“Happy New Year,” the young barista greeted her customer.
“What’s so happy about it?” the customer replied. “It’s just another year, same as the last one.”
“Well, my mom always told me that each new year is like a new chapter in your book of life,” the barista responded with a wry smile.
“And this is what you had in mind for your new chapter,” the customer chortled sarcastically, removing his glasses for affect. “Being a barista at a local coffee shop?
“No,” the woman laughed. “I own the place.”
Some of the other customers laughed as the grumpy man surprised himself with a smile. That’s not the reply he had expected.
Truth is, the customer wasn’t entirely wrong. Each new year or new day, for that matter, can simply be a recycling event where we churn through the same unsatisfying situations all over again, acting as if we were the characters in someone else’s play.
Or, as the young coffee shop owner suggested, each day or year can be a new chapter in our own life story—one that we write, direct, and act out with clear and deliberate intention.
But how do we do that exactly? We've all probably tried New Year’s Resolutions and many of us quit by February. So, what’s the secret to changing behaviors and making them stick?
Here’s a thriving tip: We can change our story.
We write about this often, because it’s like first aid. When in doubt, take a step back and ask, “What story am I telling about this?” Then change it.
For instance, maybe you want to lose weight and get healthier. You’ve tried before with no long-term success. So, what’s your story about that? Maybe it's: “Here we go again, I’ll probably fail, just like I did the last time.”
We’re usually not even aware of our internal stories like this, self-sabotaging tales of defeat that run in the background of our mind, nibbling away at our confidence and convincing us that we can’t really change.
It doesn’t work to just ignore that voice; we have to replace it. That’s where our new story comes in. So, the old story’s theme: “I’m a serial failure.” The new story’s upgraded theme: “I’ve already succeeded.”
Note the deliberate difference in wording. In the old story, we’ve claimed an identity that consigns us to failure . That’s heavy. An assumed identity is hard to shift.
In the new story, we’re claiming a future result . . .as if it’s already happened. It’s not a new identity . . . instead it’s a significant shift in mindset as to what’s possible.
It can seem hard if not impossible to change who we are. If we believe we’re a failure, that’s tough to shift. So, don’t try.
Instead, focus on a future result you want and imagine that it’s already happened. Then ask yourself, “What’s something that I did today that led me to that future outcome? Your mindset has now become focused on the behaviors that will get you to that future destination. You’re stepping into the future and are looking back from that moment of success and letting that feeling guide you.
This approach shifts us from aiming, planning, hoping, and striving . . . to a feeling of accomplishment. You’ve done it… the success is already yours and each day you get to witness and participate in how it happened.
Now, if that sounds a little too much like a Pollyanna strategy, remind yourself that this is the approach top-performing athletes and other high performers use to shift their own mindset and form the new neural pathways that become their mental highways to success.
You don’t have to be climbing Mount Everest or competing in the Olympics for this to be relevant. You might simply be looking to discover how you can improve your quality of life at work or how you could enhance a relationship. If you can imagine yourself having already succeeded in that regard, what would your mindset be now and how would you show up today?
It’s an amazing feeling when we realize that we have far more influence and control over our future than we may have previously imagined. We call this type of moment a thriving breakthrough. And, best of all, you can enjoy that feeling before you even reach your physical goal!
You can start feeling better right away as you imagine and soak in the feeling of that future success already accomplished. And then, you act in a way that’s consistent with the future you’ve seeded in your imagination. This creates a positive reinforcement loop, you become self-motivated, and—without the usual struggle—your behavior begins to change, in order to get more of that irresistible feeling.
Game to give it a try? Alright . . .
Your Thriving Breakthrough opportunity for the week:
Pick a situation or behavior you want to change. Determine what identity you’ve assumed in your old story. Now see yourself in the future, having already successfully made the change. Decide what new mindset you’ve inhabited and what actions or behaviors you did today (looking back from the future) that supported that future outcome. Soak in the feeling of that new story and then act accordingly.
Let that feeling motivate you and enjoy the ride!
Will Wilkinson and Christopher Harding