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Growth Mindset

Our Mountains and Monsters: The Past Isn't Fixed

Change your story, change your tomorrow.

Source: AI-Generated / Dall-E / OpenAI
Source: AI-Generated / Dall-E / OpenAI

"With a twist and a turn, and a literal pirouette, Donald Trump has now joined the New York City Ballet."

If I were to say that, you'd laugh at me. You'd scream, "That makes no sense!" And you'd be right: That would sound ridiculous. However, clients come to me every week and tell me that they plan to do X, Y, and Z in the coming days, weeks, and months. They won't. And I scream, “That makes no sense.” And I’m right.

How you tell your past matters

Clients often sit opposite of me and tell me their worst stories of defeat—filled with the most cortisol possible. They live into these stories, shoulders slumped and energy drained. They narrate and summarize all that has gone wrong in their lives—as if I was trying to convince a jury—by offering up a closing argument that proclaims their victim status.

I too can string together a list of my losses and defeats, but it has never helped me. I discovered, I can’t continue to share and live into my story of defeat and expect to have a better tomorrow. It won't work.

You see what you practice seeing

The next thing I discovered was: Your past is not fixed. You can tell it in two fundamentally different ways: From a threat-filled and defeat-laden perspective of a victim. Or, from a growth- and triumph-filled perspective of a hero.

At this point, people will often challenge me and say that these bad things really have happened to them. I don't doubt that. They are right. But then they will claim, "I'm just telling the truth." And that's where they're wrong. Every story we tell can be told from different perspectives. Stop holding onto the idea that it can only be told from one perspective. Stop believing that you "own your truth." There's no truth to own. There are only stories to be told.

If you want to succeed tomorrow, in any area of your life, you have to tell it from the perspective that predicts a better tomorrow. You have to understand how the events of your life prepared you for today and tomorrow. That's the hallmark of resilience. I know it's hard to look at some ugly parts of our past and to find meaning in it, but you must integrate that into the timeline of your life in ways that do not leave you defeated. And yes, life is difficult and will remain difficult. I don’t deny that. This may seem like a cliché, but from adversity and loss, we can learn. Horrible things have happened to all of us--me included. But I cannot continue to tell my stories of defeat. It will not serve me. It does not serve you.

Never in this life will Donald Trump join the ballet because it's not consistent with his story. And you will never be the hero of your tomorrow if you continue to tell a story of defeat. You have to map out the stories of your past, year by year, challenge by challenge, into a coherent timeline and tell it only from the perspective of the hero. What did you learn at each pivotal point in your life? What were your wins? When did you overcome something against all odds? What hidden strengths did you discover that you now possess?

A few years ago, I had the chance to talk to a woman that I had dated as a young man. I looked back on those years with regret. I felt that I wasn't kind to her. In fact, I knew it. When we spoke, I immediately apologized. She stopped me and said, "I only remember you with kindness. You were always loving. Those are some of the best memories of my life." In that moment, I realized that her story of me was different than mine. Your past is not fixed. Mine was not fixed. I wasn't the monster I thought I was. Nor was I a saint, but I am resilient today because of the ways I tell my stories.

AI Generated / Dall-E / OpenAI
Source: AI Generated / Dall-E / OpenAI

People think that the Hero's Journey is about seeking and gaining the object, the rock, the stone, the ring, or the championship belt as in the original Rocky movie. It's not. Rocky didn't actually win at the end of the movie, but he was radically changed. He was transformed. He changed the way he saw himself in this world and saw the landscape of his life. He was no longer the "Bum of the Month." The goal of the Hero's Journey is to change your perspective. With that change, everything else changes. You'll no longer see the world as a place of insurmountable threat—filled with monsters you can't beat and mountains you can't traverse.

Mountains and monsters shrink when we change the way we look at our lives. With this change, you will see challenges and potential opportunities everywhere. At this point, people will push back and say, "Peacock, what the heck are you talking about? My life isn't filled with mountains and monsters." It is. I will tell them that their health challenges are seen as monsters in their minds. They will say, “I can never overcome this or beat that…” And their mounting bills are the growing hills of threat that surround them. They will say, “I can’t dig out of this debt…”

Mountains and monsters surround us until we change our stories

Write the story of your wins. Write it over and over again, summarize it, distill it, make it a character sketch, and then share it with others. Visualize it. See it in the theater of your memories. Claim that new story. And when people suggest that you were the victim of your past. Reject that role. Tell them about your triumphs. Reject all stories of defeat. Tell them the story of your wins. Tell them the stories of how you discovered opportunities where others saw darkness.

Tell them what makes you the hero of your life

In the end, we know that Trump doesn't join the ballet. And you won't build the future you want tomorrow if you continue to tell the stories of defeat from your yesterdays.

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