Old Russian fable….
A scorpion asks a frog to carry it across a river. The frog is afraid of being stung. The scorpion points out they would both drown in that instance. The frog agrees. Midway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog, dooming them both. The frog asks why? The scorpion replies, “I couldn’t help it. It’s in my nature.”
Moral? Scorpions (and people) never change. For good or bad, we are what we are – destined to repeat our behaviour ad infinitum.
And yet books, life coaches, therapists, and podcasters maintain that if you change your approach then you’ll change your life. Occasionally these techniques work; mostly they don’t. After a dead cat bounce, we end up back were we were.
And then we buy a different book, engage a new life coach etc… Basically repeat the same behaviour in the hope that it will somehow turn out differently.
Often the reason is that the ‘change’ occurs at a surface level (tactical) rather than a structural level (story). In short this means that unless you re-write your core narrative, no amount of minor changes will take. Here are some ways to do that.
1) Where did the story originate?
Stories come from any number of sources – parental programming, peer group pressure, social convention, gender expectation – and sometimes they seem aggregate almost of their own accord like scale on a kettle.
First identify the behaviour you want change and then trace it back to its origin. If you can locate the source of the story this often gives you a sense as to its validity. But even if that’s not possible, you can still proceed to step two…
2) Doubt & Certainty.
I don’t know what’s objectively true and what isn’t. No idea. What I do know is that what you believe becomes true for you, and that the more times you repeat it the truer it gets. Equally the more doubt you attach to a story the more it loses its power.
Take a sheet of paper and write ‘the truth’ in its centre. Then write as many orbiting ‘doubts’ as you can. Just give it a go. I guarantee you’ll come up with more than you think and I guarantee that you’ll believe the original story less as a result.
3) Create a more compelling story.
A new story needs to replace the old story. Otherwise the old one creeps back. Give the new story legs. This needs to be as much supporting evidence you can muster from wherever you can source it. The more legs you put under your new story, the further it will carry you.
4) Make it visible.
This method works for teams and individuals alike. Writing a new story is essential; repeating it gives it resonance. Creating an associative picture anchors it into your psyche. Be it a mood board or a single image that symbolises your story, the human brain engages with symbols at a deep level that abstraction alone can’t access.
5) Put it in the bank.
By which I mean look for specific evidence that your new story is working. Actually write it down and review it on a regular basis. When people get fit they are usually congratulated. When the praise stops is often when the reversion begins. If you can notice the positive and specific difference being that healthier is making to your life then you’re way more likely to stick to the plan.
Is any of this easy? Often it isn’t. However limiting a story may be, it can represent home and therefore safety for us. Persistence is the key to rewriting the script. Chip away at the prison walls and eventually they crumble.