The Stories In Our Heads

July 20, 2018

Much of life is acting out the stories in our heads about who we are and what we’re doing. Changing the stories can in some ways change our lives.

I had kind of a rough morning yesterday. My toddler is sick, and things have been a bit chaotic at home. It seemed like nothing I tried worked: the breakfast I made, she wouldn’t eat. I needed to prepare my own lunch, but then she wanted to play. The story in my head all morning was “I’m supposed to have everything under control, and I’m failing because of her,” which made me feel disappointed in myself and resentful toward my kid.

Fast-forward, and this morning felt significantly better despite the details being nearly identical. My daughter was still hard to please, we were still running late. But the story in my head was completely different. I’d been reminded of something I heard in a TED talk about the connections in our brains being mostly (but not entirely) set by age 3. With that in my head, every interaction I had with my 2-year-old, challenging as it could be, was no longer about me and my disappointment, but was instead an opportunity—one I wouldn’t get too many more of—to shape my kid’s brain and show her how to approach challenges with grace.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the stories we keep in our heads about who we are and what we’re doing, and how those stories affect the way we act and think about the world. Both stories above were equally true, both matched the details of life, but only the latter story served me well and made life richer.

I want to be more aware of the stories I have in my head about who I am and what I’m doing, at work and in life, and if any of those stories aren’t serving me, to remember that I have some power to choose new ones.