Day 5: Tell a Good Story

My Girlfriend is Magic
Sometimes when my partner asks me about my day, I launch into a tirade about how much everyone in the world sucks. I tell her about the appointment that stood me up, the guy that cut me off in traffic, and the horrible customer service call I had. I complain that I lost my wallet, was late to a meeting, and how our car share wasn’t available when I needed it.

When I finish she looks at me calmly and replies, “It sounds like you had a rough day.” I smile back and say, “yeah, it was”. And then she does something really amazing. She simply comes over and touches my arm or gives me a hug. And in that moment it’s like every bad thing about my day just melts away.

All of a sudden I remember how lucky I am, that I get to wake up everyday in a warm bed, with a furry cat, and walk the 20 feet to my home office. I remember all the amazing conversations I get to have with clients, all of the articles I’ve read, and how lucky I am to have someone to talk to about my very bad, no good, bummer of a day.

So what happened? Is my girlfriend a wizard with magical touch? Well no, at least I haven’t been able to prove it, but it’s not her magic that changed my mood. What changed was the story I was telling about my day. Instead of telling myself a story about the crappy day I was having, I was able to see that along with that story was another story that felt much better to tell.

Your Life is a Story
Your whole life is a story you tell yourself, and you get to decide what that story is. You get to decide if it’s a tragedy, a comedy, a romance, or a Young Adult dystopian novel. Sure there might be days when you struggle to see the light and it feels like everything is going wrong. But even on the best days something goes wrong, and even on the worst days, something goes right.

What makes a day, a week, a month, or a year good or bad is largely determined by the details you focus on and the stories you choose to tell yourself about them.

And one of the simplest and most powerful awareness practices you can do is learning how to notice the stories you tell yourself and choosing to tell different ones.

Happiness Challenge #5

Today’s challenge builds on the challenges we’ve worked on up to this point, so if you’ve done those challenges you’re one step ahead. If you haven’t done any of the previous challenges, now is a great time to catch up.

1. Practice: The first step to telling a new story about your life is to notice exactly what story you’re telling. As you go throughout your day notice the stories you tell to yourself.

  • Notice the stories you tell about the other people (esp. the rude ones).
  • Notice the stories you tell about your life and how this day fits or conflicts with that narrative.
  • Simply notice these stories without judgement and with curiosity.

2. Reflect: Now that you’re at the end of your day and before you write in your journal take a few minutes to reflect on the stories you told yourself today. If you want, you can write down a few themes or even notes about the stories you told yourself. Or you can simply reflect on them in your mind.

Then think of one event today that was positive and write a very short story about it and why it was good. It can just be a few sentences and at most a paragraph. Keep it simple and small. Bonus: If you want to do extra take an event that you saw as negative and rewrite it as positive or neutral.

3. Share: Now it’s time to share your experience so do one or more of the following:

  • Write a blog post: Write about the stories you tell yourself. You might include how it felt to write a positive story about your day or what it might be like if you put a positive spin on a neutral or negative story. Make sure to add a link to this post in your post, post a link in the comments, or share it with the Facebook group.
  • Share what you learned on social media. When you share your stories with others, it gains power and encourages others to reinforce how you want to see your life. As always include the tag #30dayhappy and/or share in the Facebook group.
  • Write a comment: Ask a question, share your experience, or share one or more of your stories in the comments below.

Great work on the challenge so far! The story I’m telling myself is that you’re all working hard, learning a lot, and beginning to notice some simple things you can do to increase your happiness. I’m a very lucky guy to know so many amazing people who want to make the world a better place, one smile at a time.