In a way, life is constantly a process of becoming. One chapter unfolds, sometimes as a predictable evolution, but sometimes as a surprise or even as seeming chaos. Each new chapter offers a unique opportunity—maybe even the responsibility—to look at our understanding of who we are. With this understanding, we have the chance to make changes—a new, amended, or improved self—to incorporate a new way of thinking, speaking, acting, feeling, believing.
In a word: a revision.
I like this word. When we write, we revise. When we write the scripts of our lives, we likewise need revision. In either case, it’s not easy, as there’s discomfort in this scrutiny. But with revision comes improved outcomes.
Professor Timothy D Wilson, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Virginia, helps us along this journey by suggesting strategies—he calls them narratives—we can use to enact positive, lasting change in our lives. He suggests three general approaches:
- Story Prompting—actively gaining new information that prompts you to reinterpret a situation and understand it differently. For example, how might an external perspective on an internal dialog change things?
- Writing Exercises—research by Professor James Pennebaker shows that by writing (even on your own) and using techniques like taking a third-person perspective, something surprising happens. It’s possible to reframe past events, particularly past traumas, and see them in new light, just by writing about them.
- Do Good, Be Good—this is based on the principle that “our attitudes and beliefs often follow from our behaviors, rather than precede them.” The author Kurt Vonnegut famously wrote, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
As we approach this year’s end, I hope that we each take a chance to look again at ourselves. And in doing so, we reconsider the story we tell ourselves about our past, how we speak to ourselves, and how we care for ourselves. This on the belief that we can, each one, continually change to become better selves.