Write a New Narrative

There is a story running through our mind. We are the protagonist of this tale. How do we describe our character?  These thoughts shape our narrative. On average, 30,000 thoughts cross our mind each day. 30,000. Are they serving us well? How many of those are bringing us closer to our goals and making our dreams a reality?


Activity follows Identity


It’s very hard to act opposite to your narrative. When I feel stuck in a certain area, the first thing I consider is the narrative running through my mind. Sometimes I realize that 80% of the thoughts regarding that issue are counterproductive. No wonder I am struggling for my action to line up with my goals, when my mind is running a negative loop.

If your narrative is: I’m am an overweight, tired, pastry loving person. How natural is it going to be to haul that tired, slightly large bum of yours to the gym after a long day at work? What are kind of leading character are your thoughts creating?

I am starting to get back in shape after having my baby. I have spent a fair amount of time rebuilding a positive narrative, because I was finding other thoughts sneaking in. Things like this.

“I just can’t carve out time to work out with 5 little kids. This is a crazy expectation.”

“This is so much harder now that I’m in my 30’s. I can see why people just throw in the towel.”

“My body is taking so long to heal, maybe I just won’t get there.”

Now let me just say two things. 1. I have made a commitment not to say anything negative about myself. So these things are rather tame. 2. They all contain some truth.

If I let those thoughts become my narrative, I will never make it to my goal.

Those thoughts don’t serve me well. Even if your negative thoughts contain some truth, are they helping you?

Have you heard the way people describe themselves? Let’s say a person wants to start tacking their spending because they need a real budget. But what if these are the things they say about themselves?

“I’m so disorganized.” “I lose things constantly.” “I have no self-control.” “I always quit.”

With a protagonist like that, do you even need an enemy?

1. Write the narrative for person that you want to be.

You can write a new story. Pick one area of your life you want to focus on. I like to “write” the story in my mind as though I’m writing it for someone else. Write it in the 3rd person. Here is the narrative I speak over myself while I’m on the elliptical.

“She is strong and focused. She carves out the time because it makes her feel sane. She sees the setbacks but easily maneuvers them. She works hard and it shows. She works with intensity. She is lean and powerful. She leverages a small amount of time into big results.”

Folks, there are a lot of other thoughts I could be having about my sore, postpartum body in workout clothes that don’t fit quite right. But those thoughts wouldn’t help me one bit. That other lady I talk about? The powerful, strong, focused one? She is going places. You might not be able to see if just yet, but she is half way there.

So write in the third person if you need to.

Write this story in your mind.

Write it on paper if it helps.

You can reshape your narrative.  Start with one area you want to focus on.

2. Create a few mottos.

When you start feeling more like the person you use to be, and less like the person you are becoming: say your mottos. Create little phrases that define the new person.

“I don’t need expensive things to be happy.”

“I love my budget, it’s catapulting me closer to my goals.”

“Frugal adventures are twice the fun.”

2. Flip the thoughts.

It takes time and practice. We are trying to change our habits, so they line up with our goals. But our mind resists that change.

If you’re thinking things opposite to your narrative: stop and flip the thoughts.

Let’s say you are trying to lower your expenses so you have more money to pay down your debt. A fantastic goal! But you find yourself missing all those little luxuries you use to enjoy. Your motto is “I don’t need expensive things to be happy.” But here is what creeps in:

“I really miss that take out sushi place! Gosh, I can’t wait till this is over. I feel like I haven’t done anything fun in weeks. How do people live like this? This is a form of torture. Why can’t I at least buy a decent cup of coffee?”

Catch yourself. Flip those thoughts. Those things might feel true, but they are only half the story. You need to flip it to remind yourself of the other half. Maybe it sounds like this instead:

“That sushi is ok, but being out of debt is going to be AMAZING! When this is over, and I have paid off all that debt, what will I even do with all the extra cash each month? Each week I am learning new fun (and free!) things to do. I don’t even have time for all the free things my city offers. It’s crazy that by giving up something as small as my daily coffee, I get to build real wealth!”

Both of these thought patterns are true. But only one will help you get to your goal.

If 30,000 thoughts are going to be crossing our mind, we need to make sure they help bring us closer to our goals!

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Discussion questions:

  1. Are your thoughts serving you well, or sabotaging you?
  2. Have you tried to ban certain thoughts or attitudes?
  3. What is a big goal you have and a supporting piece of narrative that could help you get there?


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12 thoughts on “Write a New Narrative

  1. Good for you for keeping a positive outlook! I think positivity and optimism are two important personality traits and can be very impactful. I like how you are going about flipping the script to keep a positive mindset. I need to do the same and get back into the routine of working out and living healthy. Thanks for the motivation!

    • Practicing that positive mindset is so important. In the first few weeks after #5 was born, I found myself saying the same thing first thing when I would wake up. “Oh my gosh, I am so tired. I can’t do this.” It’s probably the worst way to start my morning. Now, I was so tired I felt like I was hit by a truck, but saying that wasn’t helping matters any! So I vowed not to think that and replaced it with, “I’m so happy we have caffeinated tea upstairs.” =) And CONGRATS on the newest baby swan news!!! So excited for you guys! Feel free to steal my tea/coffee motto when that bundle of joy arrives.

  2. I really like these ideas. I forget where I heard it first (a Google search says it might have been a line on Mad Men at some point), but one line that’s stuck with me for years is “start living the life of the person you want to be.” The only thing between ourselves and our new narratives is our actions.

    • So true! I have a post I’m finishing up for next week on a few steps people can take to set a new trajectory. I had another person ask how we can possibly take year off when we have 5 kids. Simple. We started on this path 14 years ago! 14 years is going pass us by one way or the other, you might as well end up someplace you will like in the end. We hiked Hidden lake yesterday and it was SO beautiful. I took a picture for you guys so you know what it looks like when it’s not all fogged in!

  3. Love this! You can never underestimate the powers of mindset and identity when trying to build new habits. There was a study that showed (and it has been a while, so apologies if I am mangling this) that people were much more likely to successfully quit smoking if they first tried to view themselves as the type of person who doesn’t smoke. Building up a positive identity makes all of the other habits fall into place much easier.

    • Absolutely. Crafting that strong positive narrative makes it seem weird to act outside of the narrative, and much more natural for action to follow identity. It can spill over into all sorts of other positive outcomes. I think that maintaining a positive outlooks really helps fuel our creativity.

  4. I enjoyed this post, well done. I’ve also heard it said that you can’t have a positive life with negative thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Thanks for this great reminder that we can create the life that makes us most happy. I’ve spent quite a bit of time reflecting on what really makes ME happy. Our issues with debt are largely due to chasing things that we thought we wanted or needed, because of outside influence. Those purchases really never made US happy . . . well, except for the Xbox, Mr. Smith really likes his video games.

    Anyways, I really like the idea of writing a new narrative, especially the idea of doing it in the third person. I know where we’re going, but have the power to change the story along the way.

    PS – Enjoyed chatting with you yesterday 🙂

    • Awesome. It does take a lot of thoughtfulness to figure out what is the ideal for us as individuals. And it was great chatting with you! We will do it again, sooner rather than later. =)