Is It a Story or a Feeling?

I slept like crap today. My head hurts, I’m exhausted, and there are a million things vying for my attention. Those are just feelings, however, and feelings pass — but not if you reinforce them.

This morning, in the bathroom, I noticed I was telling myself a deflating story. “Maybe I’m not good enough to achieve this. What if I’m burned out? Am I just doomed to fail?” As I looked into the mirror, I realized: “Wait a minute. Are you rattling off this story because you think it’s true, or just because you feel bad right now?”

When people talk about visualization, affirmations, or the law of attraction, what their arguments ultimately boil down to is this: Your subconscious is powerful, and you can tell yourself any story that serves you until it seeps in and gets you a certain result. Of course, if you tell yourself a disempowering story, then that will also take effect.

It’s easy to tell yourself a crushing story when you already feel bad. It’s counterintuitive to give yourself a pep talk, raise your fist in the air, and say, “Oh yeah, I’m gonna rock this day!” when you’ve slept 5 hours and your head feels like a construction site — but that’s exactly when you need an empowering story the most. Don’t double down on feeling bad by telling yourself a story that makes you feel even worse. Cut the loop off before it starts, and remind yourself that your grogginess, grumpiness, or exhaustion — like all things — will pass.

Ask yourself: “Is this a feeling or a story?” If it’s a feeling, let it end where it begins. Frustration is just frustration. If you don’t make it into a story, it will fade. And if it’s a story, it better be one that helps you deal with the feeling rather than just wallow in it. Accept your feelings, choose your stories. That’s how you take charge of your life even on days when the deck is stacked against you.