When I was a kid one of my favorite things was reading Choose Your Own Adventure books. I would not put the book down until I had every possible adventure. If I made the wrong choice and ended up in the pit of snakes or whatever horrible end I met, I would usually cheat and say to myself “oh wait I meant to go the other direction” and I would live to fight another day. Wouldn’t it be great if real life was like that as well? You could just say “Oops I meant to:
• Take that other job
• Marry a different person
• Order the salad instead of chicken fingers 😉
Well we can!
There are very few decisions that we make in life that can’t be corrected by choosing a different set of actions. The problem is that so often we get stuck regretting the actions we have made. When your vision is clouded by regret it’s impossible to clearly see a path to action, we are hung up on a story we tell ourselves that keeps us stuck.
This happens to me all the time. I make a mistake or a bad decision of some kind and I get stuck in a loop of what I “SHOULD” have done (I will write more about SHOULD another time) or how I’m not good enough to make the right choice or complete the task correctly. This cycle does nothing to help me fix the problem; it mires me down in negative self-assessments about my abilities and self-worth. What’s my story when I have a break (mistake, bad choice etc).
Well my story might be that I missed a deadline. That’s an assertion, a fact, it’s what happened. However my story doesn’t end there, my assessment (opinion) is that I SHOULD have met the deadline, if I was better with my time it would have been fine. I ALWAYS miss deadlines; I’m NEVER going to get that promotion because I’m a fraud who doesn’t DESERVE to have good things happen.
That my friends is typical story that I tell myself all the time, I’m sure most people can relate to this, how many times have you told yourself a version of this exact story.
So how does my story help me fix the problem of the missed deadline? It doesn’t, all it does is create feelings of shame, guilt and anxiety. Just the mood you want for creative problem solving!
What if my story stopped at the assertion (facts)? I missed the deadline. From here I have a wide open slate of possibilities to choose from.
• I can speak with my Manager to discuss how to make up the time elsewhere
• I can ask for help from a peer
• I can address it on my own
Regardless of the action I take, I’m now on a path of resolution, not stuck in a loop of suffering.
Stopping to ask “What’s my story?” when a breakdown happens is the same as a do over in a Choose Your Own Adventure book. You have a breakdown and from there you have certain actions you can take, some work out, some don’t, but you won’t spend time blaming yourself and wishing you could cheat and flip back in the book and make a different choice.
I may not be Indiana Jones’ Assistant anymore but my life is definitely an adventure regardless what choices I make and I know I’m excited about the adventures that lie ahead for me!