As my two boys got older, they developed this amazing sixth sense about when to disappear. They could anticipate when my SUV would pull up the long driveway stocked with food and household supplies, and suddenly they were nowhere to be found. Getting groceries from the car into the kitchen begins with 2 flights of stairs. Sometimes putting items away means 2 flights up, then 2 flights down, then 2 flights back up.
I used to get so frustrated. It was physically taxing, tedious work and foot travel between the car and the kitchen. And even when my boys grew up and moved out, I’d keep finding myself in that same position – before a family gathering or when stocking up for one of the teen leadership residencies hosted in my home.
I would huff and puff from physical exertion. I’d gripe and grumble at the indignity of having to do all this myself.
Then something happened that completely changed my perspective: I downloaded an app that counted my steps.
Suddenly, everything looked different. I wasn’t just doing a tedious chore. I was killing two birds with one stone. Now, I felt like I was accomplishing something for me, not just for everyone else who expected food. My entire outlook changed.
The task wasn’t any easier. It didn’t take me any less time. It wasn’t any less effort. The reality was still the same: same number of steps and stairs. Same number of bags. Same number of trips up-and-down-back-and-forth.
What changed was my story. The narrative I was telling myself went from “This is inconvenient, something someone else should be doing!” to “Wow! This is like a two-for-one deal on productivity!”
The stories we tell ourselves form our worldview. They determine how we view life’s circumstances. And the way we approach life’s situations can completely transform how we interact with the world and with those closest to us.
In my organization, we train student leaders to share what we call “Goffisms,” named after Bob Goff, the comedic Christian author and speaker. These phrases express shifts in perspective. They are tiny stories framed as: “I used to think _____, but now I know _____.”
For me, I used to think it was an imposition to be the one to haul my groceries into the house all by myself, but now I know that I’m getting a workout while all my stuff is getting put away! And my app gives me credit.
I work with a lot of parents, teachers, and coaches. At times they share their irritation with the work associated with equipping the next generation. There is new technology to learn. New concepts we didn’t need before. New skills we are just barely learning yet already have to teach to kids. It can be taxing.
Or… we can model lifelong learning for our students.
What are you doing that feels like tedious effort with little reward? Is it possible there’s some real benefit if you simply view it differently?
How can you tell yourself a better, healthier, truer story? What difference could it make?
Dr. Teresa Moon, founding President and CEO of the Institute for Cultural Communicators, is an internationally-recognized seminar speaker, education consultant, author, and leadership coach. Each year, she travels globally equipping students, teachers, and parents to become “cultural communicators,” transforming ordinary students into extraordinary communicators and authentic leaders.