From an early age, we seek meaning. In our interactions with others. Things we see happen to others. The words we hear spoken by public figures. It’s a very normal human behaviour.

We like stories. Those we create ourselves. Some we pick up from others around us. The stories of historical events and people.

Not all of them are grounded in truth or factual evidence. I mean the best bedtime stories as a kid were the most imaginative like when we trampolined on the moon and ate marshmallow pies whilst our pet dog played the guitar. how cool was that story, right?

Our brains are wired for spotting potential risks and clusters of data that suggest that risk is likely to occur. It’s our Protector’s way of shielding us from the risk of disappointment, failure, rejection, judgement, complexity, success or conflict.

Perhaps even reading that list makes your toes curl or your stomach cramp up. 

We’re asked to define what we want to achieve quite often – by our managers in appraisals or development conversations, by our families with regards to our careers, marital or parental status or financial circumstances, by our peer group as we grow up and even by society through the news, magazine and social media contributors. These are all foundation for stories we tell ourselves.

three women smiling and walking towards you after suceeding in the meeting they just left

I’ll never meet their expectations.

I’m not good enough to do that.

It will never happen for me.

I’m not worthy of that.

They’d never forgive me if…….

None would consider me that way.

So, what do our stories tell us about how we define what success is? Well, the stories above are pretty skinny – the former consultant in me wants to shout “where’s your evidence?”. “Eek you got me”.  That story is likely based on few data points. 

Let me give you an example. A client I’m working with struggles to set career intentions. Why? A teacher once told her “You’ll come to nothing”. and it’s stuck with her. It is a story her Protector whispers in her ear when new roles or projects that are perfectly suited for her talents and strengths – just in case the risk of rejection, disappointment and yes, success might happen.

She has other stories that tell her success is likely to cause further risks. It simply isn’t safe to try to become something.

Yet, she is a well respected senior leader in a well known blue-chip company, with a supportive, diverse culture, she has a loving partnership and is a fabulous mom to a little one. Hmmm, perhaps there is another side of this story her Protector fails to take into account. She is someone and she has experienced successes.

Working together, she was able to change the story she was telling herself, along with the protective belief and its associated feelings and actions. She’s chase down her ideal role within the company and launched a huge strategic programme which will significantly change the way her department functions. Her relationships with her partner and child are liberated as she’s doing them on her terms and as a side effect, her stress levels are down, as she’s sleeping more easily and enjoying looking after her wellbeing. You can see her radiating a new found self-confidence and faith in herself.

 

Woman in blue jumpsuit standing painting on an easel. Lots of blue tones of swirling sea

I’m curious – do you have stories like this one and would you like to change how your Protector is  telling it?

Grab yourself paper and pen. Select one aspect of your life that is important to you right now – eg career or work, intimate relationship, finances, wellbeing, learning or growth, friends, spiritual, fun, travel, volunteering, community, creative outlet.

I want you to imagine that you are fully resourced, everything you need is available for you. For that aspect, define what great would look and feel like as well as what you’d be doing with ease and the outcomes you are getting. Try to be as specific as you can. What do you want deep down inside for yourself? (Top tip: if you get stuck on how it feels, why not look at an emotions wheel? Here’s one I shared previously.)

You can repeat this for other aspects of your life.

Now you have your definitions, do check in with the stories your Protector is telling you. Are they yours? Or did you hear them told in your family, workplace or community? Maybe they are memories of others’ experiences you witnessed and stored away.

One final question: what other stories could be true? (If you need to find new evidence – why not experiment? It’s a brilliant way to challenge your library of stories.)

 

Black multi-generational family gathered around kitchen island, celebrating with a feast and cake

I’m excited to be launching a new standalone coaching session – it has 3 parts: a questionnaire, a 90-minute session and a 30-minute accountability call about 4-6 weeks later. These will specifically help you tackle your difficult stories and bust them – you’ll leave feeling liberated, confident and motivated to make change happen. 

These sessions are based on the in-depth, research-backed training I’ve been doing with Sas Petherick, Master Coach and founder of the Self-Belief School – having been coached by her and my practice pod in exactly this, I can tell you the difference it has made to my stories is immense!

If you know your stories block you from achieving your success, revealing your true authentic self or finding more joy and want to be one of the first, drop me a line at sarae@saraepratt.com