Sunday, 25 May 2014

Change The Narrative

This week, how the TV show, Scandal has given me a new perspective on how we think, speak and act.

OK, confession time. I’m a huge Scandal fan. I’m not talking about the 'politicians and hookers' type of scandal, I’m talking about the US drama/ melodramatic sitcom, Scandal starring Kerry Washington as the fast-talking, quivery-lipped, loved-up spin doctor and fixer, Olivia Pope, who is rapidly becoming an iconic character with her own catch phrases and everything.

Along with regularly banging on about being the “good guys” wearing the “white hats”, she’ll often let people know she’s taken care of a task by simply uttering her now-iconic phrase, “It’s handled”.

If Olivia does get to settle down with eyebrow-less El Presidente Fitzgerald Grant played by Tony Goldwyn, I wonder if she’ll still say it. Like, when he asks if the kids have cleaned their teeth will she turn swiftly on her heels, flicked bangs following a second later, narrow her eyes, whisper “it’s handled” then shimmy off in her designer, silk PJs with a massive goblet of red wine?

My favourite of all her sayings is the one she barks in the faces of all her loyalist staff when the proverbial faeces slams into the rotary blades. Usually some opponent has gained the upper hand, dictating the news trajectory of a partially inflammatory scandal she’s trying to suppress and it looks like all the white hats in the world won’t stop this PR avalanche destroying all in its path. It’s at this point, the iconic fringe flicks, the lip quivers and she yells at anyone in earshot, “change the narrative!”

Then her gladiators in sharp suits go into action. Huck usually hacks into some major league impenetrable computer system then tortures someone for good measure. Abby charms her way into someone’s house and convinces them to impart with some vital information and Harrison goes around looking worried and talking with a husky voice.

My best Olivia Pope fringe flick and pout
But despite the fact  it’s just a TV and a ridiculous if addictive one at that, the phrase “change the narrative” has stuck in my head, and worse, for people around me, has become one I’ve started to use. Not, I hastened to add because I see myself as a fixer-in-waiting (although I did flick my fringe the other day but I don’t think it means anything) but because of late, I’ve started to become aware of how often we spin negative or unproductive stories about ourselves that do not serve us in anyway.

We all do it, all the time and it’s something that we really need to cut out. Why? Because the story we tell of our lives is the one that becomes true. Given that, why on earth would we choose to tell a negative story and yet, that is what so many of us do.

This short poem sums it up well.

"Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words.
Be careful of your words, for your words become your actions.
Be careful of your actions, for your actions become your 
Be careful of your 
habits, for your habits
 become your character.
Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny."

It’s been attributed to everyone from Gandhi to Margaret Thatcher so I’m leaving it anonymous but the words resonate deeply whatever the source.

Everything you have in your life, who you are, the life you are living, the people who surround you, the things you have are a sum total of the thoughts you have had at some point in your life.

For example, if you think, “I’m bad with money”. It’s not long before that’s the story you begin to tell. You may say it explicitly, laughing with friends that you can’t hold onto money or you may maintain the story implicitly. For example, when an investment goes wrong or you get an unexpected bill, you say that that’s typical in your life. These thoughts and words go on to define our actions and similar to the words, those actions will happen consciously then subconsciously and in the most extreme cases lead to unconscious self-sabotage.

A classic act of self-sabotage is speaking the story that you can’t lose weight and then overeating to console yourself. Show of hands who’s done that? (just me? Up yours, you fibbers!). That is classic self-sabotage because… look I don’t need to explain why. It’s bloody obvious.

And it’s not long before these actions cease to be one-off events but become habitual. And habits are, for the most part just subconscious actions. Those habits we think we can’t break are simply actions that we’ve repeated often enough that we are now oblivious to them.

We have more habits than we think too. Smoking is as much a habit as constantly telling people you’re bad with names. It makes the habit much easier to break though, when you see them as simply actions that have slipped from your conscious to your subconscious mind because to begin the process of breaking them all we need do is elevate these habits back into our conscious awareness which will begin the process of allowing these habitual actions to be transformed.

And it’s important to do this because, as the saying goes, those habits, if kept up for your whole life will go on to shape your character. You are your habits. If you are thrown towards negativity or pessimism, that will be how people will describe your character, how they will come to know you and how you will know yourself. Equally, if you’re a glass is half full type of person with a sunny disposition who habitually tries to make each day better than the last, this too will shape your character.

And of course, there is a clear logic that whatever character you have created for yourself will shape how life turns out for you because the story you tell is the story you live and if the story is one of doom and gloom, then that is the one that finds you.

That doesn’t mean that bad things only happen to pessimistic people but it does mean that those with a brighter disposition live more in gratitude, are happier and navigate the flow of life with a lot more grace.

So now, if I hear people say something explicitly negative or unproductive about themselves, I’ll try to gently encourage them to change the narrative. The quality of our lives depends on it.

I do the same when I hear myself say something that I know is not the story I want to tell about myself. If, for example, I feel myself go to tell someone I’m not good with names, I stop and say, (inside) I am good with names. I know people's names for goodness sake. I don't meet my close friends saying, "Angela is it? No, Amanda? Give me a clue. Does it begin with A?". I can remember names I just need a good system to help me when meeting strangers.

“I’m not good with names” is a common negative story. When you first meet someone, especially in a social setting like a party, there’s usually so much going on that in the excitement and nervousness of meeting new people, the person we're introduced to might as well be saying “Hi, I’m Ding Fang Wiggle Nickel” for all we're able take in in that moment. Here’s a technique I use. I repeat their name back to them. Then I repeat it to myself and look for a memorable feature so  the name sticks. I recently met a very quiet and petite young woman called Mary and in my head she became mousy Mary. I only needed to hear her name once and it was fixed in my head. Even seemingly complicated foreign names (of course, they’re only complicated to people not from their country) can be broken down into their sounds to aid memorisation. I recently met a chap called Annaquad, pronounced Ahn-nahk-wood which is just how I broke it down in my head as we met. No problem and now, narrative changed.

Remembering names is obviously a relatively minor narrative but the principle is the same whatever it is. I can’t lose weight, transformed becomes, I live a healthy lifestyle. I don’t have time for my hobby becomes I’m able to reorganise my day to make time for the thing I want to do. 

A friend recently told me that, due to age, he often goes into a room and completely forgets what he's doing there. In the politest way I could, I told him that was “bollocks”. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been doing that since I was a kid! That’s just what humans do and its nothing to do with age. Somehow  we’ve implicitly taken on this social conditioning that tells us getting old means forgetting. It’s incorrect. Getting older means whatever you want it to and seeing as you have the choice, why not select maturing sophisticatedly like a fine wine rather than shrivelling like a grape?

As I’ve said before, whether you say you can or you can’t do something, you can or you can’t have something or whatever belief you are perpetuating, you get to be right so why wouldn’t you choose the very highest for yourself?

Check your thought, check your language and check your actions. Are they in alignment with  the highest idea you have of yourself. If not, let them go and transform them into something that is in loving support of who you aim to be.

Bring your consciousness to these thoughts, words and actions. Bring the habits to your conscious mind and thank them for their services and let them go telling them you no longer require them.

I’m sure there’s some kind of meditation you can do to achieve this but even if you don’t, bringing conscious energy to those unrewarding habits and patterns that lurk in our subconscious can only be a good thing.

Think good thoughts, change your narrative, watch Scandal. (Don’t worry about the last thing. It’s not for everyone and it is pretty ridiculous).

Here's some other posts you may enjoy: Change Your Magnet - on attracting healthy relationships, The Power of Intention and Are You Attractive? - on the law of attraction

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