For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Everyone has their story. We are all different. We are all the same. Gregge Tiffen (Personal Session)
Consciously or not our decisions are rarely, if ever, based on just the facts. Rather it is our stories that guide (or control) the choices that we make. For the most part, our history along with our thoughts, beliefs and feelings create our stories.
Take the simple choice between ‘store’ brand and ‘recognized’ brand for example. Some people hold a story that the ‘store’ brand is less expensive than and the same quality (maybe even made in the same place) as the ‘recognized’ brand. Others prefer the ‘recognized’ brand based on their story that it is superior in quality. Unless we’re challenged by someone or presented with new information, we rarely question our choices. And, we definitely don’t think about the stories on which our decisions are based.
But, perhaps doing so would support us to be more aware of and to question the stories we hold around the bigger choices in life.
I recently found myself angry (you were wondering what that quote had to do with stories, right?) about a situation in my community near the quiet home I love. A nearby neighbor is proposing to construct several large greenhouses for cultivating organic vegetables and marijuana (it’s legal here, you know). His story is that everything grown is for his family’s personal consumption. Based on the size of the facility and just a bit of research, that story just doesn’t add up. And, it triggered my best ‘how dare he’ reaction.
Peace, joy, happiness? Nowhere in my sight.
After a few days of being in this reaction each time I thought about it, I decided to look at my stories. My reaction was so strong that it couldn’t just be based on the facts. First, was my story that his story just didn’t add up. Underneath that I found a story that ‘he must think I’m stupid’ (talk about taking it personally), along with stories about the negative impacts on the peace, quiet, tranquility of our neighborhood. It took me a while to realize that I was disrupting my peace with all the stories racing around in my head.
It was a sobering and empowering wake-up call to become aware that I’d allowed my stories to undermine my peace. I challenged myself to shift. Not my stories, but how I was holding them. How could I respond from a place of care without taking it personally? How might my response be different, if I allowed compassion to enter the scene?
I felt lighter immediately. And, for the most part, I’m carrying this lightness into my written comments to the governing board as well as my conversations with others in the community. Along the way I discovered that maintaining my personal peace doesn’t necessarily require changing everything in my story. Rather, it invites me to look at my story piece by piece and to be willing to evaluate each with a different intention and a willingness to reject those pieces that stand in the way of my peace.
And, that’s a story that I’m aiming to call forth more often.