Are You Limiting What Is Possible?
Are an early riser or a night owl? By nature, I am an early riser.
And, when I return from spending time in the Midwest, my “rising” gets even earlier, which causes my bedtime to get earlier, too.
A couple of nights ago, I was falling asleep at 8:30. I felt like an old grandma but, as my family can tell you, when I get tired, it is time to go to bed. Otherwise, I will hear a backlash of comments about the stupid things I said in my tired state. Can anyone relate to that? I sound like a drunk person, right?
So, the other night, I went to bed a bit before 9:00. My husband, who is a night owl, strolled to bed about 11:00. When he turned on the bathroom light, it woke me up. Immediately, frustration set in.
My brain began to tell me, “Don't pick up your phone to check the time because you will get woken up all the way. You’ve had a couple of hours of sleep so, if you wake up all the way, you’ll get your second wind and will never go back to sleep.”
My sweet husband shut off the light and made his way to bed, but then decided to do some scrolling through social media before falling off to sleep. As he scrolled, my frustration continued to rise.
We have this thing where we like to touch each other while sleeping. Some part of us must be touching - foot, backs, hand - whatever. So, I put my hand on his chest and did my best to ignore the light coming through my eyelids.
The next thing I know, he was using his phone as a flashlight and seemed to be pointing it right into my face. I opened my eyes to see what was happening, and he was looking at my wrist, not realizing he was shining the light directly into my eyes.
Now, I was really irritated. I saw that I had forgotten to take off my bracelet, and he was trying to figure out what cold, hard, metal thing was touching his chest.
In anger, I rolled over but, because I need to be touching him, I decided it would be better to touch him with my backside, so the light wasn't in my eyes. I grabbed the bracelet off my arm and tossed it onto the nightstand.
I began to tell myself, “I am never going to go back to sleep. I am wide awake. This is going to be a miserable, long night.”
Now, I want to stop here and talk about my limiting stories. Have you noticed all my stories? I have already mentioned at least eight stories I was telling myself.
Did you recognize them?
I am an earlier riser.
When I come back from the Midwest, I get up even earlier.
When I get tired, I have to go to bed.
If I don't, I will get made fun of.
If I get woken up, I will get my second wind.
If I get a second wind, I will never go back to sleep.
My husband and I have to be touching when we sleep.
This is going to be a long miserable night.
Some of those are limiting, and some are not, but all are stories I tell myself based on past experiences. For example, “When I get tired, I have to go to bed.” Is that true? Well, sometimes it is. So, the reality is there is truth in what I told myself, but it doesn't mean it is who I am. There are plenty of nights I have gotten tired and then started having so much fun that I stayed awake until 2 a.m. or until the sun came up. So, it isn't who I am. It is just my preference to go to bed when I get tired rather than push through it.
I want to highlight how easily our preferences become our stories and quickly move to “That’s who I am.”
What preference do you have that you have turned into a story without realizing it? Share it in the Comments below. Here are some common ones, if you need a little help.
I am a night owl.
I can't start my day without a cup of coffee.
I am not a nature person.
These preferences don't seem too limiting, but let's talk about some that are more so.
If you listen to people's language, you will hear many preferences that turn into limiting stories, like:
I am terrible at technology.
I am overweight because I got my dad's genes.
I am awful at making decisions.
I am not a saver.
I hate Mondays.
How about you? Have any stories come to mind, stories you have about yourself that you now realize could be holding you back? In what ways are these stories limiting the life you long for?
In my stories, I told myself that I was going to have a miserable night. Well, that isn't what I longed for. I really wanted a good night sleep, but that is not the story I was telling myself. And, you see, if we do not interrupt our stories, they become self-fulfilling prophecies.
So, how do we interrupt them?
Here are five steps to interrupt your limiting stories:
1. Notice you have a story. What are you saying and believing about yourself?
2. Decide if that story is going to take you toward the life you want.
3. If it won’t, decide if the story you are telling yourself is true. Is it absolutely true? Or, is something else possible?
4. Shift your story to a new possibility. Begin thinking about what you actually want.
5. Take one step at a time towards that outcome.
What is occurring for you as you hear those steps and think of how they relate to your limiting beliefs? (You might want to take a few seconds and write your thoughts down.)
Do you want to hear what happened the other night after I became irritated with my husband?
In the midst of my anger, I realized I didn't like the way I was feeling, and that misery is a choice. It is impossible to be angry and curious at the same time. So, I began applying the five steps listed above.
First, I noticed the story, “I won’t be able to fall back to sleep, so I am going to have a miserable night.”
Second, I decided that story wasn't going to get me the good night’s sleep I longed for.
Third, I realized the story wasn't absolutely true. While I have had that experience other nights, I don't actually know what will happen on this specific night. Maybe I could go back to sleep.
Fourth, my curiosity had interrupted my anger, and I began imagining how nice it would be to fall back to sleep.
Fifth, I remembered that my daughter had sent me a Google link a few days earlier that listed fifteen tricks to get tired. One of them came to mind, and I began doing it.
The next thing I knew, I woke up at 5:30 a.m. refreshed and happy that I had gotten a wonderful night’s sleep.
I was amazed at the outcome produced by interrupting my story.
I thought about countless other nights when I had stayed mad and kept telling myself the limiting stories for hours while I tossed and turned. I had limited what was possible. While I can't say the outcome would have been the same on those other nights, I do know the night I interrupted my limiting story a beautiful outcome was the result.
What about you? What new outcome do you want in your life?
As a simple takeaway, remember that you can't be angry and curious at the same time. This week, would you get curious about the stories you tell yourself?
As a bigger takeaway, I wrote a two-part blog post called: Are you tired of your stories? You can gain even more insight into the ways we tell ourselves stories. The links to those posts are listed below.