Narratives and Possibility :: Change the Life in Which You’re Living

Last night I went to bed feeling down, despondent, discouraged. This morning as I suit up in a Washington, D.C., hotel room for the seven-hour workshop I am about to deliver, I am tingling with energy, excited, on fire.

narratives and possibility

What caused this shift? My circumstances have not changed, but somehow I feel energized to take on the hurdles in front of me.

Knowing how to cause such mental shifts, I think, is one of the most critical keys to success. It empowers you to climb over walls rather than shrink in front of them. I want to break down its root causes because if we can intentionally engineer such shifts in our life, we can face any challenge with vigor.

Narratives and Possibility :: I think it really comes down to your narrative.

As my research into strategic narratives shows, we solve problems not so much through logic but by looking at a challenge and asking, “What story does this remind me of … and what happens next in the story?” If the wall you are facing either brings no story to mind or activates a narrative of defeat, you are unlikely to see a way through. But if you apply a narrative that moves from where you are to where you want to be, you will not only see footholds to hoist yourself over the wall, you will be infused with the energy, inspiration, and confidence to start climbing.

Last night I watched a YouTube video in which Elon Musk (CEO of Tesla and SpaceX) faced near bankruptcy but found a way to save his company. He argued that you should never give up. If you give up, you fail. If you do not give up, you have a chance of succeeding.

Overnight I think I infused this narrative with my own. We had an amazing first quarter with new clients and sales. But having won the projects, our pipeline is now uncomfortably low. I went to bed worried that with just two months left in the quarter, we had insufficient time to catch up.

But as I slept, my narrative changed. Like Musk, I was facing what seemed like an impossible challenge. What comes next in that narrative is not failure, but a rally to dig out of the situation.

The rally involves laying out options, quickly choosing the best ones, then passionately pursuing the most promising ones. That leads then to victory.

You have a million options when facing a wall. Too many to consider. So your mind defaults to the one that comes next in the narrative you are living in. A narrative of defeat leads to … defeat. A narrative of overcoming leads to effort … then success. One narrative leads inevitably to an end. The other gives you not only hope, but clarity of direction.

To change the possibilities you see and therefore those you choose, to change your future, change the story in which you are living. We can do this by simply finding a new narrative that informs our actions and leads to the outcome we desire.