It is a quiet and reflective Sunday evening, home after four days away with a dear old friend, savoring the sights, smells, tastes and sounds of Miami. Our minds adrift, able to momentarily escape the pressures and responsibilities of our day-to-day lives, we spent our days and hours catching up on life and exchanging endless stories – of our past, of our present lives, and of our dreams for the future. There was laughter, joy, and cautious optimism about the future, sandwiched between brief pangs of sadness, anger and disappointment, too (mostly mine).
From time to time, I would catch myself lingering with my words for a moment, mindful of the impact they were having on my mood and perspective. There was one moment in particular; one in which we dwelled a bit too long on the subject of my divorce, and of other losses and disappointments since that time. I could feel myself beginning to shift – away from the exuberant positivity that had colored our earlier conversation, to a more somber and debilitating note; one that for a moment, I allowed to rob me of my joy and steal my confidence in the future. I could feel the tension rising…fear taking hold of me, my energy quickly draining. I closed my eyes and remembered to breathe. I raised my hands palms up with fingers touching, and simply said to myself, as if in deep meditation, “enough.”
Increasingly, I’ve become aware of the power of the stories we tell ourselves and others; of the energy created or depleted, simply by our choice of words, tone, and the stories we choose to tell. Our words, our thoughts, and our actions…over time, they become the lens through which we view the world. As my new friend, Noah Blumenthal, so poignantly writes in his book, Be the Hero (http://www.be-the-hero.com/), the stories we choose to tell – about others, ourselves and our situations – have the power to enable us (or even others) to become the heroes in our own lives, or forever play the victim. It is a choice we make every day – not dictated by the external events or relationships in our lives, but revealed largely by our attitude and by the way we frame the lessons of our lives, including our hopes, struggles, dreams and disappointments. It is how we choose to react to life and respond to others, whether with gratitude and empathy, or with self-pity and bitterness. Ultimately, the stories we choose to tell reveal the actions we are willing/unwilling to take, to make a real and lasting difference in the world.
Have you ever taken time to step back and away from yourself and listen to yourself speak? Have you ever reflected on the stories you tell yourself? Have you thought about the stories you tell others? What do your words reveal? Do they energize and uplift, creating an air of optimism and hope, or do they re-enforce anger, bitterness, despair, or heartache? Do they build others up, or breakdown and destroy? Do you give people the benefit of the doubt, or assume the worst? When scared or full of self-pity, have you ever re-framed a thought or a story and by doing so, changed the outcome of your situation? What power do words and thoughts have in your own life?