Think of the last goal you set that remains uncompleted. If someone were to ask, and you felt like sharing, what reason would you give?
“Things got in the way.”
“It wasn’t the right fit for my life.”
“I never follow through.”
“Slow progress is still progress.”
All these phrases communicate that you are not at the place you envisioned, but they say a lot more about you and how you see your world.
Every year, over three million books are published in the United States alone. Many of these books can easily be placed into the same genre. Some talk about the same subjects, subjects people have been writing about for decades. Humans are intense in their desire to share their perspectives. As Brene Brown noted,
We're wired for story. In a culture of scarcity and perfectionism, there's a surprisingly simple reason we want to own, integrate, and share our stories of struggle. We do this because we feel the most alive when we're connecting with others and being brave with our stories - it's in our biology.
-Brene Brown, Rising Strong: The Reckoning, The Rumble. The Revolution
But what is your story? The words you use to describe your circumstances are important in how you see yourself and share your life with others. They make up your narrative, and they don’t just spontaneously appear. Your inner voice combines your conscious thoughts with beliefs from your caregivers, early experiences, and culture. And it can be changed.
The first draft
Your caregivers were the first source of your self-talk.  Perhaps you were the “smart one,” or maybe you were always told to learn from your older sibling. Thus began your story, created by the people who taught you their culture and beliefs during your childhood.
Research shows that parenting style matters with regard to an individual’s outcomes. The parenting you experienced can affect your relationships, self-image, and even your physical health. The messages your brain sends when faced with a challenge may mirror the language you heard when your young mind was soaking in everything. Being aware of where your story started can help you change the ending.
Becoming the author of your story
There are parts of our story that we cannot immediately change, like the setting, the characters, and the plot. Odds are you will wake up tomorrow around the same people and in the same place. Sometimes these core elements must be changed because they are at odds with living a sustainable life, and this discussion is not meant to discourage anyone from changing unsafe situations.
However, our narratives also contain themes, messages, and symbolism that we can change no matter where we are on our journey. You can create a different outcome for your story by observing and developing these components.
Themes, messages, and symbolism
Think about the story you tell yourself. Are you tragic, beleaguered, or cursed? Are you lucky or blessed? When something goes wrong, your first thought may tell you the theme that you have adopted for your life. As the author, it is yours to change if you don’t like it.
Practicing thoughtful mindfulness can help you uncover the cognitive distortions that contribute to your theme and messaging. Confirmation bias, or a “mental filter,” can take your current view and filter out information that challenges it. Overgeneralization can cause one mistake to cloud your view of unrelated occurrences. These and other distortions are common as your brain organizes your world with incomplete information.
Change is hard, but regular gratitude practice can begin to frame your experience more positively. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help you address unhelpful thought patterns that affect your feelings and decisions. Putting coping skills and positive practices into action can help you write a new chapter in your story and put a more helpful spin on past plot lines.
What’s your story? Find a pen and let’s get writing.
Stephanie Barca is a therapist at Benjamin Holmes Counseling, a group of professionals well-versed in assisting clients to transform their story.
 Piersanti, S. (2023). The 10 Awful Truths About Book Publishing. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. 10 Awful Truths About Publishing (bkconnection.com)  I wrote a book for parents who want to speak empowering words over their babies and toddlers, available on Amazon.com here: https://a.co/d/0ghbYxG . However, children are never too old for their caregiver’s encouragement!  For more on the four styles of parenting. Morin, A. (2022). The 4 Types of Parenting Styles and How Kids are Affected. Verywell Family. www.verywellfamily.com/types-of-parenting-styles-1095045  Davenport, B. (2022). Writing a Story? 10 Key Parts of a Story You Must Include. Authority Pub. 10 Parts Of A Story (Essential Elements You Must Include) (authority.pub).