Because Your Brain Wants to be Right!
I recently told a family member who is learning to cook that I would share a recipe with her. In fact, I told her I’d do a video showing her how to make the recipe. Filming the video was fun, and once I was finished, I had my own family’s dinner ready to go for the evening – WIN. Importantly, I also picked up some valuable self-awareness in this recipe filming process. I cannot tell you how many times I have made this recipe. My family loves it. And yet, every time I get ready to make it, I sigh and think about ALL the work involved. This thinking sometimes keeps me from making the meal and often puts a drag on my afternoon leading up to the cooking. Here is the thing I discovered: it actually only took 8 minutes to get dinner in the oven. The time is documented, unquestionable. I realized I normally spend triple the amount of time thinking about making this recipe and always believe it to take longer than 8 minutes. That’s what my brain has been telling me all this time; but, thanks to my video project, I questioned the narrative – and discovered the truth. Seriously 8 minutes!
Thinking Drives Action (And Inaction)
It’s a double-edged sword. What we think directly impacts our output, be it for the better or the worse. Think of the Little Engine That Could. He could because he believed he could. In a similar vein, because I thought the recipe was a big undertaking, I made it a big undertaking. My thinking drove my emotions. Sometimes I passed on the recipe all together given my false narrative.
Two awesome coaching mentors of mine from Kickstart Your Edge smartly and accurately call this concept Making Shit Up (MSU®). Do you have some MSU® rolling around in your brain? Have you built something up in your head far beyond what it really is? Is it time to take an accurate assessment around some of your roadblocks to really see what you are looking at that you believe to be standing in your way?
A bit of skepticism will go a long way with your inner critic. It’ll also go a long way with that internal dreamer you may be neglecting. Questioning the narrative opens the door to accomplishing what you desire. It keeps you from going down a painful path or a less-than path. We don’t need these unnecessary journeys, friends.
Clues It May Be Time to Question the Narrative
Here might be some of the messages your brain is sending out to you that are valuable clues you should question the narrative.
- This is going to take forever.
- They are more capable/smarter/luckier than me.
- This is truly all I can do.
- Even though I want to, I could never do X.
- It wouldn’t work, so why bother?
The Step-by-Step Guide to Questioning the Narrative.
Naturally the steps that follow will apply in varying degrees depending on the situation. Questioning the narrative is a self-awareness process and is specific to the situation at hand. But at its core, it’s a getting-honest and getting-real approach.
Gather the True Facts.
Do you know what you truly know? In my personal example above, did making my recipe truly take the entire afternoon? I found it did not.
Sometimes your brain is right, and your logic is serving you well, but the process of questioning the narrative can still serve up valuable insights. It may unveil other solutions that enable you to work around the issue or guide you through a difficult process. If, for example, I had confirmed that my recipe is an all-afternoon affair, I’d have known how and when to plan for this special meal going forward.
If you are telling yourself, you could never do X, be sure you’ve confirmed that it is truly impossible, certainly if X is truly something you want.
Identify What You Need.
Many times, identifying what you need boils down to these three categories: knowledge, mindset and resources. Take the narrative of others being more capable/smarter/luckier. Could you identify a means to acquiring more training or knowledge? Could you outsource parts to get the expertise you need?
Perhaps this questioning process uncovers that your mindset is holding you back. Our mindsets are powerful tools and fully manipulatable. Though it is beyond the scope of this blog post, tools such as T-FAR™ which have us examining our thoughts, and working with a professional coach can help you guide your mindset, as will working with an accountability partner (see #4 below). To be certain, this process of questioning the narrative is a giant leap forward in the mindset department.
Finally, identifying tangible resource gaps will set you on the path to what you want. Do you need a partner? A machine? More time? Be thoughtful and thorough in identifying what you need to accomplish your goal. Then assess the feasibility to confirm or disprove the narrative.
Gain an Outsider’s Perspective
Sometimes gaining insight from another removed from your inner world helps you challenge a self-limiting narrative. The outsider could be a professional life coach, a qualified counselor or a trusted friend. This individual could be a part of your undertaking steps #1 and #2.
Partner with an accountability partner
An accountability partner can help you overcome a pervasive and reemerging self-limiting narrative. They can also ensure you nurture a mindset you prize. Accountability partners are arguably one of the most undervalued relationships you can foster. They might be a friend, a spouse, a coach, or a member from a common-interest group you are a part of. You might even find that a symbiotic accountability partner arrangement works well for you. Find a trusted friend seeking personal growth, commit to one another and set aside some time each week to check in on your established personal goals.
Don’t assume that what your brain is telling you is always the truth, especially if it is keeping you from what you want or what you know you should enjoy. Our thinking drives our actions. What we think needs to be accurate. We need to be fully informed to reach our greatest potential. I’m not dissing the brain. Truly I’m doing the opposite. The brain is powerful, creative, and resourceful. Automatic thinking is a short circuit we can overcome when we put our mind to it, when we question the narrative.
Rosemary chicken, by the way. That was the recipe. The simple, 8-minute recipe. If you want the recipe send me an email at kathy@brainbasics and I will send you a copy. It is a family favorite. The 8 minute video walks you through the prep to bake. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9QPvRixjKw
Through her work at Brain Basics, Kathy Walter has the privilege of guiding individuals and teams to their full potential. Combining targeted, science-backed tools with proven coaching techniques, she works with clients to expand thinking, enhance output and create opportunity. Her innovative Coach-on-Call program enables business owners to offer customized growth opportunities for their employees. Contact Brain Basics to learn more.
T-FAR and MSU® are trademarks of KickStart Your Edge, LLC