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How to ensure you're the director and the star of your life

Jun 06, 2022


I’ve been holding workshops recently with A Level students who were about to sit their final exams. Their mindset from the outset? That they couldn’t face their exams, that they couldn’t retain anything they had learnt in class, nor revised for, that they froze instantly when they got into the exam room and that their mind went completely blank sat in front of the exam paper.

Their self-belief was rock bottom, their self-worth was pretty poor too. I had my work cut out to turn this oil tanker around.

The aim by the end of the series of workshops was for the students to have gained an insight into the power of their thoughts– be they negative or positive, and the effect this can have on the results they create for themselves in life. It was about them understanding that they are not their thoughts, and that they can challenge the unhelpful ones and flip the narrative to think helpful thoughts – to write a different story about themselves.

The story we tell ourselves

What’s your story? How would you describe yourself? What do you believe to be true about your capabilities? Many people will have a narrative that they live by- this is who they are, how they respond in certain situations, their personality traits and so forth.

One of the self-reflection exercises we ask participants to complete on The Winning Edge course is to finish the statement: “I’m the kind of person who…”. It invites some self-examination because it’s important to think about the story you are telling yourself and sharing with the world and to get curious and question it.  

How would you complete the statement: “I’m the kind of person who…”? Perhaps: “I’m the kind of person who is generous, …helps others,  …is good in a crisis, …avoids confrontation, ...likes to be in charge, …is painfully shy, …worries about everything, …can’t save money,’ etc etc etc

Maybe there is a single word that you use to define yourself. Strong? Creative? Resourceful? Anxious? Introverted? Nervous?

Hazel Morley, a wonderful Winning Edge Facilitator who we lost to the fair shores of Canada wrote a Winning Edge Blog on this subject and said it’s interesting to ask ourselves the following when it comes to unpicking how we think about ourselves:

-      Is your story about yourself helpful? Is it relevant? Who does it serve?

  • Are you the victim in your story? Or the victor?
  • Does it align with your sense of purpose? Or are other people dictating your script?
  • What must be true to maintain your identity? What evidence do you need?
  • Is your story enabling you to grow and change in whatever way you want to? Or is it limiting you, keeping you stuck and preventing you from making changes?
  • Are you creating a story about who you are so you can feel better about yourself? To feel more valuable/accepted/respected? To feel a greater sense of self-worth?
  • Is your story authentic? Or borrowed from another source (e.g. expectations and input from media/parents/education/employer etc.)?
  • Does your story connect you to, or alienate you from, others who matter to you?
  • Are you afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone, or experience, to confront and deal with your story? Maybe you aren’t (yet) clear about another way to live your life.
    Why does it matter?

Impressions and interpretations

Our self-image is complex. It is not done and dusted at birth- it forms over time. Growing up, young minds are filled with impressions from key influences in their life - parents, carers, teachers.

Siblings, peers, our culture, the media and social media also play a part. These viewpoints, values and ‘truths’ form part of our identity and in many cases, it’s an identity handed to us, without any question or push-back. With each ‘I’m the kind of person’ belief we are fed, it collects in our subconscious and habits form- we respond to people and events with a default setting according to the habitual beliefs we hold of the ‘I’m the kind of person who…’

Also, it’s not just the views of others which helps to form our self-image, it’s also how we view ourselves – we will take in all these outside influences and interpret them in a way that is uniquely individual to each of us, and we will compare ourselves, as well as look back on past situations, relationships, friendships. This all swirls in our subconscious to form a belief of who we are, what we are capable of and what we are worthy of being, doing and having. It’s our interpretation of all these inputs which sets our expectations about ourselves and left unchecked, can cloud or completely limit our self-belief.

However, as philosopher Nietzsche said: “There are no truths, only interpretations.” It’s important that we hold ourselves accountable for how we re-work those interpretations - all we’ve heard and believe about ourselves. If we don’t like who we are, or want something to be different in our life, it’s important to consider the ‘truths’ we believe about ourselves. Is this our truth? Or our interpretation of other people’s ideas of us? Maybe it’s a misguided mishmash of the two...

We can rewrite those beliefs about ourselves and rewrite our story going forward; we can call ourselves out on thinking those unhelpful thoughts which hold us back from going for the great things in life.

Wherever you are in life right now, wherever you’ve come from, whatever mistakes you feel you’ve made and whatever unhelpful views you have about yourself does not have to affect your future. It does not have to define you. You can change the way you think about yourself and propel yourself to a more optimistic future. You can think: ‘One day…’ or Day One.

Poor self-worth will stop you from achieving. And poor confidence is far more inhibiting than poor competence. You put the glass ceiling there. The good news, you get to reinvent yourself for success.

Getting real

I recently came across the work of Byron Katie, an American speaker and author in self-discovery. In her 30’s, Katie went through a period of depression and self-loathing until she had an epiphany and one day realised that this was self-created- she realised that her suffering came from her thoughts about the situation, as opposed to the situation itself. As we say on The Winning Edge: There is no reality that can exist that is not first fashioned by our own thoughts. It was how Katie was choosing to think about her situation which was causing the sadness and self-loathing. She realised that when she believed her thoughts she suffered and when she didn’t, she was happy.

I find Katie’s method of self-inquiry – entitled The Work, really interesting. The Work is about asking yourself four questions when you have a negative thought which is creating unhelpful emotions. When you ask yourself these questions, you decouple the belief that your negative thoughts are the absolute truth in a situation. The four questions are:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you absolutely know it’s true?
  3. How do you react when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without this thought?

I think that by asking ourselves these questions to challenge an unhelpful cyclical thought, or a negative belief we might have about ourselves, it can be transformational. For far too many people never drag what they think about themselves up to conscious gaze – they just are that person- they have habitual beliefs about themselves which sits in their subconscious, and habits mean they always respond the same way to people and situations.

It’s about taking responsibility for the type of thoughts you’re having; through conscious thinking, you can run your brain, rather than let it run you.

Not just a walk-on part

Whether we want to improve on modest ambition or even take on a terrible addiction, change is possible. A change in our thought processes, can spur modified behaviours and lead to completely transformed outlooks and outcomes. We can consciously write our own script moving forward – being both director and the star.

It’s about achieving what’s best for you– your version of success. That could be in financial terms, it could be the quality of your relationships, a feeling of fulfilment, of happiness – numerous different versions.

The key is to not just end up with something you haven’t given much thought to- to end up there by default.

If we have a self-image built upon belief in ourselves, then providing we do the work, we stand a good chance of success. If we allow the little voice to say: ‘Not for you, sunshine’, then we won’t go for it.

Where self-talk leads, self-image follows so make a conscious effort to talk up the positives - to yourself and for yourself.

Create a daily mantra you say to yourself to help you see your goals and ambitions already taking place: ‘I am getting much better at remembering where my keys are, at remembering names, at saving money, at revising, at believing in myself. I am worthy of great things. I am confident and capable’. Self-talk, fuelling self-belief, fuelling self-propulsion.

Back to my A Level students. By the end of the sessions, the oil tanker was beginning to turn. The students believed there could be an alternative narrative for them. And that is the very first step to rewriting your story.

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Most people only have a walk on part in their own lives – we should be the star and director. So, how do we ensure that happens? It’s about challenging the negative beliefs we have about our self and turning them on their head. If you find it hard to believe the good stuff in yourself, or that you are capable of uplevelling your life, we can help!

The Mindset Coaching Membership can help you understand the tools and strategies needed to get your mindset in check. With Masterclass Teachings + Coaching + Accountability, we will help you to create the life you want. Find out more here.

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