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We all tell ourselves a lot of stories, whether we recognize it or not.

This skill is marvelous if we are intentionally creating new and wonderful worlds to expand our minds. However, in my life, I often find that storytelling limits my beliefs.

For some reason, it’s easier to believe a tale that reinforces judgment and restrictive assumptions than one that encourages a dream. Most of our unverified stories, the ones that we tell ourselves and no one else, are the ones that facilitate complacency.

If we assume that we we can’t effect change, we don’t even have to attempt to do so. We settle into the predictability of our current dissatisfaction instead of writing a new story for ourselves.

A lot of times, we see someone else’s life, interpret it through our own experience, and then draw conclusions for ourselves based on what we totally fabricated about someone else: either they are so fabulous we can never match up, OR we are so much like them we can never be different. 

Let me humbly suggest something: that’s nonsense! 

For example, I really enjoy exercise. I have been known to book vacations based on how many options for physical activity exist. Morning yoga and an afternoon hike? I’m there!

However, if you don’t like working out, you might look at me and misinterpret the situation. Instead of recognizing that I stay fit by doing what I find fun, you may decide that in order to stay in shape, you have to do the exact same things I do. And if you decide that my exercise regimen would be miserable for you, you may also ditch your totally reasonable workout plan because you think it won’t be as effective.

Now you’re doing nothing, as a result of a decision you made based on an untrue story you totally made up in your head. Going for a daily walk may be just as perfect for you as Bikram yoga is for me.

I am not the same as you. My story is not your story.

You may think that example doesn’t apply to you, but we all do this to varying degrees in our lives. For the longest time, I somewhat bought into the notion that one must be somewhat miserable to be of service. In my mind, giving to others requires a level of sacrifice that couldn’t possibly coexist with fulfillment and satisfaction in all areas of life. Thankfully, though prominent in my mind, this story never totally rang true for me. I was thrilled at the opportunity to write my own happy story as an attending physician.

When I saw other physicians who were perpetually grumpy, I refused to accept that as the inevitable development of my storyline. They are not me. Their story is not my story.

The tales I told myself about them were just my interpretation of limited information. All I knew was Dr. Grumpy grumbled the entire time he was on call. I could only speculate as to the cause of that. It was a real stretch to assume all or any of the factors I conjured would be true for me, and would therefore lead me to be just as miserable as him.

I knew I had no business basing my personal choices on such creative fiction. If I wanted to live a life based on something I made up, it served my spirit better to go with the story that I am capable of happiness.

This happiness narrative inspired my decision to leave clinical medicine and eventually to start my own business: even though Dr. Grumpy and I didn’t have the same story, I still had to recognize that mine still had many chapters left after I became a physician. The best part is that I continue to write it for myself, instead of following someone else’s restrictive plotline.

When it comes down to it, a lot of what we think is true is actually a product of our imaginations. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The problem comes when we default to telling and believing a limiting story. It serves us all better to choose one that motivates us to create our own happy ending.

This post was reprinted in an edited format with permission from Essence of Strength. If you would like help learning how to change your stories, please click here to request an Essence of Strength sample coaching conversation. 

 

In her first career as an private practice obstetrician-gynecologist, Jattu Senesie learned two important things. First, exercise is an important life ingredient for stress relief and personal fitness. Also, being in a healing profession greatly increases the likelihood of feeling burnt out. These truths inspired her to establish the wellness consulting business Essence of Strength. Through personal training, she helps clients appreciate the many benefits of exercise. As a life coach, she works with healers of all kinds to keep focused on their own wellness in order to better care for others. Jattu hopes sharing her experience in and out of healthcare can serve as an example of the different ways one can utilize a medical degree. At the very least, the combination of her Emory University School of Medicine education and her personal training certification make her a marvelous resource at dinner parties and cookouts. She currently resides in the DC area and blogs regularly on a variety of wellness topics at www.essenceofstrength.com. read more about