For the last ten years, I had this story that I wasn't capable of quitting alcohol.
I knew my life would be better without it. I knew it wasn't serving my most beautiful vision for my life – the one where I am vibrant when I wake in the morning, completely present when I talk with my husband in the evening after the girls are tucked in bed. I knew I was using it to numb out – to take the edge off of what often felt like too many little (and big) things to do.
And yet, even with crystal clarity about the ways in which using alcohol was keeping me at distance from my vision for my life, I had this powerful story that I simply couldn't give it up. That the edge-softening experience my evening wine brought me – the permission (and physical assistance) it gave me to relax – would always overpower my desire to live this cleaner, more present life.
I tumbled around with this struggle for a while. About three years, at the peak of it. Waking up angry at myself for making choices that I absolutely knew weren't in service of my vision for my life.
Then, one day, in spite of this persistent story that I wasn't capable of quitting – I decided to “not drink for a little while.” I called it my alcohol sabbatical. That night, instead of pouring a glass of wine after work, I made myself some tea.
I went that whole night without having my ritual evening glass(es) of wine. To my absolute astonishment, I did it again the next day. And the next.
Pretty soon, that story about me not being capable of living my evenings without alcohol changed. I had this new story – the one where I wasn't drinking for a bit, where I was “taking a break” from alcohol.
My alcohol sabbatical is coming up on three years in September. I really like the way I feel. I like not drinking. My life is more vibrant and peaceful. I get along with my amazing husband way better than I did before. I am peaceful and present for my daughters in the evening because I'm no longer hurrying to get to my glass of wine. I am living in congruence with my vision for my life and I love that.
Here's the thing: alcohol may not be your issue. I know lots of people who have a glass of wine or a beer at night and all is well in their world. They are happy with that. Alcohol is not the problem for them. Instead, maybe…
- You have a story that says you aren't capable of getting up on stage and delivering a speech that moves people.
- You tell yourself you aren't ready to offer your services at rates that will sustain your business.
- You believe that you can't handle all that it takes to have a full and lucrative career and care for your family or your health.
- You can't imagine ever figuring out how to fit exercise into your life given the overwhelming list of things you really must do to be successful in your work and family life.
Or maybe your stories and the beliefs those stories feed are different than these.
Of this I'm sure, though:
There IS a story at the base of whatever is happening in our lives. There is always a story.
Stories are powerful engines. They drive behavior. They energize and they deflate us. This is why, if we want to make a real difference in the world and feel peaceful inside while we do it, we MUST shine a light on the stories that are driving our lives.
We must look clearly and openly at them, the ones toward the surface (“I've got way too much to do, I'm not organized enough for this life I lead.”) and the deeper ones (“I'll never be good enough to make a living doing this work.”)
As you may know, I have created some clear, actionable frameworks for doing great work in the world and crafting and delivering awesome presentations (Speak So It Matters™ and Soul Power to Your Message (my book) are both expressions of these frameworks). I'm proud of those frameworks and know that, when applied full-heartedly, they are excellent guides for brilliant speaking and contribution.
Yet – here's the secret underneath these frameworks – and all other “frameworks” and “programs” and “systems” you see out there in the world: None of these programs work if we aren't doing the foundational story and beliefs work to support them. Our stories and beliefs are the underlying, fundamental drivers of all of our behaviors and choices. Which means, they are the wings upon which our future success soars. So, what does it take to turn these stories around?
Turns out, it's really quite simple:
- Shine a light on the stories that drive our behavior
- Look at how those stories are serving our vision for our life (or not)
- Actively question those stories – play with them, reframe them, hold them lightly, try-on their opposites – and allow the most peaceful and powerful stories to lead
No, I didn't say “easy.”
The truth is, though, we really do get to decide what stories we buy into.
We decide which ones we play over and over in our mind. We also decide which ones we want to release – both in our minds' movie-playing experience – and in our day to day action choices. (In the case of alcohol, I had to both begin a story that said I could live without alcohol and I had to create a daily action story that included tea and quiet-time as my end-of-day treat.)
I'm not going to pretend that this stuff is easy. While it is simple in process, our stories become habitual movies in our brain. We've got whole deep neural pathways built to keep them in motion. We need support and reminding sometimes to help us build those new pathways for the more-empowering stories in our brain.
Here is what I know for sure, after almost three years of increased peace and freedom from changing just one of my stories: It's so worth it. Ridiculously, unbelievably awesomely worth it.
My whole life really did change when I changed that story about alcohol – and then took daily action on a new story.
If you are ready to release the stories that are blocking you from getting out there powerfully as a speaker and thought leader, your stories beliefs are the most powerful place to start.
In future posts, I'll share with you many of my favorite tools for revealing and transforming our beliefs and stories. Stay tuned!