Stay on Your Path: Own Your Narrative

How do you talk about who you are? What words do you choose to describe yourself? Your narrative tells others about you. Often, our answer depends on our primary purpose in any given situation. According to Muse, it’s the number one most popular interview question. 

The same holds true in social situations. We often answer with what we think the other person wants to hear and will get what we desire That sounds simple enough, but it is certainly not easy to be concise, relevant, and genuine. 

Staying on your path is about telling yourself who you are and then carefully choosing your words to tell others. It follows suit that once you study, or just raise your awareness about where your money goes and how your time is spent, you will want to be more purposeful in talking about who you are.  

If watching your time and money revolve around taking notice, the third piece of the puzzle assists in making conscious choices. These are not I should or when I statements.  This is a clear declaration of oneself. This statement is the direct result of knowing who you are. 

Words to Use

How do words impact our reality is covered in this article on Psych Central. The authors give several explanations for why using the right words can transform our reality. Their conclusion:  Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can change your brain.

Your narrative is your story. It is more than your “headline.” It drills down into your why. Watch Simeon Sineck’s Ted talk for that, if you have not. For example, My headline is Wayfinder. My narrative, about my career is:

My work was about implementing new programs and ideas. I was a change agent, first as an advocate then as a manager. I like showing others the way. Now I write and talk about leadership; helping others to succeed.

Honoring Your Choices

When you take the first two steps on the path and view your values with hard evidence of what you spend both your money and time on, you are now in a position to step up to the plate and put that into alignment with your narrative. Making conscious choices about how you tell your story is coming into agreement with your values. Showing the true you, uncovered from the clues that have been hiding in your finances and schedule. Coming into alignment, makes everything easier. It’s living your values.

Planning or Doing

Are you still talking about your life in the future tense? Are you using statements akin to Someday I will start a company; Tomorrow I will have time to really focus on that team member or a specific problem. For example, you may be always planning but never doing.   

Doing is saying something like:  I write and speak because I want to connect to people, I want to show my vulnerability and I want to show my strength that has helped me because I think it might inspire others.  Do you actually put your money where your mouth is and do those things you always say you will do such as: write a book; climb a mountain; visit China; make time to catch up with a colleague?

These statements don’t have to be about big goals or dreams. It is about closing the disconnect between who you think you are and what you actually do. This is the point when you can honestly see yourself. It’s about how you are spending your money and time in service of meeting your own goals. 

For years and years, I should-ed myself about being a writer. Then, when I actually looked at my spending and where I went, and what I did each day, I knew actually what was going on. I was talking about wanting to be a writer more than I was writing. 

Two years ago, seeing my own disconnect I stopped planning and started doing. At first, I started writing for just 10 minutes a day. That was all I could do. But, I started on the path. It’s like a muscle that needs to be flexed and trained. Now I have a consistent writing practice, including mentors, classes and colleagues. This has yielded a consistent blog posting every other week, several finished fiction and creative non-fiction pieces and a collection of short stories in progress.  

Coming into Alignment

This is the penultimate mountain to climb to unite the path. Bring your time, money, and who you say you are into alignment for smoother sailing down the river of life.  

Meanwhile, I understand that it is a lot more comfortable sitting at home on the couch and talking about what you plan to do instead of doing it. There is great self-esteem boosting in choosing to take on your own challenges. To actually become and do who you really are.  

Another Personal Example:

When I took notice of my patterns. I could see that I was in alignment with my time and money. What was not in alignment was my narrative. I would say:  I’m the mom who can’t lose 10 pounds, dated the wrong partners, and was always working. Those things are true but they are not the only truth. I was a single mother, I had a good job, I was active in my community, I made time to go to the park every day, I made time to read to my kid every day, that’s who I was. But what I said about myself was all negative. It is about showing a balanced view and appreciating the things you do that are working.   

What’s Next

Be authentic and keep yourself on track by thinking about what I spend my money on, what I spend my time on and what I say about it.

For me, I am Ilene Marcus, I spend my time helping people make simple changes to improve their lives. I spend my discretionary money on writing classes, charitable causes, my puppy, and my car (I drive a lot). What I say about myself:

Every day I work on being a better writer, on being a little kinder, a little smarter, and a lot more loving. And I will do that for the rest of my life.

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