If you work in corporate America, you probably have a polished and well-rehearsed story you tell about yourself.
Maybe it’s not Oprah Winfrey’s rags-to-riches tale; indeed, it may not seem to you like much of a story at all. But if you’ve written your LinkedIn profile or rehearsed an elevator pitch, you have at least begun to shape your experiences and attributes into story form.
As you move ahead or change direction in your career, you revise the story so it reflects your growth and highlights your latest achievements.
But despite how impressive your story is on paper, it’s less likely to become a success story if the voice inside your head keeps telling a different, doubt-filled version.
Perhaps it seems best to try to ignore or silence the harsh assessments that bounce around your skull. But a book on leadership suggests you tune in because a person’s life stories affect the future more than any set of inborn characteristics or leadership skills.
“Your life stories define your leadership, including the impact of parents, teachers, coaches, illness, poverty, trauma, rejection and other difficult experiences,” said Bill George, author of “Discover Your True North: Becoming an Authentic Leader” (Wiley, 2015).
Your life stories can spur you to excellence, but they also can hold you back. It depends on how you frame the stories and how you narrate them, consciously or otherwise, in your head. This narration — generally internal chatter called self-talk — can be constructive or crippling.
For example, you may tell yourself that you’re stuck. Though that’s not a story per se, it’s a lesson learned from one or more life stories that can shape your attitudes, decisions and behavior — and, therefore, your prospects if you allow it.
“The way you deal with your greatest adversities will shape your character far more than the adversities themselves,” George wrote. “Much like iron is forged by heat, your significant challenges and your most painful experiences present the greatest opportunities for your personal growth.”
It’s how you understand yourself through your stories that matter, not the facts of your life, he said.
Since self-awareness leads to self-acceptance, paying attention to the stories you tell yourself can empower you professionally and personally.
This article was originally posted to Omaha.com