Shifting the Story Line


A well done movie, beautifully written book, or catchy song have a way of immersing us in the experience of the moment. They capture stories that evoke positive sentiments of love and emotional connection as well as take us to dark and disturbing places. When a scene or element is particularly salient, we might even think about it again sometime after we’ve left the theater, finished the book, or the song has ended.

Our minds are busy every day, so many times each day, being the movie-maker, book author, or song writer of our lives. We take in sights and sounds and sensations that our mind works very hard to process. It considers, evaluates, judges – all to make sense of things for us and guide us.


Throughout the day, our minds tell us things – they write little short stories, sometimes drama and sometimes tragedy or comedy. These stores are as powerful as a movie, book or song that sticks with us because these stories shape our attitudes and actions. These stories have been written over the course of years, sketched on the pages of our mind through our experiences.

The stories of our lives have ‘stickiness’: They stay with us. They become habits of the mind. Consider:

  • What’s the first thought you had when you awoke this morning?
  • What’s the last thought you had as you were going to bed last night?
  • What words or phrases do you often use to describe how you’re feeling or what is happening?

Maybe you don’t know. Here’s the opportunity.


Consider the story you are writing of your life right now. If you want to bring your best to whatever you do, tune in to the channel where the voice in your head talks almost incessantly. Notice what it says. And listen.

After removing the static that is the business of our lives that keeps us from being present, identify the story lines. Are there any that really serve you? Celebrate them. Maybe the word ‘strong’ shows up as a way you characterize yourself, for example. Are there any story lines that get in the way of your greatness? Explore them. Maybe you say you can’t do something as your default reaction to something new, for example.

The story might be as short as a word – a single word has such power! See if you sense a different energy when you say or hear “can’t” versus “can” or “have to” versus “get to” or “work versus “play” or “deal with” versus “engage” or “struggle” versus “challenge” or “problem” versus “opportunity” [read more].

In my story, the phrase “I’m overwhelmed” repeats itself, enough that I finally noticed. As I’ve listened and examined the situations that evoke it, I’ve realize that it shows up when I’m thinking too much about all of the things I have to do, versus just being with the task at hand. It takes trusting that there’s enough time for anything that really matters, that I will know what really matters, that I have what it takes to do what needs to be done. The shift that enables me to move forward in a way that is of service to what I want to be creating in my life goes more like this “I have enough time and the capability to take care of what really matters.”


Replacing the default mantra with this new perspective brings me into the present moment, calms me, and enables me to refocus, all in a matter of seconds. (It helps, too, to take a deep breath. You can read more about other techniques that can bring you into the present moment HERE.) An invisible shift within my mind that has a profound effect on how I feel and what I can deliver.

Here are some questions that might support exploration into your stories:

  • When do you feel elated, encouraged, satisfied?
  • When do you feel deflated, discouraged, disappointed?
  • What kinds of things are you thinking and feeling in these different situations?
  • Is there a word or phrase or story line that keeps showing up repeatedly?
  • Is there a different perspective that opens you to a different way of framing what’s happening?
  • What story, phrase or word would most support you in moving forward in a way that aligns with what you want to be creating in your life?


* I took the opening photo on my summer vacation on the beautiful Irish Aran Island of Inis Oirr. This image is of the post master delivering mail on a day where clouds gave way to fantastic blue sky.

Author: Vicki L Flaherty

I am most alive when I am creating, whether through writing, photography, gardening, cooking, crafting, sewing, yoga. I enjoy traveling because it opens me to greater awareness and new possibilities. I find a special joy when I’ve helped someone see their brilliance and express their full potential. As I've focused on living more mindfully, I've found special joy in expressing myself through poetry and photography, and in truly being in relationship with those I meet along my journey.

7 thoughts on “Shifting the Story Line”

  1. I’ve tried to eliminate the phrases “have to” and “can’t” from my vocabulary because 99% of the time they are not true. Just this one shift has made such a difference. Vicki, your post is so true and the suggestions you make are wonderful story changers. Great tips! In my mind, my story should only be hopeful and joyful. And if I’m lucky enough to notice that isn’t the case, then a simple adjustment to my story fixes it quickly.

    1. We’re on the same path, Sunita! One of the things I am learning to do is be with those moments of discouragement, doubt, or unhappiness, too – accept them for what they are, and then use an inviting story to move past it. Sometimes the glass feels half full, and part of filling it up is noticing its emptiness. 🙂

      1. Oh, and in my reply, Sunita, I started to say “should” about something – so I’ll add another powerful word shift: “should” to “could” 🙂 You probably avoid that s-word, too?!

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