what story are you telling true happiness

What Story are you Telling? Reshaping Old and New Choices to Uncover True Happiness

Everybody loves a good story. We are story machines, constantly making up meaning about ourselves, about others, and the world around us. Take a moment to consider the following: So many of the stories you have listened to, created, and constantly retell are diverting the path to true happiness. If you want different results, change the story and understand how the old ones were created in the first place. The first step is to understand your needs. You probably can remember the pyramid schematic from your high school Psychology 101 class detailing Abraham Maslow’s theory. Our basic needs as humans are the likes of food, shelter, water, sex, and sleep. As we move up the hierarchical scale we also need security, belonging, and developed self-esteem. If we are consciously paying attention to our needs, we will finally reach the top and embody self-actualization through personal growth and peak experiences.

This innate life long journey of self-actualization drives us, humans. Oddly, we divert ourselves. As important as it is, we give a short shrift to creating happiness. Instead, we spend our lifetime muddling through without ever taking a moment to truly understand what our needs are, and when they are or are not being met. We are rarely conscious of the reoccurring stories we tell ourselves that so dramatically affect our outcomes.

We give meaning to everything in our lives. Understanding what is truly meaningful is crucial. For thousands of years, words and phrases have been assigned to an object, concept, or event. As a toddler, we are taught through experience and repetition the difference between a cat and a dog, broccoli and a tree, and eventually how to tell time by reading a clock. We begin learning this even as preverbal babies. Obviously, consensual meaning that we hold as a truth is extremely valuable. Mutual agreement gets things done clearly and efficiently. Having no concept of time would certainly make it difficult for friends to meet for dinner. One might show up at 6:10 and the other at 8:47. Or mutually agreeing that a hollow cylindrical object with a base and handle used to hold hot liquid like coffee or tea is called a cup. If you wanted to purchase one you could simply ask the clerk directly where they are located in the store rather then playing a game of charades in the middle aisle of Williams-Sonoma.

But what about the meaning we learned through other people’s truths? As an example, let’s say your Italian grandfather came to America with his family on a boat when he was a small child. It was the early 20th century and the familiarity of Italy slowly became a distant memory. Getting to know the customs, culture, and language was a steep learning curve he wasn’t expecting. Soon after the economy tanks and the Great Depression sets in. World War II follows and the whole country is in turmoil.

ANOTHER FAVORITE: Creating Flow in your Life is a Simple Choice

 

The process of surviving so much chaos and upheaval as an immigrant would certainly make for many unique experiences and meaning. For your grandfather the truth was life was truly hard at times, but that was not the whole truth. There were many days of happiness, successes, financial gain, family gatherings, laughter, joy, and solace. In reality, two truths co-existed, but only one highlighted and championed as fact.

Years later you were born. You adored your grandfather and felt loved by him. You held him in high esteem for how smart he was, soaking everything in he said. For years, without context or deeper understanding, you heard your beloved grandfather blurt out tattered worn comments frequently like “Life is hard” and “You have to work really hard because no one will give you a chance.” Since we unconsciously anchor beliefs based on emotions, you as the grandchild come to believe a version of his story as reality. Your life unfolds fulfilling a skewed version of your grandfather’s prophecy. Why? Because if you unconsciously learn life is hard you will re-create what is familiar until you decide to change that false truth.

Growing up we also make up our own original stories as a coping strategy. Let’s use the example of a kid who experiences some kind of family instability or whose parents didn’t give the adequate emotional support to feel safe. Remember one of our Maslow’s identified hierarchical needs on the pyramid is security. If we lacked feeling safe or emotionally secure growing up, we invent meaning to make sense of things to cope and get us through. We unconsciously anchor a fabricated story as true. That so called truth is carried into adulthood influencing all of our decisions. The story might manifest as “I need to do everything for myself” or “I can never fully trust anyone.” That child might choose a particular career that is financially lucrative though not fulfilling or make financial decisions based on fear because then “I’ll never have to worry about being taken care of.”

NOT TO BE MISSED: Climbing the Financial Ladder Together: Sensible Secrets to Reach your Financial Goals as a Happy Couple

 

The important thing to remember is this: how we filter, interpret, and champion one’s experiences directly influence our future choices and outcomes. The result will affect how our needs ultimately get met. We create skewed perspectives of our world through stories. The two previous examples illustrate how some of these stories are given to us and some we invent as a coping strategy. Our limiting beliefs about love, trust, relationship, prosperity, and abundance were set long ago without us even knowing! Stories can be handed down from generation to generation like a prideful battle scar. Until we understand and change our limiting beliefs they will continue to cast a long shadow over us and affect our outcomes.

You get to choose what stories you tell. Consider telling stories that empower and make you feel good. Tell the ones that are affirming and expand your possibilities. Discard the stories that are limiting and contracting. Live the story you want to live because that will ultimately bring your self-actualization forth. That is where your true happiness lies.

Years later you were born. You adored your grandfather and felt loved by him. You held him in high esteem for how smart he was, soaking everything in he said. For years, without context or deeper understanding, you heard your beloved grandfather blurt out tattered worn comments frequently like “Life is hard” and “You have to work really hard because no one will give you a chance.” Since we unconsciously anchor beliefs based on emotions, you as the grandchild come to believe a version of his story as reality. Your life unfolds fulfilling a skewed version of your grandfather’s prophecy. Why? Because if you unconsciously learn life is hard you will re-create what is familiar until you decide to change that false truth.

YOU WILL ALSO ENJOY: Time Waits for No One: Will you Seize the Day or Continue to Watch the Weeks Roll By?

 

Growing up we also make up our own original stories as a coping strategy. Let’s use the example of a kid who experiences some kind of family instability or whose parents didn’t give the adequate emotional support to feel safe. Remember one of our Maslow’s identified hierarchical needs on the pyramid is security. If we lacked feeling safe or emotionally secure growing up, we invent meaning to make sense of things to cope and get us through. We unconsciously anchor a fabricated story as true. That so called truth is carried into adulthood influencing all of our decisions. The story might manifest as “I need to do everything for myself” or “I can never fully trust anyone.” That child might choose a particular career that is financially lucrative though not fulfilling or make financial decisions based on fear because then “I’ll never have to worry about being taken care of.”

The important thing to remember is this: the way we filter, interpret, and champion one’s experiences directly influence our future choices and outcomes. The result will affect how our needs ultimately get met. We create skewed perspectives of our world through stories. The two previous examples illustrate how some of these stories are given to us and some we invent as a coping strategy. Our limiting beliefs about love, trust, relationship, prosperity, and abundance were set long ago without us even knowing! Stories can be handed down from generation to generation like a prideful battle scar. Until we understand and change our limiting beliefs they will continue to cast a long shadow over us and affect our outcomes.

You get to choose what stories you tell. Consider telling stories that empower and make you feel good. Tell the ones that are affirming and expand your possibilities. Discard the stories that are limiting and contracting. Live the story you want to live because that will ultimately bring your self-actualization forth. That is where your true happiness lies.

 

This article was originally published in the Fall 2014 issue of VETTA Magazine.

 

Andrew Long
andrew@ultralifecoach.com

Andrew Long is an accelerator. His strategic life coach practice assists clients worldwide, in the shortest amount of time, to broaden and deepen their business, relationship, and personal life outcomes. Learn more: www.ultralifecoach.com