Changing the narrative

Yesterday, a really smart lady brought up the subject of “changing my narrative” and how necessary it is to reprogram my outlook on a couple things about my life.

It got me to thinking about this notion of controlling your narrative and being self-aware enough to know when you need to change it. It’s not the first time I’ve thought about it but it’s the first time I’ve thought about it in such a specific way in a long time.

Our narratives are often dictated to us when we’re kids. Our parents, our schoolmates, teachers, bullies, the cool kids, the smart kids, the assistant principals, coaches, and everyone in between all have a hand in shaping our narrative. As times have progressed and society has become more aware, there’s been a lot of emphasis on The Media and how it can negatively frame our narratives related to issues like weight, “beauty,” and gender stereotypes.

As we get older there are other figures that help shape our narrative, sometimes for good, sometimes not. Our professors, coworkers, and supervisors feed us input that go into our narrative.

Then at some point it’s written. Our memories and experiences and the emotions attached to them become codified in our minds and hearts and our narrative is set. It becomes the story we tell ourselves and the story we tell about ourselves and for better or worse, it guides us and shapes how we navigate through life.

But our stories are every-changing. Our narrative doesn’t have to be permanent. It’s incumbent upon all individuals, and organizations, to be self-aware enough to identify those key moments that demand we take control of our narratives.

At some point we just can’t let ourselves be that kid who lived on the fringes of all the cool groups, desperate to be included. At some point we can’t let ourselves be the adult who is constantly chasing some nebulous definition of success.

Organizations face this challenge every day. Social media has proven to be a blade that truly cuts both ways as some companies are able to get their message out and engage their audiences with a personal and creative touch that pays dividends. Others have seen consumers take control of the narrative with viral shares of negative reviews and screen caps of poorly phrased statements by a social media manager who was in over the heads or having a particularly bad day. Once lost, control of the narrative can be difficult to regain.

Last year I had the pleasure of speaking to the corporate leadership of a oil well drilling services company that was struggling to survive the incredible drop in oil barrel prices. When drilling throughout the United States slowed down, and in many cases simply stopped, demand for their services ended. They wanted to take this as an opportunity to do a bit of a reset.

They wanted to lay the groundwork for the time when oil prices would rebound so that when the drilling resumed, they would be well positioned as the most recognizable, customer-oriented service provider in the industry.

They wanted to change the narrative. They did an incredible job redesigning their website, they made some key decisions related to how they approached their corporate partners and suppliers, and they hired a couple of incredibly talented people to help shape their marketing strategy and training programs. As oil prices have crept back up, they have begun to reap the rewards of their bold decision to take control of their narrative. They refused to let circumstances dictate who they were going to be.

Every day we decide whether or not we will own our narrative or if we will allow others to write out stories. Every day we have to decide whether or not we’re willing to finally put periods on sentences that have had question marks on them. Every day we have the opportunity to close the book on the story we’ve been writing for too many years and start crafting a new one.

Take that opportunity. Take that opportunity to tell your story, the way you want to tell it to everyone who needs to hear it….especially yourself.

Be Well and Kind,