The experts tell us we are the product of the stories we tell ourselves.
And if there is one thing we humans have in common, it is that we do indeed tell ourselves stories.
Every thought, decision, judgement and resolution becomes a piece of our story and we sculpt ourselves to fit that story.
The power of our stories was brought home to me some time ago when my wife Gimalle, and I were having dinner with friends. Over the course of the evening the topic of discussion turned to sleep habits and our host shared with us his difficulties in being able to sleep through the night.
He explained that while he has no problem whatsoever in falling asleep, staying asleep has been elusive since his early 20s. He told us he has tried countless remedies, all to no avail. He falls asleep and then wakes up between four and five hours later and is unable to go back to sleep.
Years of this experience have taught him to expect this each night, and he has managed to easily meet his expectations.
Sleeping for four or five hours each night would not be a problem if he woke up refreshed, energized and ready to start his day. Alas, this is not his experience and he told us that he constantly fights fatigue throughout each day.
Many years ago Norman Cousins, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and author of the best-selling book, Anatomy of an Illness, delivered a speech titled Belief Becomes Biology to an audience assembled at a medical convention. He spoke at length of patients about to undergo surgery and the degree to which the speed and ease of their recovery was dependent on their beliefs – the stories they were telling themselves – prior to the surgery.
Without exception, those who believed their recovery would be slow, painful and troublesome experienced post-surgery pain and discomfort resulting in longer stays in the hospital than those who went into surgery believing they would recover rapidly, easily and generally without pain or discomfort.
He illustrated that the stories we tell ourselves become the realities we experience. I asked my host what he thought might happen if he began telling himself a story of sleeping through the night.
We talked of the need to tell and retell the story often as the old one was firmly entrenched deeply within his belief system. Somewhat reluctantly and, despite a great deal of cynicism, he agreed.
Several weeks passed and I called to ask if he was making any progress. He acknowledged that progress was slow however, he was pleased to report that three nights prior to my call he had, for the first time in years, enjoyed eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.
Today, some five months after our dinner, eight hours’ sleep has become the norm for my friend although, on occasion, he will wake up after approximately five hours. He proudly stated that on those nights, despite having only five hours’ sleep, he now wakes up energized, recharged and refreshed.
He has become a true devotee of The Habit of Telling Ourselves Good Stories and proudly shares how he has used the same storytelling method to address many other areas in his life.
A friend of mine recently explained why The Habit of Telling Ourselves Good Stories is so essential to our well-being. He pointed out that we all tell ourselves stories anyway so adopting The Habit of Telling Ourselves Good Stories makes perfect sense because, as he put it, “if we’re going to tell ourselves stories anyway, we will may as well tell ourselves good ones.”
Who can argue with logic like that?
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.