What Stories Are You Telling Yourself?

““Everybody agrees that a story begins with some breach in the expected state of things,” writes Jerome Bruner, the pioneer of narrative psychology. “Something goes awry, otherwise there’s nothing to tell about.” The story is the tool to resolve this breach.”

Bruce Feiler, Life Is in the Transitions
Resurfaced with readwise.io
I am fascinated by the power of a story. Older posts on this blog have frequent references to stories of my own to help make a point.
I picked this book up last week and started to read as I go through a personal health related transition of my own. It is already getting me thinking about the stories I tell myself as I face my own transition.
Why is this happening to me?
The story I tell myself affects my mind set, and how I approach my own treatment.
I have been lucky, in a perverse sense, to have friends who have been through what I am going through. One consistent piece of advice has been to focus on the positive. To understand that the treatment, while not pleasant is healing my body. That my body can heal itself as well. To welcome the medications into me, even when the side effects leave you feeling awful.
This is the story I am telling myself. I could be telling a different, more negative story, focusing on how unfair this all is. But where would that leave me? How would that help? Life has thrown me a curve ball. I can choose the story I want to tell myself. I choose to focus on the treatment, that it helps, and that I know people who are better now.
My challenge to you is to dwell on this quote. Think about the stories you tell yourself about what is happening around you.

The broader point of this book, bearing in mind I am early in its reading, is that we all face transitions in life.
We do not live life in a linear pattern: birth, school, work, marriage, family, retirement … in those areas we face transitions, for example loss of a job, death of a family member, or serious illness.
Whatever it is for you, pay attention to the story you tell yourself. Then think about the power of creating a different story. Would it help?

The Book


“This is one of the things we rely on our friends for: to think better of us than we think of ourselves. It makes us feel better, but it also makes us be better; we try to be the person they believe we are.”

Tim Kreider, We Learn Nothing
Resurfaced with readwise.io

Today I simply want to share this quote. I don’t think it needs much explanation or discussion, particularly if you are lucky enough to have made strong deep friendships that last.


This is an obscure quote on which to base a post. Yet, it is the second book this year I have read about metaphor and how we use metaphors to think and communicate.

This second quote better captures what I want to say today on metaphors.

I rarely write notes about the highlights I make in a book – I am trying to get better at it – but I did for this one.

This seems like a key feature of facilitating a conversation. The type of thing I would do at work. Searching for the metaphor, or mental model, that a person is using. This is what I may be listening for. Then trying to play that back to them, and find coherence around the table.

When listening to an explanation, try to identify the metaphors they are use. Then consider why they chose that metaphor.

Be aware that often one metaphor cannot completely cover a topic, and we may need to use a second or third.

The Books

Work Well With Others

As a knowledge worker, your performance is dependent on those around you. Not just what is in your head and your specific skills.

In knowledge work it is what is in your head that matters, you are the means are production.

However to be effective, to be productive, you need to work effectively with others. Working well with others helps you get the most out of your knowledge and your skills.

Building strong lasting takes time and require a bit of give on your part. Be generous with your time and it will pay dividends.

The Book

Pay Attention to Verbs

The choice of this quote centres on the word “verb”. It is has come up a few times recently in my reading, both on how to write and communicate more effectively, pay attention to the verbs you use, but also in technology trends.

Technology is progressing from things, “nouns”, to services, “verbs”.

But mainly I think about verbs the most when I write for work. When I think about how to clearly communicate with colleagues.

Of all the topics I read on, I have been surprised at how much I enjoy reading about writing. I have read books on grammar, writing generally, and even screenplays.

So as you think about your next email, or the next document you work on, think about the choice of words, and how you construct you sentences.

The Books

Writing Challenge

For heath reasons I find myself with extra time on my hands as the year draws to a close. To keep myself occupied I have decided to set myself a writing challenge.

Every day I receive an email from https://readwise.io with a list of highlights from the many Kindle books I have read over the years.

Each day I will select one quote emailed to me, and use that to write a blog post of any length.

I started on Monday this week. It’s Tuesday today, and I am 2 for 2 … lets see how long I can keep this going.

Related Posts

Focus on the impact you can have to help avoid burnout

This is a slightly counterintuitive idea, that we don’t necessarily burn out from doing too much, but that we can burn out when the effort we put in appears to have no impact or little meaning.

I neared burnout earlier this year. Maybe I did.

When I read the above I realised that one of the reasons was that through lockdown I had become disconnected from the people I was putting all this effort in for.

There are a few reasons for that, not relevant to this post.

What stuck out for me is that I need to remain connected to the people I am putting the effort in for. This provides my energy and motivation.

The Usefulness of Boundaries

It helps to have boundaries. Say No to the things you will not do is as important as identifying what you will do.

We tend to believe that more choice is an option, when in fact the more choice we have the more we doubt the choice we make. This TED Talk by Barry Swartz on the Paradox of Choice makes this same point.

On that same basis he makes the argument that restricting our choices can make us happier.