#33 Wrong Stories Wrap Up: I Screw Up My Life Believing Things That Aren't True

[TRANSCRIPT] I’m sitting between two people that hate each other. Pointed fingers, raised voices, tears. They're describing the EXACT SAME EVENT but their stories have nothing in common. Someone is telling a Wrong Story. Or maybe they’re both telling a partially Wrong Story. 

How did I get here? 

I’d neglected this remote office. I’d known there were problems, but I had bigger fish to fry. And my negligence had given the Wrong Stories time to take root and grow.

So my rightful punishment was to sit in the middle of the mess and try to make sense of it. To find the truth. But once two people lock in on different versions of history, that’s an impossible task. There's no video. There's no impartial witness. There's no truth.  

This is the real danger of Wrong Stories. They can take on a life of their own. They can move in any direction the imagination chooses. They can become any size. And they have a habit of leaving carnage in their wake.

Remember my paycheck Wrong Story from post #29. My story grew larger and darker by the hour. I worked myself into a mindset where I knew I was right. And I was willing to burn down both of our houses to prove it.

So Wrong Stories are potential disasters that have to be PURGEd quicker than ASAP.

WRONG STORIES WRAP UP

I’ve been talking about Wrong Stores for several posts and now it’s time to wrap up. To do that let’s head all the way back to post #27. In this post I introduced the concept of my IF. The theories or ideas or strategies that play out in my head and propel me forward. 

From that post you’ll recall that my IF had three parts. GRATITUDE, ALIGN, PURGE. And it just so happens that their first letters spell the word GAP. Which is appropriate because I’m trying to bridge the gap between where I am and where these IF's can take me. So here are the three parts of my IF in their entirety.

IF I practice more GRATITUDE I will grow.
IF I ALIGN my thoughts, words, and actions with my map I will grow.
IF I PURGE “Wrong Stories” I will grow.

With these in mind, here is my current map.

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Sometime in the next couple posts I’m going to do a thorough map review so I won’t hit it too hard right now. 

So this is how we got to IF and, more specifically, how we got to PURGE Wrong Stories. And I think the easiest way to put a bow on this topic is by reaching back to a favorite quote I mentioned in post #29.

“Your life is hemmed in by the things you know to be true that aren’t.”

Below I’ll use this quote to summarize our PURGE Wrong Stories discussions.

MY LIFE IS HEMMED IN BY...
PERMANENT NEGATIVE SELF TALK

Remember post #31 where I talked about removing all permanent negative self talk. For example...

I am a terrible writer - permanent and unhealthy.
This post sucks, it needs a lot more editing - temporary and recoverable

If I use permanent negative self talk the only option I leave myself is surrender. I might as well crack a beer and plop down in front of the boob tube. Which I’ve already tried many times, so I know it doesn’t lead to much.

My prospects are a whole lot brighter when I delete permanent negative self-talk. When I keep it temporary so I have room for recovery and growth. 

MY LIFE IS HEMMED IN BY...
ASSIGNING PERMANENT NEGATIVE TRAITS TO OTHERS

If I’m going to look at my negatives as temporary it’s only fair that I do the same for others.

Remember our discussion about Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE) and Cognitive Dissonance. Remember that negative behavior is most often driven by simple stuff like hunger or lack of sleep. Or the other biggies that dominate people’s minds - money, relationships, career path, elder care, child care, etc.

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And don't forget what can happen if I let these negative stories about others take root. Remember the frightening book Mistakes Were Made But Not By Me and this horrible quote.

“Most people, when directly confronted by evidence that they are wrong, do not change their point of view or course of action but justify it even more tenaciously. Even irrefutable evidence is rarely enough to pierce the mental armor of self-justification.”

I can’t let this shit get started.

My best defense against this dark art is scouring my own history for similar behavior. If someone is short with me, I try to recall a time I was short with someone. If they did it because they’re a permanent ass, then I must also be a permanent ass. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If I create a world where I'm always innocent until proven guilty and others are guilty until proven innocent, I’m going to wrongly throw lots of people on the scrap heap. And I’m going to be a righteous but lonely fella.

MY LIFE IS HEMMED IN BY...
PROJECTING MY NEGATIVES ONTO OTHERS

Remember this quote from post #28...

“I see you as I am.”

Point being that the negatives I see in others might actually be flaws I dislike about myself. Maybe my sensitivity is high because I know I'm also an offender. Maybe I’m projecting my flaws onto you. Maybe it’s easier to think less of someone else than to look at the real source of my problem - me.

Like when I’m down on myself for procrastinating. And instead of coming to terms with my sloth, I raise hell with one of my kids for putting off their studies. 

I’ve done this. I take my screw-up, project it onto them, and pounce. I give them the sermon I’m too big of a wuss to give myself. 

This is dangerous and unfair. I need to be more self aware. I need to pay more conscious attention to my insecurities and deal with them in a healthier fashion. Avoid the dick move of ripping someone else’s rear end for my shortcoming.

MY LIFE IS HEMMED IN BY...
BELIEVING I CAN PREDICT HOW CURRENT EVENTS WILL AFFECT MY FUTURE

Remember this quote from post #30

“Good thing, bad thing, who knows”. 

In that post I shared my Wall Street story and how horrible I am at predicting whether current events will lead to good or bad. Remember how many flip flops there were in that single story? Remember this summary of what I learned?

Stuff that I think is great in the moment can turn to shit over time.
Stuff that I think is shit in the moment can turn to great over time.
Great stuff can turn to shit and then back to great given enough time - and vice versa.

This point bothers me. How can I be so stupid that I don’t even know what’s good for my future? That sounds really bad, but I’ve convinced myself it’s the wrong question. A better question for me is how can I be so arrogant to believe that I can predict the twists and turns of my future? That’s a much healthier question for me. It keeps me more focused on the present, and it helps me overcome another issue of mine.

I hate to lose. I want to win and achieve and I want only the best for my family. And this quote seems to suggest that I should be a happy go lucky loser. But I’ve come to find that that’s not how this quote works. I still want and strive and care. There’s no less effort, no less sadness when I don’t achieve. But now I’m quicker to realize that even though things didn’t go my way today, all is not lost. Maybe there’s a victory here somewhere that hasn’t shown its face yet. 

This kind of thinking helps me a lot. It’ takes the edge off. It leads to a quicker and smoother recovery when I fail, which is the key to getting back on the growth wagon.

Bottom line, I’m slowly, begrudgingly becoming grateful for how terrible I am at predicting how an outcome will affect my future. 

MY LIFE IS HEMMED IN BY...
HINKING FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION

In post #32 we talked about self-efficacy. About having positive beliefs in my ability to achieve a given task. But there’s a difference between having positive beliefs and believing that I can’t fail. If I’m doing challenging things that lead to growth, failure will always be an option. How boring and non-motivating would it be to only do stuff where I knew I’d be successful? 

The risk of failure is where the excitement and energy come from. 

So to maximize my performance, I must spend just a little time on the reality train. Remember this Robert Bandura quote…

“Resolute strivers do not delude themselves about the tough odds of lofty attainments, but they believe they have what it takes to beat those odds.”

So I must approach challenges with open eyes. Accept that failure is a real possibility, and then Get To Work. Focus on my belief in my ability and raise bloody hell.

SUMMARY

This is, once again, the quote that I think best sums up our PURGE Wrong Stories discussion.

“Your life is hemmed in by the things you know to be true that aren’t.”

I am so wrong in so many of the things I tell myself. I am not a mouth breather. I am not a victim. I am not limited by my current skills. 

In order to maximize my growth I must PURGE Wrong Stories quicker than ASAP. Before they take root. Before they end up in disaster like my opening story did. In that case, by the time I engaged, there were zero facts left among the ashes. Both sides were clinging to stories that couldn’t possibly both be true. And in the end someone lost their job because I let a Wrong Story flourish on my watch. 

Shame on me. I need to make sure that never happens again…

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