Mindset Matters: Storytelling and Emotions

Welcome to another Mindset Matters post! This is four of four. Check out my first post here.

You get a meeting request for Friday at 4:00 pm from your leader and panic. You get a text message from the person you are dating and you feel excited.

Both of those share something in common: they follow the same flow despite the variance in emotions.

To close out the “Mindset Matters” series, let’s discuss the relationship between storytelling and emotions. This relationship directly influences and impacts not only our mindset, but our mental health and overall well-being.

Storytelling is a thing that we all do. Despite how intricate our stories can be, with a full cast, setting and costumes, we are quite terrible at it.

Specifically, the stories that we tell ourselves. It is important that we dig into this and the series of events that occur in our mind that shape our stories and experiences when we interact with others or something happens.

Path to Action:

There is a chain of events, or “path to action”, that occur, taking us from the event to the how we behave.

The event happens, we tell ourselves a story about it, the story drives an emotional response, and the emotions then drive behavior.

Below is a diagram and explanation of the “path to action” shared from the book “Crucial Conversations“:

Let’s break this down a little more in depth:

See & Hear: Something has occurred. You have seen, heard or experienced something. This is the catalyst for the chain of events. For example, your boss tells you to do something or your lover doesn’t return your text immediately.

The event or circumstance itself is a neutral event. It is how we perceive that event that determines our “path to action”.

Tell a Story: When something occurs, we quickly and unconsciously tell ourselves a story about the situation. Our stories come from our unconscious bias, the part of our mind that makes snap decisions and judgments quickly based off information stored in our mind. Past experiences and social identities also come into play here. Our ego also becomes the main character and we make everything about us here, in one way or another.

There are several types of stories we like to tell ourselves:

  1. The victim story – not my fault
  2. The villain story – your fault
  3. The helpless story – nothing I can do

Feel: Whatever story we have told ourselves will trigger an emotional response based on the type of story we told. This can range from positive feelings or negative feelings. We tend to consciously experience these first.

Act: Based off of our emotional response, we will demonstrate a behavior toward the situation. This could include saying or doing something, or not saying or doing something. We act out in some way or another.

Actions have consequences and we cannot do them, but we can be more intentional about how we act or behave.

Here’s the problem: Your story is wrong most of the time. Your story may have some facts in there, but you are limited to only the information in your head. This also includes your intuition. You will naturally infer any information you are missing from your limited info.

What this means is that sometimes the emotional response and behavior that follow are inappropriate for the situation that has actually occurred. This usually looks like an overreaction to a situation.

Emotions drive behavior! Always remember that. We act based on how we feel. We feel based on the story that we have told ourselves. Without being intentional about this, we are in a constant state of reaction.

What we need to do is learn to respond, not react.

When we allow ourselves to poorly react to circumstances, we do not show up as our best or authentic selves. People don’t get to see who you really are when emotions are always leading.

This is why you need to check your story. While your emotions are always valid (because you are experiencing them), the cause of them is not. If you take the time to pause, think, act, you will have a much easier time of dealing with situations and navigating through conflict and personal accountability.

Check Your Story:

How do you check your story? Easy! You just have to ask yourself a simple question: What information do I need? You need evidence to update your story.

Asking yourself that question will not only allow you to identify the information you are missing, but it also lets you identify with who you need to connect with to get the correct information or different perspective. This creates curiosity and empathy with those involved. Both are positive contributors to building connection and responding effectively.

Updating the story will cause you to change the emotional response to the situation and then change your behavior to something more appropriate. Using logic and reasoning can help the emotional reaction subside. This is where we usually have the “Oh shit, I might’ve overreacted” moment.

You can leverage a growth mindset, positivity and locus of control to help change how you think about something and the story you tell yourself.

Learning to think about circumstances differently helps pull information from your unconscious mind into your conscious mind. This newfound awareness then helps you create new neural pathways (neural plasticity) to respond differently to that same circumstance.

What do you think happens if you don’t check your story? Human beings experience something called “confirmation bias”. This bias looks for information to validate our story and dismisses any contradicting information. This can turn stories into convictions, which are much harder to change than a story.

There is a self-coaching model that anyone can use to help slow down and reconsider the reaction and turn it into a response.

This model is sometimes called “CTFAR” model which stands for:

Circumstances > Thoughts > Feelings > Actions > Results

The basic premise of the Self Coaching Model is that your thoughts create your feelings, your feelings create your actions, and your actions create your results.

This model can be used to help journal these different elements and consider what evidence do we need to change our thoughts (stories).

To use this model, write down each letter on a sheet of paper or download this PDF:

  1. Circumstance
  2. Thought
  3. Feeling
  4. Action
  5. Results

Then fill in each part. You can fill out any part first and work your way from there. Once you fill out each part, you should then have an idea of what got you from circumstance to results.

Sit with that for a bit. There is no rush. Become aware.

From there, revisit the thoughts and consider what other ways you can you think about this. What new story can you use to replace the old one? What new emotions come up for you?

Additionally, consider leveraging mindfulness, meditation, and yoga as tools to help your mind slow down and become aware of thoughts and feelings in a non-judgmental way. Proper diet and sleep and exercise all positively contribute to emotional regulation as well.

With just a little bit of intentionality and commitment, we can completely and positively change how we experience life. Who doesn’t want that?

I am also able to support you as a personal coach. Please feel free to schedule a free consultation by clicking here to discuss how I can support you.

For much more in-depth content around this, check out:

  1. The book “Crucial Conversations”.
  2. The Self Coaching Model


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