One of the strategies I use when things get hard, is to envision the future after I succeed. Last year I remember making a goal of running a certain distance of a trail, and when I finally went to try it, about two thirds of the way in I was struggling and not sure I was going to meet that distance. So I started telling myself the story in my head of how I would describe my ultimate success even though I had been so close to quitting. I envisioned getting home and telling my husband how at this exact time in the run my lungs were burning, and my legs were hurting but I dug deep and just kept pushing anyway. This story of struggle to success can be a giant motivator when things are tough, our way of championing our own way out of a hard time.

And then I had a realization. Oftentimes, I find myself on a bit of a rollercoaster, whether in trading, or in life, and there are some areas of life that I just want that consistency of pushing forwards, rather than the extremes roller coasters offer. This is when I realized that the exact story I tell myself that helps me when times are tough, hurts me when times are good. If things are going well, they are consistent, they are pushing positive, the idea in my head that a story can’t be a good one without the hero’s struggle is detrimental. If I think the best story is the one where things are bleak, then am I making things bleak just so I can have the ultimate story? How can I change my perspective to know that a story can be just as rewarding, just as positive, just as worthy and deserving without first having to go to the depths of despair?

This past weekend, my husband competed in a white-collar charity boxing event. The way the event was structured was that there were 12 competitors, six fights. So for the past 6 months in order to train for the event, they split them into 2 teams, one red and one blue, and they never trained with their competitors, only with their team, but ultimately they were all competing individually, and each match up had no bearing on the others. But the team trained together, encouraged each other and motivated each other to do their best. At the end of the night, the red team had swept all 6 fights. One fight after the other of complete consistency. The story wasn’t one of an underdog, it wasn’t a depths of despair story. It was one of a team that worked hard, trained hard, and fight after fight just had consistent wins. What it taught me was this. There was MORE joy, MORE excitement by the story. They had all worked hard together, they were all consistent, they all got to delight in the victory that they had trained together for. And they were no less deserving of the reward.

This was a big lesson for me. It hit me hard afterward that the story we tell ourselves to help us, can be the same story we tell ourselves that can hurt us. When things are tough, I need to know I have the resources to make it through, to push through the struggle into something more. But I also need to have the resources when things are good, to recognize that the efforts I’ve made towards consistency, and towards reward are just as well deserved.

What are the stories you tell yourself?