A farmer and an anthropologist pass through the same undeveloped land. The farmer sees the soil and envisions growing crops. The anthropologist sees signs of an ancient civilization and reconstructs its history. One terrain, two interpretations; both are right. The data viewed validates each individual’s story.

Beliefs become reality; you become what you think and feel.

Using beliefs and assumptions, you create your own personal story and the themes of that story. The plot that you create defines and orients you in the present and guides you toward the future. The stories you tell about your life become your life.

Similarly, your internal beliefs determine your perceptions, including how you select, register and process everything you encounter.

Scientists have gone to a lot of trouble to discover what mothers have always known about banishing closet monsters—that a placebo generates the effect of the accompanying story. The inert pill is really a story of expectation, taking the form of a medicine to work its magic. At the same time, the patient is also prescribed some expectations, and in the majority of cases, they manifest. The effect validates the power of story. The story generates a truth so powerful that it can even reverse the pharmacological effect of a real medicine. The placebo is a white lie, a fiction that becomes a truth. By anticipating an experience, one can create it.

Your experiences are always consistent with your assumptions.

You See What You Look For

Change begins with the recognition that you are the author of your own story. People perceive and remember what fits into their personal plot—an internal model of oneself and one’s world. Beliefs and assumptions dictate what you look for and attribute meaning to. You always find or create that which validates those beliefs, and ignore, mistrust, disbelieve—or more likely don’t notice—anything that doesn’t fit into that pattern.

I asked a group of executives in a seminar if any had seen a yellow jeep in the last month. Only one had. I asked them to close their eyes and visualize a yellow jeep, going over all the specific detail of how it looked from different angles. I asked them to notice if they later saw a yellow jeep. All fourteen people later called or emailed to say that they saw at least one yellow jeep in the following week, and most in the first two days.

People see what they look for. And what they look for—that which appears on the radar screen—is determined by belief and assumption.

Such influential beliefs must be fully and consciously known in order to revise the ones that don’t work and create new ones for personal and career growth. When you stop telling yourself all the things you should say and cease listening for what you ought to hear, you can begin to more fully craft your own story.

Half the struggle is becoming tired of that old story: the one with too many work hours, constant themes of pressure at work, shortness of time, or personal neglect because of caretaking others. Or insisting on being in love with who you hope someone will become, rather than who they are.


Four Basic Inquiries for Storyline Evaluation

1. What do you want to change?
If there is a personal problem, barrier, or obstacle, it is not a simple matter of getting over it, countering, or adapting to it. The problem is not there until you create it. Consider creating something else instead. For example, convert a fear of public speaking into an intention with a specific commitment.

2. What do you want to let go?
No matter how entrenched the process or strong the hope, the bottom line is, “Is it working?” It’s not easy to let go of an unfulfilled hope. The most difficult goodbye is to what might have been. Are you tired of trying to work harder at getting someone to respond in just the right way?

3. What do you want to avoid?
There is always the pull of the old and the fear of the new. Yet there is no future in repetition. For example, to avoid engaging with someone who drains you is to protect your energy for a more productive choice.

4. What do you want to keep and enhance?
Your life is the manifestation of your beliefs. Changing your mind changes your life, as beliefs, goals and visions drive action. Choose carefully what you engage. The best way to escape an ongoing problem is not to create it.

Out of the Old, Into the New

The question then naturally arises, “How do I get out of the story?”

But the question assumes the story is there, a given in the universe. The story—the proverbial “box” of the familiar and accepted, as in “think outside the box”—becomes the obstacle…yet the truth is, it is not there until you create it. And people are always free to change their minds, beliefs and core assumptions.

Recognizing yourself as the author, the creator of the story, challenges an assumed model and leads to the deeper question, which then becomes, “How do I create something else instead?”

A new story must contain the desired new storylines. To simply stop doing something is not complete change; a new story means incorporating new behavior and beliefs. You have to embody—actually live—this new story you want. Abstaining from an old story—such as excessive drinking or eating—is a beginning. But you have to have a new story to be in before you can give up an old story.

Next issue, we’ll look at six principles for beginning a new story.

DAVID KRUEGER, M.D. is an Executive S
trategist/Professional Coach who mentors executives,
entrepreneurs and authors. He is author of 11
books on success, money, work and self-development.
This article is excerpted from Dr. Krueger’s
soon-to-be-pubished 12th book,
Live a New Life Story:
The Essentials of Change, Reinvention, and Personal Success.