Kimberly was frustrated.
Twenty-four years old with no direction, her parents sent her to me for help.
“Not only do I not know what I want to do,” she confided, “I can’t ever be on time and I have a really difficult time getting started on something. Once I get going I’m fine. It’s just getting started…”
As if to make her point, she had arrived at the session ten minutes late.
The problems seemed overwhelming.
But I wasn’t buying any of it.
Not for a minute.
“It’s not true that you can’t be on time,” I responded, “It’s not true you can’t start something.”
“Those are just myths you have told yourself about who you are.”
And then I set to work to dispel those myths for her. Kimberly told me stories of successes she had while participating in athletics.
“Tell me about the times you were late for one of your games?” I asked.
“I would never have been late for a game!” she exclaimed.
“Oh… but I thought you couldn’t be on time.”
One myth down.
One myth to go.
Three or four weeks into our time together Kimberly was hard at work contacting people and learning about areas that interested her.
“You know,” I pointed out, “we’ve been at this now for almost a month and you’re progressing just fine. Which, I might add, must be impossible because you can’t get started.”
Good-bye myth number two.
So what about you?
To what myths are you still responding?
The Nature of Myths
All myths are stories. Whether they are stories of Greek heroes or tales we tell ourselves about ourselves, that’s all they are.
There may be some truth to the stories we tell but by and large they are over-generalizations.
They tend to start with phrases like:
(Late, clumsy, ignored, misunderstood, last on people’s list….)
“I’ll never be able to…”
(Change, explain myself, get people to understand…)
(Old, fat, young, shy, timid….)
The myths are born of generalizations our parents or caretakers made about us when we were growing up or generalizations we made about ourselves.
We take that information and, especially when we are under stress, we begin to believe and reinforce that information.
It puts us in a victim state, and thinking and feeling another way can seem overwhelming and cause us to feel ‘That’s just the way I am.”
The Great News
The great news about human beings is that our past does not have to equal our future.
We can change and understanding change can be helpful.
Change happens in an instant.
Though the steps leading up to change can take a while, change itself happens when the light goes on-when we make the switch from one behavior to another; from smoker to non –smoker; from couch potato to getting up and moving.
Change is a process not an event.
I learned a new way to swim four years ago. My technique is better but not yet where I want it to be. I’m changing but still in process.
Focusing on process is very important.
When we focus on events, we can get frustrated.
(I wanted to finish that project yesterday but it still isn’t done.”)
When we focus on the process, it gives us hope and perspective.
(“I might not have finished yesterday’s project, but in the last six months I’ve gotten much better at getting projects done.”)
Change is not as hard as we make it out to be and seldom takes as long as we thought it would.
Our imagination is limitless and our ability to create “mental mischief” has no boundaries. Because of that we have a tendency to create obstacles out of thin air. On reflection, you will find changes you made are often much less difficult than you first thought.
Three weeks after Kimberly and I started, I looked out the window and saw her pull up. Right on time. As she got out of the car I saw her pump her fist. She had done it.
It’s not as if Kimberly will never be late again. She sees now that she isn’t a victim of lateness. That was a myth.
What about you?
What myths do you need to challenge?
What “myth-stakes” do you need to correct?