing my new employer’s recruiting promises. I thought about it when I had a bad day.  

Here’s the thing though, choosing that narrative was bad for me and my self-confidence. It also made zero sense for me to take it on as “truth”. My boss’s statement was based on limited knowledge of the situation, limited understanding of my own career and life goals, and it was about 98% reactionary.

Eventually I wised up (and am grateful every day for the lessons I learned through that transition and in my subsequent corporate “life” – all of which I’m blessed and obsessed with sharing with my incredible audience today).

Eventually, I re-framed that famous comment as a vote of confidence. Because honestly, by saying “that’s barely a lateral move for you,” my former manager was also saying this: “I believe in you. I believe you can do more than you might think is possible for you right now.”

And more importantly, through this process, I brought in an even more important narrative – my own. Which said things like: “I make decisions that work for me.” and “I am comfortable taking risks.” and “my journey is taking me exactly where I need to go next.” 

Once I made these shifts in my narrative, something magical happened: I stopped leaning on the old, negative narrative and letting it bring me down. Goodbye, rock!  Now I have better thoughts to think.  

So, what narratives are tripping you up?  

Many of the rocks you’re tripping over are statements made by other people, that you’ve taken on board as your truth. 

A few examples: 

“You’re not a great people manager, you’re not on a leadership track.”

“You’re not detail-oriented, not suited to specialize in this area or that.”

“You’re not outgoing enough for sales.” 

“You’re too nice for management. (or not nice enough)”

Let’s be clear. Feedback is good. But we need a filter. We need to be vigilant about which statements land as permanent rocks cluttering up our path. We need to assess and re-assess what we’re allowing to sit and grow moss in our minds. 

Take action 

If you have some thoughts that are haunting your path, and you’re ready to remove those rocks for good, one of the best ways to get clarity is to get your thoughts out of your head. Free writing is a powerful tool for this. Some people prefer speaking. Whatever works. It’s why I record my coaching calls and send the recordings back to my clients – I want them to hear the stories they are telling themselves in their own voices.

Questions to ask

Here are some questions to journal on or record yourself answering out loud, to uncover the familiar rocks on your path – and start to clear them away:

  1. What familiar narratives are holding me back? Make a list.
  2. How can I challenge these narratives? Are they really the truth?
  3. What narrative could I choose that would serve me better?

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