tell me a story

‘there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so’ – Shakespeare

 

What kind of story are you telling?  What type of narrative streams through you?  We all have certain filters and lenses that we view the world through.  And we all accept or determine what happens in our world depending on what we see.  Maybe you’re 20/20…or maybe you need a new prescription.

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The story that you are telling is directly related to the thoughts you are having…so it’s really the story that you’re telling yourself.  When you open your eyes first thing in the morning, what are your thoughts?  Are they positive and ‘bucket filling’ to coin a term used by my neighbor, or do you start the day off with negative ’emptying’ thoughts?  “If you win the morning, you win the day,’ according to Tim Ferriss, and understanding the start to your day may help in determining how you feel when you lay your head down at night.  In this sense though, the morning is a defining moment…you’re still hatching, and your mind is a blend of subconscious and conscious thought.  You are the true sense of yourself, and don’t yet wear the mask of the day.  If you’re not aware of your own thoughts, and you’re trying to build self-awareness, this is a good place to start… write down what you’re feeling, or at least notice…do I feel good, healthy, ready, depressed, lethargic?   

For the most part of my life, I told myself stories that weren’t helpful.  I viewed the world as a place where things happened to me…some good things yes…but mostly a bunch of small, negative things.  I often found a routine of complaining (to myself and out loud), being annoyed at the system and at other people (mostly people I envied), and wondering why me? and why don’t I get the breaks that others find so easily?  


My mornings were dreaded, and I wasn’t excited to start the day.  I didn’t enjoy being around other people too much…especially anyone who challenged me.  And even things that were achieved that I thought would get me beyond that story were short lived…and it started all over the next day.  Writing this sounds depressing.  But interestingly enough, I would say that I view my entire life as being ‘happy’.  I guess I just thought that’s how everyone lived and that it was out of my control.  I wasn’t sad about it, but I knew there was another way.   


I also noticed many others doing the same thing so I didn’t feel alone.  For the most part, the two negative emotions commonly threading through most people is anger and fear.  Tony Robbins talks a lot about these.  The place I noticed it most often, and a good test site for you…is driving in the car.  Driving is so unique in that we’re boxed in, somewhat secluded, a little bit hidden, but also interacting and dancing with other people…how crazy!  I can think of many instances while riding with others when the driver of the car I was in immediately created a negative story about what was going on around us.  Someone riding a bike on the road and the driver would say something like, ‘what does this ________  think he’s doing?’ Fill in the blank with your favorite vulgar term.  Or at a 4 way stop…one car chooses not to obey the unwritten rule of ‘if we arrive at the same time, the car on the right gets to go first’.  ‘What the _____ does that _______ think he’s doing?’  Car talk is a great way to check yourself and listen to the story that is being told.  Ultimately, the tale is up to you.  


I used to drive like an idiot.  It’s actually embarrassing to think about, especially with the loud and obnoxious vehicles I chose.  I would often try to ‘get people back’ on the road, teach them a lesson, and get places as fast as humanly possible.  It basically resulted in more stress, more speeding tickets, and a feeling of always running late.  These days I drive slow.  I try to avoid all stress and people that are clearly in a huge rush.  And I never get upset about what others are doing…well almost never.  It’s a work in progress ok? What I came to realize though, is that a lot of what makes up our day, our feelings, our happiness or lack thereof, our relationships…is simply based on our thoughts surrounding them.  A more important realization for me though, is that we get to decide on our thoughts.  And based on those thoughts, we get to create actions and reactions.  


Like most things, this isn’t a quick switch.  And it can take a lot of practice.  A lot of changing habits.  And a bunch of self-reflection.  You may not love what you see!  But that’s a good time to put some work into drafting a new story…one that doesn’t have to speak of the negativity and anger and fear, but one that will tell of all the joy and love you have in your world.      

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There are many ways to start drafting that story.  One theme that has worked for me, and that I see threaded within other folks that I’ve been reading about, is gratitude and appreciation.  Finding ways to incorporate these ideas into your thoughts will radically change your perspective and give you a new lens prescription. Tony Robbins says Turn your expectations into appreciation and your whole life will change’. By appreciating the things you have, and the people you know, you continually tell yourself an enriching and fulfilling story. You frequently remind yourself of the good, and strip away a lot of the bad.  And you find that you can fill your own bucket so to speak.  

How to we start though, and how do we practice often?  Some ideas that come to mind…1. Write in your journal every night or every morning 3 things that you’re grateful for.  2. Sit and think of a person you appreciate.  Remember back to things that they’ve done or said that you loved, and just hold on to those thoughts for 10 minutes with your eyes closed.  3. Wish happiness on others.  Simply choose a person.  This can be someone you know, or even a stranger walking by.  Take a deep breath, and wish for that person to be happy today.  Do that for 3 people every day.  4. Write a handwritten thank you note to someone and snail mail it to them.  Everyone has someone right now that they can thank for something.  If you can’t think of a ‘thank you’, send a ‘You’re cool’ or ‘thinking of you’ card to someone…just letting them know that they’re in your thoughts and you love them!  These may seem daunting to you at first, but honestly, these are very simple to execute.  And the return on investment is outstanding…immeasurable.  

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Movie:  Stranger than Fiction.  Click here for a great clip from the movie. This is Will Ferrell in a serious role.  He hears his life being narrated by an author, finds out about his ‘imminent death’, and must decide on what story to tell himself, and how to live…great connection to my post!  I have the movie if you want to borrow it.  And just like I said in my Reading List, I will barter for fine coffee and pastries!  Joking…unless you have some. 


Music:  Gregory Alan Isakov. Soft acoustic. California. Song Writing. Emotions. Click here to listen…and love it. 

sandwiches and kids

Jimmy 12

 

modeling good behavior has 10x the influence of all that talking, the kids are watching’   emailsig

 

How do we make good behaviors stick with our children?  I’ve been ‘head down’ focused on this a lot lately.  I have a 4 year old.  There are constantly new behaviors bubbling up…good and bad.  I’m doing my best to be really aware…noticing what’s working, and what’s not on the parenting front.

 

Model.  First and foremost, I’ll say that I continue to be amazed at how much my daughter notices my behavior…and how important it is for me to model the good stuff.  All the research backs this up as well.  Your child is watching what you do more than listening to what you say.

To me, it seems that modeling good behavior has 10x the influence of all that talking.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m communicating and explaining and clarifying all the time.  It’s just that the old adage, ‘actions speak louder than words’ is the truth.  We can’t tell our child to walk away from a fight if they watch us bump chests and instigate.

Honey over Vinegar. When we do talk, it’s so important to focus on our children’s strengths…not their weaknesses.  All too often, parents are hounding on the mistakes, over-talking the accidents, and holding their child back from their full potential.  For the most part, once an individual knows that a mistake was made, and the message to ‘try not to do that again’ is conveyed…all the extra, negative reinforcement is just that.  Obviously, each situation is unique, and the severity of the behavior needs to be considered.  For the everyday ‘small stuff’ though, keep the glass half full.

Focusing on the good behaviors, has such a refreshing and compounding effect.  By taking the extra time to really look your child in the eyeballs, and tell them again how kind and caring that desired behavior was,  you’ll continue to invite more of it.

Last week, my daughter exhibited some really good awareness and empathy surrounding a best friend that was having some trouble.  She actually asked a separate friend to run and get something that would help the situation…then, they all figured it out together.  I was so happy and proud about this, and almost couldn’t believe that my 4 year old constructed this.  But instead of just thinking about this, or telling my peers, I’ve deliberately paused with Matilda, grabbed her attention, looked her in the eye, and explained how and why that was such a great thing for her to do.  I’ve actually done it twice to really let her know that this is the good stuff.

Sandwiching.  While focusing on the strengths and good behaviors, we can really make it stick by ‘sandwiching’ the experience with pre-teaching and reflection.  Before our child is exposed to something, it’s good to get a bug in their ear first.  This can give that little message that, ‘oh…dad told me that this might happen.’  It doesn’t necessarily mean that our child won’t make a mistake.  In fact, we actually want them to make the mistake…it will help expedite the learning process and mitigate the effect of the ego. Yes!  I used ‘expedite’ and ‘mitigate’ in the same sentence!  So rewarding.

Our pre-teaching is also a trust-building practice, illustrating to our children that we do know a little something, and have been around the block a few times.

Now, this behavior that took place with my daughter wasn’t something that I necessarily could have planned for.  I mean, I do talk about empathy and kindness with her, but the actual details of the event were too particular to pre-teach.  I have to give myself some credit though, in that I have put effort into conversations surrounding helping others, and why that matters.

I think parents are too hard on themselves.  I think they need to realize that they are much more than the sum of their parts.

With a more typical experience approaching in the future, parents can really hone in on the related behaviors.

If a best friend is coming over for a play date, we can relay the message to our child that the friend will want to use all of the toys.  Sharing is going to come up.  Let’s do that…huh?

Then, as we all know, our child will rip something from their besties’ innocent little paws.  Crying and arguing may commence…and we should really do our best to let this play out…to see what kind of results are reached…to allow problems to be solved.  This is the socialization that we’re hoping for.  And boy, will these same issues come up more and more as they age.  Let them work it out if possible!  It’s ok if feelings get hurt…we learn a lot when we find ourselves in unwanted emotional states.  Again, this is within reason.

Remember though, we have to use the ‘reflection’ piece after the experience takes place.  This can’t be while your kid is on the tablet, or watching a show  It can’t be during the actual argument that they just had with their friend either.  This is best done after some time has passed, once the friend has gone home…or during a break in the action.

Eye contact is key.  Deliberate, honest words presented with love and care.  Not judgment and belittlement.  Think support and education and growth…not placement and insults and punishment.

There can be an ‘I told you so’ aspect to this reflection piece, because you actually did tell them so in the pre-teaching phase…ugh, the nerve!  As much as you may want to use this…don’t.  The lesson will naturally come to them through your discussion of what transpired.  This reflection can build trust as well, depending on how you handle it.  Let it be positive, bucket filling, and hold good karma.  It’s not measurable, and it may return in unforeseen manifestations…but boy, does it matter.

Remember, after all this talking to your kid about the practice of letting others use their stuff, your child will be 10x more influenced by how you yourself actually share and help others.

How are you doing with that?

All love!

Jimmy Thorpe

emailsig