What’s in YOUR narrative?

Mine is the woulda-coulda-shoulda variety that blares its voice at 4AM, revisiting the previous day.  And it’s not congratulatory.

You should have handled that conversation better.  You should have spoken up at that meeting.  Remember that Ben & Jerry’s you devoured at 10pm?  Your arm flab has a life of its own. (Your accommodating narrative provides a visual.)

You should read more,  know more;  parent better, work better, look better.  Your nimble narrative tags on some What-ifs or To-Dos.

By the time the alarm goes off, you’re a flabby fraud and it’s a matter of time before everyone finds out.

I love the advertisement for a sleep-aid where the boss is badgering a woman trying desperately to sleep.

“You have a big day tomorrow!  Did you forget the client dinner?    What are you going to wear?   Did you get that email I sent you?  I need you to respond before you wake up.”


By day your narrative lingers in the background, but it’s filing data that conforms to negativity that found inspiration from a parent, teacher,  or 3rd grade bully.  Critical words now etched.

You will never be ____.     You are too _____.  

So, how do we rewrite our narrative?

Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness, says “50% of happiness is determined by your “set point” or genetics and 10% is determined by your circumstances (finances, health, living situation).  The other 40% is based upon your own intentional efforts to become happier, meaning you have a big say in how you feel.”  

Clearly we need to get intentional  about that 40%- even at 4AM.

Most of us are well versed in the advice from the self-help industry — summed up by Lyubomirsky –

  • Practice gratitude and positive thinking
  • Invest in social connections
  • Live in the present
  • Take care of your body and soul

The counsel from experts seems straightforward – simply replace your ruminating with positivity.  Throw in some mindfulness. And voila. A revised narrative and a peaceful night.

I have found this easier said than done.  (Hence, the proliferation of the self-help books.  You would think they would eventually run out of catchy titles.)

Of late, though, I have found a modicum of success in a particular gratitude exercise involving the alphabet no less.


I literally go through the ABCs and come up with correlations to what I’m thankful for – some admittedly a stretch.

A = alive; B = breathing; C = coffee; D = doggies ; E =  eating pizza; F = faith; G = God’s presence; H = health.

Interestingly, my brain seems startled by such vocalizations, distracted even.  And my negative narrative gets nervous.

I have now parlayed my ABC exercise into naming attributes of God (almighty, beautiful, compassionate); Bible verses; prayer.

A recent article in the Huffington Post blog reminds us that gratitude is a moment by moment choice.  It goes on to say, “Gratitude is one of the few things that can measurably heal, energize and change people’s lives. It is a turning of the mind, not what I don’t have, but what I have already.”

So the next time your narrative starts clamoring for attention, try singing the ABCs and then being creative with your gratitude naming.  From Aunt Mag to Zoo lights — it can’t hurt.  And it may just give your brain a little chuckle.


In the interest of chuckling, remember that SNL skit of Stuart Smalley and his daily affirmations?

“I’m good enough… smart enough and doggonit, people like me.”


Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8, ESV)


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