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How to step into your story and build the life you want

by Steve Troutman on May 16, 2017

This is an excerpt from an email to one of my clients. There’s some cursing. There’s some personal anecdote. And there’s a whole lot of truth and vulnerability. I figured this would apply to pretty much anyone reading it. I’m of the opinion that it’s some of the most important stuff we could possibly focus on in this “game of fitness.”

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A couple of things right off the bat.

Most importantly, I do NOT feel like we are going round and round. I do not feel that you’re wasting my time. I can’t stress these comments enough. If I did, I’d pull the plug. I think your narrative hasn’t changed. Your identity hasn’t changed. But these are really big dominos that need to fall. We’re pushing and pushing and eventually they’ll topple over. They might topple slowly… but all I care about is that we eventually make some breakthroughs. In the interim, you’re trying. You’re talking things out. You’re flirting with the fringe. You’re showing up.

To me, it all comes down to identity. Identity is ultimately what drives behavior. A massive part of my identity is that I’m a learner. This ties into the ethos of my company… which is all about helping people cultivate a growth mindset and move toward what they want. People hire me because they want to lose weight and get fit. But in truth… those are really superficial. What’s lying deeper… the thing that really matters… is the acquisition of skills. If they’re not lean and fit now, what stands between them now and them then are a host of skills that they’ve yet to acquire. And in order to acquire them, you have to believe you’re capable of learning new things that help you become what you want to become.

That fundamental belief has proven to be everything to me… and more importantly the people I’ve helped. The people on the other side of my service has ranged from young men that grew up being bullied to women who were battling eating disorders… and a lot of different people coming from different places in between. And in all cases, no matter where they were coming from… cultivating a learner’s mindset was at the core of their journey forward. Because no matter how you slice it… to change your life… you have to learn new skills.

Is that all there is to it? Frankly… pretty much. Now getting yourself to a point where you’re actually ready to put down your armor and start being in the story that actually honors you and the person you want to be… that’s the trying part. And I applaud you for showing up and confronting this boundary. I think you should focus on giving yourself credit as well. That you haven’t broken past it yet isn’t proving anything to me beyond the fact that you have some courage and that you know you want something different. It doesn’t tell me that you suck. It doesn’t tell me that you can’t. It doesn’t tell me that you’re wasting my time. It simply tells me that you’re in the midst of becoming. That’s it.

This ties closely into self esteem as we discussed before. I sensed that your guard went up big time when we started talking about self esteem. But the fact is, we get to choose what we build our self esteem around. If it’s around our looks, our weight, or something so fleeting, superficial, and outcome based… it’s almost impossible to find the sense of worthiness to actually engage in self-love and positive action.

Because most people are currently in a fixed mindset, their self esteem is shot. In an attempt to maintain whatever amount of esteem they have left, they avoid challenge. Sure, they fret about what they’re not… but that’s in the stead of actually figuring shit out, learning, and growing. Learning and growing, by default, requires the willingness to trip and fall. It requires showing up in the face of uncertainty. And all of this feels really freaking scary to the person who’s clinging onto a tiny hint of self esteem and a fixed mindset.

There’s no way forward.

So once I personally figured out that things like discipline, emotional control, impulse control, thought patterns, etc. were all skills that could be honed… my life literally turned over and became amazing. And my potential became nearly limitless.

Up until that point… it was much, much darker. I was much less successful in the things I care about in my life. It was such a bigger struggle to reach clients and help them make personal breakthroughs. So yeah… again… this is so foundational.

The important takeaway is that I wasn’t always this way. It’s not innate. I was a C average student. I hated reading. My parents raised me to put my head down, fall in line, and get a good job. Left to my own devices… I’d have a fixed mindset through and through.

Once upon a time I was like most of my clients. Maybe not exactly. But I wanted more than anything to be a certain way that I currently wasn’t at the time. Literally every single day I’d intend on changing my ways. It NEVER happened. No matter how motivated I felt. No matter how much planning I did. I couldn’t find it in me to take action. If I did, it’d always fizzle quickly. And, like many of my clients… I took that shit to heart. I felt like a failure. I felt completely incompetent. I felt a total lack of worthiness. I felt stuck. Totally impossibly stuck.

And yeah… cultivating this learner’s mindset and seeing the world through that lens was a really big part of changing everything. But so, too, was coming to terms with the things I was habitually saying to myself. What were the words… some of them nearly unconscious yet oh so powerful, that were causing me to feel the way I felt about taking action?

I think we all have a story playing in our minds about the way things are supposed to be. And left unchecked… this story can literally own us. Every single moment of every single day. It becomes so matter of fact that you stop even recognizing it as anything but the only damn way that your life is. I think you can likely relate to this. Anything outside of this story feels false… like a lie. And so there you sit… stuck in a story that does nothing for you but sting, burn, and hurt. That leaves you in a dark place.

Should… a word that you use over and over and over is like the cancer to the life well lived. There is no should in life. Life doesn’t give a fuck about the way you think your life, day to day, is supposed to play out. And if you don’t come to terms with that, you’re going to be owned by this single story for the rest of your life. Could be worse, right? You have a lot to be grateful for… no doubt. But I know well that you want more for yourself. I wanted more for myself.

And that’s why I dedicated my life to changing my story and dialing into this journey of becoming. Hello learner’s mindset. Hello skill acquisition. Hello becoming who I want to be. Hello letting my goals and values guide my choices. Hello changing my identity by listening to the story I was telling myself and changing it piece by piece.

Without the willingness to change the words you’re using with yourself… the courage to actually show up and talk back to the story that has a death grip on you right now… there’s really no hope. It’s easy to say that anything else but this story feels like a lie. But fuck that. People change. All the time. Change is always happening. So no one story is any truer than the next. But we have the power to latch onto a story so tightly that the only change that occurs is the type that takes you deeper into the same damn story.

I could ramble on and on and on. And I really have no idea if this is at all helpful to you. If not, just be frank and say so. But I’m being as real with you as I possibly can. My own personal journey resonates so closely to the journeys that belong to my clients who’ve made tremendous breakthroughs in their lives. They started out by leaning into self-awareness just enough to hear the story playing. Maybe not even every word. But just enough of it to use it as a trigger to take a different action that opposed the shit out of it.

For me… one of my biggest cancers was bingeing on the internet. Youtube, awful websites, and forgettaboutit once real streaming became a reality. I wanted to build this company. I wanted to cultivate amazing relationships with my children, my wife, my friends, etc. I wanted to do amazing things in the world that helped me feel alive and purposeful. But I was numbing myself with the internet. Numbing myself from a piece of shit story that was in my head for years and years.

It wasn’t until I was willing to look that story in the face and each time it played… literally flip the script by acting in discordance with it… that I was able to free myself from the repeat. And in those initial stages… it felt so forced and awkward. I remember saying those things to myself. Like it’s just a bunch of bullshit. But at the same time… what was the alternative? I was unwilling to continue down the path. I was unwilling to let the story continue defining me. So for me… I committed to acting in ways that ONLY matched the person I truly wanted to be. It was an experiment. Worst case nothing happens and I go back to the drawing board. Best case… I figure some real shit out and experience breakthroughs.

The latter is what happened. This is going back years. But my life has been nothing but positive evolution since then… because it’s ultimately what taught me that self-awareness, directed action, and identity steer the boat.

I’ll leave you with this.

If you don’t pick up the pen and start writing the rest of your story, someone or something is going to do it for you. Society, enemies, your boss, automaticity, etc. To lease out the responsibility of writing your story is to lease out your soul.

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