Listening to a podcast the other day, James Clear was being interviewed. The author of Atomic Habits, James was sharing his thoughts on habits and mindset. Having read the book, most of what he shared was very familiar, until he mentioned this exercise. I did it, and it changed the story I’ve been telling myself.

I am going to paraphrase the exercise Clear shared…

“Grab two sheets of paper. Think about the last ten years of your life. You are about to write two stories, and everything you write has to be true for each story. To start, think about all of the failures, misses, and negative experiences from the past ten years. Write them down on the first sheet of paper. Then, on the second sheet of paper, write down all of your successes, wins, areas where you’ve grown, and positive experiences from the past ten years. Remember, whatever you write on either page needs to be true.”

This morning, I sat down and did this exercise. I spent less time on the first list – the failures, misses, and bad experiences. In full transparency, I didn’t want to fill my head with those things. That said, I did come up with a good list… losing a job, a divorce, having to move out of my home, navigating financial challenges… there were a few things to include, all of them true. It would be easy to stop here and just read this story over and over. 

I didn’t stop there, though…

The magic happened when I transitioned and started to write down all of the things on my positive experiences list… 

After losing that job, I launched my own company. After getting divorced, I discovered a new relationship that I love. Moving out of my home brought my family to a new place that I like even better. At the same time, I grew that business and built some powerful tools, launched a blog and a podcast, cultivated amazing relationships, began coaching, and traveled to Nepal. From day one, we’ve always had enough. My family is healthy and strong, and my kids are preparing for college. 

Same life, just a different story. 

When I finished writing down that second list, I understood what James Clear was trying to share. These were two very different stories – both 100% true – about the same life. As the author of my story, I get to choose which one I will write and read… Negative or positive? This isn’t meant to negate the “bad” things that happen to us. Challenges and struggles come in and out of our lives every day. They’re part of our story. This exercise is simply a way to refocus and reflect on what’s good. When we do that, we open our minds to what’s possible. 

The Takeaway

Grab the paper. Do the exercise. Choose your story.

Ready for more?

Follow me here for more insights just like this one to help define your story. You can also listen in to my Grit Meets Growth podcast here or on your favorite podcast platforms. Episodes are also available on YouTube.