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How to Craft a Good Story to Tell Yourself When Times Get Tough

      The world and its pressures can get to be too much for every one of us at times.  Regardless of how we try to stay positive, there are issues that will cloud our thinking and our mood at some point.  The mind triggers psychological, physical, and emotional pain.  The power of the mind is often underestimated, and because we don't always know how to control it, we lose the battle to stay up.  But there are ways.  Rather than bemoan our issues, we can and should encourage ourselves.  We can't depend on anybody else to do it because everyone is dogged by their own individual challenges.  People don't generally have a lot of reserved energy to give to someone else so how do we do it for ourselves?  It starts with the stories we create and tell in our own hearing.  We're really good at telling the horror stories, but what about the stories of triumph?  Since you create them, they can be whatever you want.
      Like any great storyteller, the elements should have a beginning, middle, and end.  It can have a villain if necessary, but it must have a hero.  That hero should be you.  Here's how to craft a good story that reduces stress and induces excitement and expectation.  
      1) Start the story where you are.  Of course, it's going to be bad.  That's why you need the lift.  What's the situation?  For example, your boss just denied you the promotion she practically promised you when the job was posted six weeks ago.  You certainly needed the money (which you'd already spent in your head), but more importantly, this was a move up the career ladder you had planned for years.  Now your hopes are dashed, and you're sure this was your only chance to make it to the next level.  With this boss, you doubt you'll ever be able to get beyond this point.  At least that's the story right now.  But wait.  There's more.
      2) Write the upside/downside of the story.  Yes, the downside too.  Positive thinkers tend to focus too narrowly on the positives and avoid the negatives like they're poison.  Not addressing what's wrong doesn't make the wrong go away.  Thinking candidly about what the situation is helps you to forge better options for yourself that could give you hope and lead you out of your circumstance.  In those times when you cannot change the situation because it's out of your control, your perspective is the only thing that can help you cope.  Acting like the pain or dangers aren't there is unrealistic.  Deal with them by acknowledging them.  The key is to resist staying with them too long.  Doing so increases anxiety which is guaranteed to rob you of your joy and contentment.  
      Get through the hardships by pushing past them to the upside.  Lay out in detail what's on the other side that's good.  Haven't you gone over in your head a million times in detail what's bad?  Move through it.  List the advantages that might otherwise go unnoticed.  See the benefits in losing or not getting or falling short.  In the example, maybe the upside of not getting the promotion is that you're limiting yourself by taking the first incremental step to where you want to be.  Getting this promotion could slow down your trajectory to the spot above this one.  Honing your skills to hit the second tier is where you should really be focusing your energies.  You've been aiming too low.  All you need to figure out is who can sponsor you on your road to higher.  What steps do you need to take to assert your knowledge and skills to the people that matter?  What additional training, if any, do you need?  Who do you need to know?  Who needs to know you?  Now a plan is evolving.  You're starting to get excited!
      3) Write the happy ending.  See yourself triumphing over your situation.  Envision your healing if you're suffering from a devastating diagnosis.  Imagine the peace you'll experience after ending a bad relationship.  Sense the relief you'll feel when you're debt free.  Feel the pride that will come when you finally achieve that promotion after your hard work.  Whatever it is, craft it all in your mind with visuals and sound and emotions.  Like any good story, it should be captivating.
      The stories we tell ourselves should be complete in order to feel hopeful.  It's not enough to say affirmations that just make you feel good or to think positive thoughts in words and phrases.  You must tell the whole story from start to finish--tragedy and triumph.  A winning story beyond the loss.  A joyful story beyond the tears.  An exciting story beyond the disappointment.  A calming story beyond the anxiety.  And like any good story that makes us feel good in the end, we can tell ourselves that story over and over again.  So what story should you be crafting for yourself?


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