Every day, Jerome begins his work by telling himself his favorite story: I’m not valued around here. They’re heaping on the work just to see when I’ll quit. I’m sure to be passed over for promotion.
His co-worker, Alissa, has her own favorite story: This company’s president is a critical and demanding control freak, who shuts me out of every decision but expects me to know everything.
We tell ourselves enough of these kinds of stories daily to fill a library: Why my supervisor closed her door today. Why the client rejected my proposal. What my associate meant when he laughed at my question. Why everyone is being so difficult. How I’m such a failure.
And on, and on, and on. And that’s just at work. What about the stories we tell ourselves at home? We live our lives as if the stories are true. We act and react, often in pain, from our fear-fueled and mistaken conclusions. We imprison ourselves with our interpretations of others’ words or actions, our assumptions about why they are saying or doing what they are and our limiting beliefs about how those people—and we, ourselves—should be different.
The Damage Comes From the Story
It is these stories, and the emotions that flow from the stories, that are usually the source of the pain and/or discomfort we feel in our relationships, whether at work or at home. We want to blame it all on others, but in reality, it’s usually the story we tell ourselves in our heads that causes much—if not all— of the discomfort, says Byron Katie, author of the best-selling book Loving What Is.
We can ease the pain and experience more freedom, by getting curious and expanding our perspective to include other possibilities for what’s really going on.
“The result of investigation is often a deeper appreciation of the people in our lives, and a realization that it was not their words or actions that really harmed us, but our uninvestigated thoughts about their words or actions,” Katie says.
In her book, Katie outlines a simple path of inquiry into these horror stories we tell ourselves that revolves around four questions:
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
- How do you react when you think that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
Doing the Investigative Work
First, state your belief about someone and ask yourself if it is true and whether you can know absolutely, without a doubt, that it is true. For example, let’s take Alissa’s belief that her boss is a critical and demanding control freak, who shuts her out of every decision but expects her to know everything.
Is it true her boss is critical? Demanding? Do others in the office hear constructive, well-intentioned suggestions where she hears criticism? Has she never had the freedom to implement work as she sees fit? Does she know without a shadow of a doubt that her boss’s actions are about wanting to control her every sorry action?
The next question for Alissa is: How does she act and react when she thinks these thoughts? Does she find herself angry and resentful? Does she go out of her way to avoid encounters with her boss? Does she respond defensively to any sort of comment? Does her work suffer? Does her body tense up or her stomach ache when she interacts with her boss? Does she enjoy any of her time at work? Talk about lack of peace and harmony!
And, if she chose to stop spinning this story, who would she be?
Perhaps she would be more content at work and enthusiastic about the new learning she’s receiving. Perhaps she would be less concerned about what others thought of her and more intent on contributing in unique ways to the work at hand. Perhaps she would be next in line for a promotion. Or perhaps she would be working for another company. She’s likely to be calmer and more peaceful.
The final step in this investigation is for Alissa to turn around the statements she’s been making. Does she express criticism in other areas of her life in ways that are harsh and hard to hear? Does she try to control her spouse, her children, her co-workers? Is she critical and demanding of herself? Our “stories” often point to our own traits that we project onto others so as to disclaim them.
It’s important to note that with inquiries like this, there is no right answer. The goal is not perfection, but truth.
“Who would you be without your story?” Katie says. “You never know until you inquire.”
Author’s content adapted under license, © 2008 Claire Communications
FREE Coaching Opportunity
If someone offered you a precious gift for an hour of your time, would you be interested? That’s what I offer with a Complimentary Coaching Session. A comp session isn’t a brief demo or sample. It’s a full 45-minute coaching session focused on current real life challenges of your choosing plus 15 minutes to discuss your experience and any questions you may have about my approach to coaching.
There is no expectation or pressure to hire me as your ongoing coach. Providing meaningful, substantive comp sessions with no obligation is one of the ways I demonstrate gratitude and give back to the Universe a small portion of the abundance and opportunity it bestows on me daily.
The real value of a comp session? PRICELESS!
Those who have experienced comp sessions will tell you, when you come to your session open to the possibilities for transformation and fully committed to your own growth, big breakthroughs can happen!
What clients say about
the power of coaching with Deborah
“I knew Deborah before she became a Professional Life Coach. I’ve been amazed at how she has changed her life. When I decided it was time to begin making decisions about the next phase of my life, I knew immediately that Deborah was the person I wanted to work with. Her personal and professional experiences help her guide clients through coaching in a way that is individualized and delightfully eye-opening. Her warmth and sensitivity are immediately apparent, even over the phone. With gentle encouragement and permission, she will guide you through an examination of your life, including difficult experiences. She will help you gain insight from your past choices and then explore possibilities for moving forward in less encumbered ways. When you work with Deborah, your life will take on new meaning and your potential will be limitless!” Chris
“The work I did with Deborah continues to change my life. While I have learned many valuable lessons from her, the greatest was the deep insight that is available to me when I listen to and learn from my own inner wisdom. Her intuition, discernment and encouragement have taught me to trust my own intuition—creating new paths and possibilities for my life. One of Deborah’s great gifts is helping others respect and connect with their inner guidance and through that connection, to form a deeper, more meaningful bond with the collective wisdom and energy of all.” Ryan
What readers say about
the impact of Deborah’s book
“With the same energy and determination she applied in the professional world, Deborah has taken her considerable expertise in human potential and has now set her sights on the largest co-op in the world, humanity. ‘Choose Your Energy, Change Your Life!’ tackles what I believe are the most important questions we each must ask: who am I, where did I come from, why am I here, and what’s love got to do with it (cue Tina Turner)? These are not trivial or philosophical questions for the answers change what we do, why we do it, who and what we love. I am grateful for the opportunity to walk with Deborah on this critical journey.” JD Messenger, Award Winning Author of “11 Days in May: The Conversation That Will Change Your Life”
“To me the great thing about Deborah’s book is how ‘accessible’ she makes the ideas. The Oxygen Mask is probably the single best example. As with so many of the ideas in the book, she explains the principle in such a simple way that it’s got universal application to virtually any reader. I can imagine people having multiple moments of ‘Oh….I get it!’ throughout the book. The stories from her own life as well as stories of her clients’ experiences become stories about all of us—stories about which the reader will think, ‘I am living my own version of this.’ Well done—bravo!” Joe Calloway, Author of “Be The Best At What Matters Most”