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How Your Words Can Shape Your Reality

By Laura Perry, Copywriting & Editing Intern at Talent Academy

We, the human race, are storytellers. And there is one story in particular that we are incredibly skilled at telling: our own.

The three ladies laughed happily

When we tell our own stories, we manage to convey our progression, adversity, a sense of triumph, and even give a sense of hope for what the future has in store for us. But entrepreneur Andrew Peek shares his belief that our stories are going to be our downfall.

Stories are consistent, they follow what we’ve come to call “the hero’s journey”. When we see this portrayed on the screen, we see change happen within the hero, while the world stays constant. Unfortunately for us, reality isn’t like that. The world is ever-changing, moving at pace so fast it’s difficult to keep up.

Picture with "change"

Studies have shown that our willingness to change decreases as we grow older, and this is built into our expectations of people. Peek highlights that we expect our friends to understand white privilege, while we are satisfied if our parents avoid stereotypes, and we only hope for the best for our grandparents. We resign ourselves to the idea that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, a card which Peek says we won’t be able to play for much longer.

The rate of technological change is exponential. Although it took some time for it to show itself, the rate at which it grows rapidly increases, with Peek noting that the amount of technological progress that occurred in the entirety of the 20th century, was essentially repeated in just 14 years of the 21st. This will decrease to just 7 years, then eventually a 20th century’s worth of change will be happening multiple times per year. Technology delivers new ideas, which in turn change our behaviour. But we still fail to predict this change and are slow to adapt.

Certain careers have been placed on a pedestal for years, being labeled as “safe” and “secure”. But these same careers can easily be performed by robots, and with the rise in automation, these jobs will be the first on the chopping block. And yet, Peek asks “are we going to tell our kids to avoid these jobs? Or are we wrapped in the warmth of the story we’ve been telling for decades?”

Picture with "write something"

Confining our identities to a neat story is suffocating. It restrains us and restricts the possibilities of who we might be. Peek believes that “the further we are into a story, the less likely we are to want to rewrite it. So we stick to the script.”

Peek challenges us to reevaluate how we view our identities. Rather than writing “the story of me”, try “the idea of me”.

Stories are written once. They have a single author who has complete control over how we perceive events that allow the story to remain intact. Stories force us to view events as “either or” situations, implying that there is only one correct answer.

Ideas are rewritten everyday. Being an idea unties us from distant goals, allowing us to let go of “what should be, for what is”. Ideas aren’t built on “either or”, they’re built on “and”, a word that reminds us that both answers can be true, presenting us with an intersection from which a third possibility can emerge.

A shining light

Ideas have the capacity to evolve, unlike stories that are rigid and simple. Take the ideas of gender and mental health for example. In recent years they have come to mean so much more than their originally binary meanings.

Stories are how we have come to construct our identity, and we are terrified of losing track of who we are. But portraying yourself as an idea rather than a story gives you the power to constantly rewrite your story into who you want to be next. When life throws curve-balls at you, a story is interrupted, but an idea has the ability to reevaluate and re-calibrate.

Everywhere we look our systems are hardwired for change, in fact Peek believes that we demand change in every way except in relation to ourselves. By changing our perception from “the story of me” to “the idea of me” we make a commitment to rewriting that idea everyday, expanding our ideas and creating who we are. We shouldn’t do this because we have to, but because we want to. And Peek notes that it is a whole lot easier to create without dragging a story behind you.

“Creating is an act of letting go.”

Picture with "create"

Creating is a natural state in all of us, it isn’t reserved for artists and entrepreneurs. Technology puts our power to create directly into our hands because it knows something about us that we’re still not ready to admit: “more than being our favourite story, we’d rather be our greatest creation. An idea waiting to happen.”

Our words have immense power. The way we perceive ourselves and the experiences we have shape our identities. So how will you choose to see yourself? Will you stick to the script and write your story? Or will you let go of “what should be” and create the idea of you?

Click here to view Andrew Peek's TEDx Talk "How your personal narrative limits your future."

Interested in hearing more about the power of words? Tune into our FREE WEBINAR which occurs every second month. Or check out our Storytelling online course to learn how to tell a memorable story.

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