Stories Define Our Outlook & Future

I live every day with a sense of “living the last chapter.” I live my life to the full in my work, my relationships and my health. I make choices to advance forward. To make brave new steps into the life that I want to have, being true to myself in purpose and action. My aunty once asked me about the intentions I had for my business, and I said, “Oh that’s simple. World domination.”

We are all too familiar with prioritising the needs of others above our own, but some of the things that I have learned recently have made me realise that many of you might be working a story that could do with an edit. Mental illness is the leading cause of disability worldwide. In Australia, one in five of us are fighting through a battle with our mental health right now, and the studies show us that 45% of Australians are expected to encounter this struggle at some stage of their lives. Learning how to tell stories that transform the outcomes of your life could be a game-changer.

If changing seasons have taught me anything at all it is this:

In our stories we hold our greatest power to define our outlook, and so our future

My silent season of voice loss and then recovery gave me the chance to change the stories I told myself. I had started that part of my life angry and resentful that I had lost something that I thought was central to my happiness and fulfilment. All this belief gave me was stress, depression, and an adjustment disorder that threatened to choke me with an anxiety that wouldn’t let me change. To make progress through it, I had to turn away from this mindset completely, and I had to embrace all of the opportunities that this chapter offered. At the heart of it all, I came to know myself better, and to appreciate myself for simply being me. This new gratitude opened my eyes to the strengths, skills and attributes that I already had. These assets had not been lost. They were sitting there waiting for me to unearth them and direct them towards new expression.100_1368

I put my self to work, and I found new ways to love. The loving commitment that used to train my dog every day now took her on longs walks and runs, where I could share my beautiful world with her in silence. The talkative, extroverted love that I used to splash around in my family now gave more to quality time, doing family things quietly and being grateful to simply bask in their company, without saying a word. The passion that used to partner me with my husband in business meetings and customer service now let him take the lead, while I worked behind the scenes to keep it all moving forward. The love that I had for classroom teaching became a small homework centre that met for only one hour each week. And then, as my contentment started to release my voice from the stranglehold of anxiety, my teaching turned into lecturing at university, where the lecture hall microphone preserved my recovery and allowed me to expand my horizons in the career that I loved. As I pushed forward into new seasons I made choices to grow into a richer better version of the person that I already was. I didn’t find a new me. But I did find new ways to be me, in purity and truth.

We all have stories we tell ourselves. So often we expect them to make sense, to go the way we think they should, to be what we have experienced before, and to make our expectations of the future come true. Sometimes, time can feel like the enemy, because she ushers in changes that we can barely withstand. But, there is another way of seeing this. Time is the perfect host for our ongoing stories, because she allows us to see each instant as a rolling continuation of life, connected by the glue of the clock. Our actions, and the Happenings of each moment, can easily be traced to things that have occurred Before, and they can also be understood as introducing things that will occur After.

When my aunty asked me about my business that day, I was bold and a bit cheeky. But the answer I gave her was more than empty words or arrogant ambition. Yes, my answer described my story of business growth and expansion, but it was more than this. My answer also tapped into the part of me that takes full responsibility for my contribution to this journey. You see, I don’t want to control you, I want to control me. I want to take bold steps into tomorrows that exist only because I make them so. I want to look straight into the eye of my capacity, and know that I have served my purpose in the world because I took up the challenge. I want to live up to the high calling of my purpose, and use it to serve others with a passion that can’t be stopped.

 

Possessing The Spoils

Taking hold of that thing burning in your heart requires more than hoping and praying. You will only ever bring that spectacular thing to life if you ready your mind, fix your gaze, and dare to take the leap that will change everything, forever. In the moment that you dare to own your opportunity, you grab it with both hands, and you are alive like never before. You know that this is what you were born for.  This magic moment will set you free and make it all worthwhile.

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The golden sun of reward shines when you step out of the shadow

To possess the spoils of your power, you see yourself taking deliberate strides of action. Strategic, intentional strides that leave no room for question, doubt or pause. These strides are those of your Infinite Self taking action in your world, and they are a sight to behold. They propel you along a pathway of constant improvement and they lead you to places that were once only a dream. These strides drive you to take hold of the prize that you have longed for. You move forward, inch by inch, moment by moment, into the rewards of your efforts.

You look around at an unknown landscape, humbled by the progress, silenced by the loneliness, and terrified by the strange new sights. You have never been here before, but you know there is no turning back. The people here are foreign, but they will be your new companions. The choices here are confusing, but you have confidence that you will find your feet. The opportunities here are ones you have never encountered before, but they glisten like the sun and they assure you that you are in the right place. Here is where you always wanted to be. This new world holds the chances you hoped for and the rewards that you wanted all along.

The fact that it is all new is not cause for alarm. It is cause for celebration. You have already done away with the Old. This is the New that your choices have brought you to. This is the blue-ribbon prize, the pot of gold, the field with the greener grass. It is strange to be here, but you know that you are spoiled for anything else now. To persist and continue in the break-throughs that await are the only options that your Infinite Self will allow. So relax … enjoy … settle in. This is real. It is the reality that you have created with the work of your hands. It is real because you made it so.

These steps are not an imagination or whimsy. They are not the positive affirmation you tell yourself in the bathroom mirror, or the dream of someone that wished their life away. These steps are alive and active. They are as deliberate and as powerful as the striking of a hammer, and they take you into successes that transform the landscape of your life. You watch the point of no return come and go, and you are still pushing forward, like a bull at the gate of your opportunity.

With everything inside, you know you will never go back. You are done with old ways of thinking, acting, talking, being. Your hands are clean, your heart is pure, and your eyes are like an eagle’s, set firmly on the rewards of the journey that you can inherit today. Take time to bask in this sunlight that shines when you are outside of the shadow. You have earned it. You are alive here in this new place of growth, and you are free.

Your Life Is Not A Shopping List

Sometimes it is easy to get confused about the function of our stories. We have all been constructing the narrative of our life since before we can remember, so it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that our stories are fixed. There’s plenty of evidence for that too.  I mean, you really were born on your birthday and you grew up in your home town, and that first album that you bought, on cassette, really was Bananarama. That can never be undone. So many of the items in our story will remain true right through to the day we take our last breath.

But your story is worth more than the names and the dates and the places of the highlights. Your life is not a shopping list. The events of our story can be immutable but the meanings that we attribute to them can change. While positive emotions, resilience, gratitude and of course altruism are all markers of well-being, it is the attribute of psychological flexibility that allows us to craft a more powerful, highly valuable story as we strategically navigate from this now moment to the next. Psychological flexibility means “contacting the present moment fully as a conscious human being and, based on what the situation affords, changing or persisting in behaviour in the service of chosen values” (Kashdan & Rottenberg, 2010). With psychological flexibility we begin to see that our stories are alive and dynamic, shifting and bending to accommodate the unpredictable world we live in, but at the same time our story is always anchored in those parts of our life that are most important to us.

IMG_1396Moving forward after losing my voice was hard at first, but it saw me reclaiming all of the parts of my life that I loved the most, and permitting myself to redefine how I expressed myself in love, joy, ambition, and purpose. It is not that any of these things changed over the 18 months of voice loss, or the years of rebuilding after that, but that I opened my mind to new ways of demonstrating these priorities. This acceptance was the key to my progress. In embracing the life I actually had, rather than the one I wished I could go back to, I was able to enjoy the rewards that my every day life offered. These rewards included rekindling the connection I had with my closest people, while letting others go with the passing seasons. They also included a higher level of investment in the teaching work I could do, and the opportunity to build our family business. I am not exaggerating when I say that my relationships, my teaching, and my growing business became pillars of a life that I came to love again. I had a new energy in my daily step, and a fresh excitement about the future.

Most of all, this acceptance of this season ushered in a new intimacy with the most important person in my life: Me! As I spent more time with myself in walking, meditation and in rest, I explored new ways of seeing myself and my world, and I was honest with myself about my deepest motives and desires. By embracing my situation and seeing it as an opportunity, I opened a pathway of personal healing and wholeness that continues to be my greatest treasure. To this day, I am passionate about the importance of self care. I nourish myself daily now with great food, an active lifestyle, yoga and meditation, music, and most of all, lots of love and hugs and laughter. This appreciation of loving me continues to serve me well, as you will read over the coming few months. I have so much more to share.

My focus here is not resilience or post traumatic growth or positive psychology even though you will see all of those things in my stories. I am all about demonstrating how story can be used strategically to exploit even the toughest obstacle as an accelerant to growth. I hope that as you read my blog you are inspired to reconsider your motives, your priorities and your ideals, and that you can take just a brief moment out of the rushing blur of your life to realise that you are surrounded by an entire world of opportunity that can be possessed only if you learn how to tell a new story. And that the first, most important story that must be told, is the story of how spectacular you are.

Kashdan, T., & Rottenberg, J. (2010). Psychological flexibility as a fundamental aspect of health Clinical Psychology Review, 30 (7), 865-878 DOI: 10.1016/j.cpr.2010.03.001 

Stories Are Us

I have been thinking a lot lately about how we speak, and about how this changes our outlook, and so our future. To go further with this, I would like to consider how important it is for us to strategically pull our words together to craft the stories that have the capacity to open up the deepest passions of our heart. In fact, I would like to suggest that, from before we can even remember, we have been crafting a story that has lead each one of us to the things that we are the most passionate about today.  You have come here, to this point in your life,with your story, and you carry it around with you everywhere you go. You have stories about your childhood and family, your experiences in school and work, your friendships and the events of your life. You also have stories about the way that certain things have affected you, and how you have become the person you are today. Each of you have a series of stories explain how you came to the work you do now. What drew you to it? Why does it suit you? And how do you continue to pour yourself into it every single day?

lionI have learned that our stories are more than just coffee conversations. Our stories are where the most powerful part of our identity is formed and held.  Research shows that it is in our stories that we come to understand ourselves and others, that we interact with our world, and that we gather the information we use to move forward in our lives. Our stories are like our own personalised meaning generators. We throw all of our experiences, thoughts, feelings and knowledge into our stories, and The nature of the story we construct establishes our position in any given moment. Our narrative defines our capacity to believe, to respond, to change, to grow.

Altruism has been proven to promote well being across all social groupings, worldwide, so I am convinced that our deepest passions can be activated most by living a life of selfless service. But, this lifestyle of selfless generosity is the gift that keeps on giving because, just like the oversized T-shirts my mum used to buy me when I was a child, there is always more room to grow into this mindset. If we make sense of our lives through story, and we all want to enjoy those well-being spoils of altruism, then it makes sense that we need to become experts at crafting the sorts of stories that maximise our current capacity for selfless service. Our ability to sustain this sort of lifestyle relies on us having strong stories. These sorts of stories establish an unshakeable sense of identity which then becomes our offering to the world, and fans the flame of our purpose into a passion that simply can’t be put out.

This is not something we do by accident though. We gotta work at it. I have learned from experience that the African proverb is true:

If the lion doesn’t tell his story, then the hunter will

Our stories are not only our tool of survival; they are our tool for growth and for overcoming. Indeed, they are the very substance of our life itself.

How You See Determines What You See

If changing seasons have taught me anything at all it is this:

Our words are our greatest power in defining our outlook, and so our future.

While it might seem that I have oversimplified this idea, I know from experience that William Golding was right in the Lord of the Flies: “The greatest ideas are the simplest.” The truth of this concept is such a foundational part of who I am that the sparkle of its thread is easily identified in everything I do, think and say. I continue to invest into my own empowerment, and the empowerment of those around me, by exploring and clarifying how words can produce the best possible outcome in any and every situation.

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Even on a cloudy day the sun still shines above

Most of us don’t think much about the words we use. We think about the things we want, the things we do, the things we have, but do we ever listen to ourselves so that we know what we are saying to ourselves and those around us? Do we ever consider what we are creating with the words we repeat to ourselves?

It’s been said that words are thoughts, and without them we can’t think.  We have around 50,000 thoughts per day, some say 70,000, but did you know that 95% of those thoughts are simply  old ones on repeat? Only 5% of our thoughts are hot off our mental press, meaning that the words filling our mind today are almost identical to the ones that were there yesterday. Our brain is the best autopilot around, but this repeat cycle does nothing for us when we want to change, or respond to a change that came at us out of the blue.

The good news is that we can choose the words we say to ourselves, so we can actually start to put this mental repetition to work for us. As we start to explore who we are by examining the words we think and say, we enter the inner part of ourselves that can be changed by choosing new words. It’s important to notice the script that is already there, because this will need to be actively discarded and replaced by the new words you choose.

I went through a very humbling journey recently as I listened to the default response I gave when people asked, “How are you?” Without missing a beat I would say I was doing well, only to follow up with how hard I had been working and how many trials I was trying to overcome. This response must have been created at some stage of my working class background, in a society that wears hardship like a badge of honour. But, as an adult powerful to choose my own outlook, this sounded ugly to me. It was like I heard myself for the first time that day. In a strange combination of shame at what I had found, and excitement of what was to come, I decided to change the way I spoke. I was keen to alter those discouraging, defeated words to make them more positive and uplifting, and then delete the old words from my identity script, forever. I always want to choose words that create encouragement, success and advancement.

Now I respond by telling people I am well, and I say something wonderful that has happened for me lately. Then, I ask how they are, and typically I receive a reply like my own, because my words have set a different pace for the conversation. Everybody wins! There are no excuses for complaining that life is too hard. Even in my hardest days my friends are kind, the world is genuinely beautiful, and opportunity awaits. The sun is always shining above the darkest storm. If I say it’s not impossible, then it never is.

You are the only person in the entire world who can master the power of your thoughts and language. Only you can choose the words that make a positive shift in your life. To use our words with creative power, we all need to deliberately, strategically break into who we are to change what we find. We need to unlock the things that we think and the things that we say to transform how we see the world. Because How you see determines What you see.

Our Words Are Our Power

I love being introduced as Kerry Anne Nelson. It is perfectly appropriate because it is actually my name, so that works well! But if you and I were closer, you would know that I am rarely called Kerry Anne in my everyday life. If you were my Aunty Sandy, you would call me that. If you were my mum loving on me, you would call me Kerry Anne for sure, and you might even venture to Kerry Anna… or if you were my dad and I was annoying you, you would definitely call me Kerry Anne. These days, being called Kerry Anne has special significance for me.

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In our stories we gather everything we need to grow

My dad’s voice still speaks to me loud and clear as an adult, with his words echoing in my years all these decades later. “Think before you speak Kerry Anne” was something he used to say … A LOT! In my younger years I found this so completely frustrating and it made me angry, because it felt like he was trying to silence me… but now, I see the wisdom in those pearls. Some things need to be silenced, while others need to be shouted from the rooftops. The trick is knowing what’s what. You see, I am a talker and a sharer … I always have been. But now, as an adult, with a few seasons of growth and change under my belt, I prefer the title Professional Speaker. It is far more flattering than the names I used to attract like “chatterbox” or “loudmouth”. What I especially like about the title “Professional Speaker” is that it starts to give us a clue about the power I have found in being intentional with the things I say. It dawned on me a little while ago that Kerry Anne Nelson was the perfect Professional Speaker name, because I am thinking before I speak, Kerry Anne!

Our words are connected to our power. In fact, these two parts of ourselves are tied so closely that I would call them inseparable. Both the words we say to ourselves, and the words we say out loud to others, direct us through life like a rudder on a ship. Proverbs says that the power of life and death is in our tongue, and Ghandi says “A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.” This means that our power is our words … In fact, it means our words have so much power that we actually become them.

Who we are and how we travel through life’s journey hangs on the power of our words. Truly knowing this as a transforming reality is empowerment defined. We all share the same superpower: Our words create reality. Let’s choose words of Life! Freedom! Success! Joy! Courage! Health! Growth! Let’s use our words to create our own personalised experience of Unstoppable Freedom

Perspective Hacking

Perspective_Blog_Post_Photo-1The word ‘Perspective’ is a noun, meaning that its job in the English language is to name something.  I am convinced that this particular “something” is so important that I have dedicated my life to studying it, and teaching people about it.  In fact, research shows that it is at the very heart of our ability to live a rewarding, fulfilled life, ignited with purpose and fulfilment, especially when facing adversity.  I define the word perspective this way:

Perspective: (noun)

an outlook, a point of view, a mindset, or a worldview.  The lens through which we understand. The dynamic, flexible product of our unique meaning-making journey. The result of the personal, subjective process we go through to navigate our course through the world. The evolving, changing way that we see ourselves and our world.

Our perspective is man-made.  Actually, it is us made.  Each of us have created our own perspective by combining the ingredients of temperament, thoughts and feelings with our moment-by-moment experiences.  And as the sole license-holding creator of your perspective, you are the only one with the right to make changes.  Your ‘edit and review’ process might have been largely happening by accident up to now, but from here on in you are armed with this new knowledge:  You have an exclusive power to transform your perspective into anything you want it to be.

The word ‘Hack’ is a verb, meaning that it’s the type of word we use in the English language to label an action.  It is a doing word.  ‘Hacking’ has earned itself a “Buzz word” status lately, and I have decided to jump on the bandwagon, because this word best conveys how we can successfully reconstruct our perspectives to serve our best interests.  I define the act of hacking like this:

Hacking: (verb)

The strategic act of unlocking, with the intention of making changes from the inside.  To deliberately break into something that was previously restricted in order to modify the found state.  To knowingly obtain access by dismantling or disarming the barriers that were intended to keep you out, so that new structures can be implemented.  

As I go about my days, making, building, helping, training, loving, serving, I dedicate myself to the process of hacking into my inner perspectives to continually refine what’s in there.  I call it Perspective Hacking. When I narrate my stories and memories, when I share my goals and dreams, and when I communicate my professional insights, my aim is to expose the power each of us has to tactically reconstruct our outlook, which then flows through to transform what we think, say and do. I have defined Perspective Hacking this way:

Perspective Hacking: (verb)

The process of strategically dismantling the barriers of old mindsets to break into unstoppable freedom.  A journey of personal empowerment that unlocks new ways of seeing yourself and your world so that even amidst the most overwhelming change, opportunities for personal growth and gain can be recognised and exploited.  Perspective hacking allows us to define the priorities, motives and goals that stem from our unique identity, and then reframe the way we view our circumstances so that we are liberated to fulfil those aims.  In this way, perspective hacking allows us to possess our own tailor-made success, and fulfil our own unique purpose.

In everything I do, I craft my show and tell in the hope that you are inspired to reinvent your outlook, one thought at a time. Because changing how you see changes what you see.  Even more than that, it changes who you are, from the inside out, creating a brand new self for your brand new world. As a Perspective Hacker, you get to be a person of your own making, and you get to live in a world that serves up only opportunities that you want to invest in. Perspective Hacking installs an optimism in your life that automatically responds to even the most gruelling challenge with an expectation of mind-blowing success.  As a Perspective Hacker, you experience true freedom because you are empowered to define yourself, your goals, your strengths, and your actions.  You are no longer bound by the effects of adverse circumstances, negative people, or even your own limitations.