The Stories We Tell Ourselves Matters

I’m a TA for a leadership coaching class at BYU and today we watched a really interesting video. It’s a Tom Bile video featuring a Sports Psychologist named Trevor. Trevor tells a story about his Dad going to a speaking event and hearing from one of the most successful Entrepreneurs at the time. The guy told his story:

He was flunking out of High School, making bad mistakes, just not doing well with his life. And then it came time to take the SAT, a standardized test that many universities look at with admissions. He promised his Mom he would take it, and so he did. And when his score came back he got a 1480/1600 which is amazing. Most people are stoked just to be in the 1,000’s. His Mom asked him if he cheated because it didn’t seem possible. He said he tried to cheat, but couldn’t, he actually got that score! And so what happens? He starts changing his behavior to that of a 1480 student. He starts actually going to class, his teachers start noticing and start helping him more. He starts changing who he hangs out with. He ends up graduating, going to a community college, and then an Ivy league school and ends up starting a successful business and leading a very successful life.

And then 12 years later he got a letter from Princeton University: it turns out every year the SAT board will periodically review scores from the SAT and it turns out that the year he took the SAT he was one of 13 students to get the wrong score back. His actual score was a 740/1600. He says that people think his whole life changed when he got the 1480, but what actually happened is that his whole life changed when he started acting like a 1480 student.

Think about the story you’ve told yourself? Sometimes when I’m suffering like a dog in a race and just not feeling it, I secretly start wishing I would get a mechanical, or crash so I can tell a different story. Rather than just performing poorly, I could tell the story that I crashed, or had a mechanical. That’s not good.

What works is when I change the story to a “what if?” What if I have the best day of my life? What if I over perform and race out of my mind? Then it opens up the window for that story to unfold. I start behaving like I’m going to perform well. I start behaving like I’m one of the best at the start line. I stop being timid, and race like it’s what I do.

My Dad’s favorite example is with driving. When someone cuts us off on the freeway, do we freak out? Or is it possible that we can re-frame, see the other person as a person, and recognize that maybe they’re having a Baby. They might not be, but you never know.

The stories we tell ourselves matter.

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