What Story Am I Believing Right Now?

It’s springtime in Homer. For those of you that don’t know what that means, just imagine daffodils, the smell of mowed grass, sandhill cranes dancing in the meadow, and a gentle, warm day breeze touching your skin every afternoon.

OK, one out of four is good. Daffodils bedeck my desk from Safeway’s Friday sale.

Really? In these Alaskan parts, we have brilliant days with our growing sunlight. (See photo.) Snow melting into rivulets. Squirrels active with their scurrying for whatever they scurry for this time of year. Muddy break-up starting. Locals migrating back home from a warmer winter.

And my favorite part — the resonant and lone hoot of the owl in the evening. So calming, so pure from a branch in the woods.

This story is a bit more believable.

In my coaching and consulting business, I hear a lot of stories. Because all (and yes I can say all) of my clients seek my services when their stories feel chaotic and overwhelming.

And somewhere in the story, there’s usually a declaration of desperation thrown in. It sounds like: “I just may have to move out.” “This job is killing me.” “I don’t know if I can supervise him anymore – I want to shake him.” “What did I do? She won’t speak to me.” “I’ve tried and tried but it just doesn’t happen.”

Usually by the time I hear these sincere and heartfelt stories, most folks are ready to have someone help them tease out their story of their life or their organization. And they bring incredible courage, resolve, and curiosity to our sessions. It’s not easy facing the turbulent waters under an exhausting story.

And my clients are like everybody because we all get lost in our own stories from time to time. The tone of your voice ramps up. Your heart pumps a bit faster. Maybe you get flushed in the face. Your breath lightens. Your body stiffens. Maybe your words come out flustered. Or terse.

And this is where the squirrel and the owl come to visit.

Our neurobiology, smack dab in our midbrain, is on guard for any threats (social, physical, or otherwise) coming our way. It was miraculously designed to keep us safe. And because it was developed primarily in the first 1,000 days of our lives, some of our brain’s motion sensor can be off kilter as adults.

Sometimes it gets sparked and stuck. When someone cuts you off in the parking lot. A colleague delivers a snarky put-down at a meeting. Your teenage daughter isn’t talking to you. Things aren’t quite going the way you want.

And then the midbrain (I call this the squirrel brain) gets us scurrying hither and yon, gathering nuts, scampering on logs, and chirping tirelessly. I know when that happens to me, I am lost in my story. If it happens to you, so are you. Buried. Overwhelmed. Clinging to the narrative. Ruminating.

And just like a squirrel, being in places you shouldn’t be. Spinning. Whirling. (Years ago I lived in an apartment where squirrels circled around the well of my bathtub for hours. But that’s another story. Eww.)

With 50,000 to 60,000 thoughts running through our brains daily, your squirrel brain has a fertile field to create stories.

Enter the owl of your neurobiology.

This is our prefrontal cortex in our brain. That part that reasons, thinks about what we are thinking, is able to see perspective, and feeds good decisions for our well-being.

For most of us, work and life gets easier when we engage our owl. There, we can unpack our stories – check out the undercurrent of our thought patterns, belief systems, and feelings. See a way through the story instead of wandering around in it.

It’s there we can step back and see the bigger picture. We can even see our squirrel running around and worrying on the ground.

Your owl is always there. It is sometimes difficult to access when the squirrel is . . . squirrely. But a deep breath to find your calming place will always help.

And once you are there, just gently and kindly ask yourself this question: “What Story Am I Believing Right Now?” Because with that question, you will gain a view of your story from the branch in the woods. You will hear your resonant owl.

May this spring season bless you with calm, clarity, and abundance.