There’s a hidden mechanism that creates unhappiness, difficulty changing habits, relationship problems, frustration, anger and disappointment.

Barely anyone is aware of this hidden mechanism, even though it’s happening all the time, in all of us.

It’s the stories we tell ourselves.

We do it all day long: we tell ourselves a story about what’s happening in our lives, about other people, about ourselves. When I call them “stories” … that doesn’t mean they’re false, or that they aren’t based on the truth. It just means we’ve constructed a narrative based on our experiences, a perspective on the world around us, an interpretation of facts as we see them. Not false, but not necessarily the entire truth — just one perspective.

A different person could look at the same situation and tell a very different situation.

A few examples:

  1. You might have a story about how your boss is very supportive and praises you a lot, which means you are doing a good job and like your work environment, and this story makes you happy. Another person might look at the same situation and tell a story about how the work area is messy and people are always interrupting him and he’s tired and the clients are rude and smelly.
  2. You might be upset with your spouse because she was rude to you or didn’t clean up her messes for the last few days. Another person might have the same experience but tell themselves a story about how his spouse has been working hard at her job, has gone out of her way to cook a nice meal for you, and is tired and needs some comforting.
  3. You might have a story about how you keep procrastinating, keep failing at being disciplined, never stick to a workout routine. Another perspective might be that you have gotten some great things done despite getting distracted, you’ve been passionate about learning something and that’s taken a priority over work tasks you’re dreading, and you are tired and need some rest before you can tackle exercise with vigor.

Each of these examples have very different stories about the same situations — it’s about which details you pay attention to, and how you shape the narrative of those details.

Now, telling ourselves stories is natural — we all do it, all the time. There’s nothing wrong with it. But if we’re not aware of the stories we tell ourselves, we can’t understand how they shape our happiness, relationships, moods, and more.

Becoming Aware of Your Stories

Throughout the day, you’re telling yourself stories about what’s going on, about how wrong other people are to do what they do, about how good or bad you are at things.

My challenge to you is to start to notice what you’re telling yourself about everything.

It’s important to be aware of what those stories are, and how they’re affecting your happiness. If a story is making you happy, and you’re aware of that, then great! If you’re not aware of it, it’s not such a big problem if it’s making you happy, but what happens if the story starts to make you unhappy with your life? Then if you’re not aware, you have difficulties.

So start to become aware of your stories, good and bad. Notice them throughout the day.

Notice when you’re getting stuck in the story, spinning it around and around in your head. So and so shouldn’t have done this, and on and on, making you frustrated and unhappy with the person.

When we get hooked on a story, it’s hard to break away from it. But becoming aware of being hooked is the most important step.

What We Can Do

So what can we do if we’re hooked on a story? It can be very difficult to break out of that trap. I know, because it happens to me all the time — I see the story I’m telling myself, but it seems so solid and real that I can’t just let it go.

The first thing you can do is regard it as a dream. That doesn’t mean it’s false, it just means it’s not so solid. It’s something you’re playing out in your head, just like a dream, with very real emotional results. See it as a dream, not solid, and see if you can come out of the dream to the physical reality of the world around you in this moment. What sensations are happening right now, as opposed to in this dream?

The next thing you can do is not act on the story. Even if you’re caught up in it, that doesn’t mean you have to lash out at someone, or run away to distraction or comfort. Just sit with the story, notice how it’s making you feel, notice the physical sensations in your body. Notice that you’re caught up. But don’t act, just stay with your awareness.

There is another way of being: where you don’t cling to the stories but instead drop below them, and are just aware of the moment as it is, without interpretations, judgements, preconceptions. Stories will still come up, but you can notice them and not get caught up. Or if you do get caught up, notice that and don’t hold so tightly to it, coming back to the present moment.

However, this is a pretty advanced skill, and most of us can’t stay in this mode of being for very long. For now, just focus on awareness of your story, regarding it as a dream, and not acting on the story as much as we normally do.

In this way, you’ll be less caught up in whatever is causing unhappiness and frustration, and more present in the current moment.

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Why Launching a Startup is The Best Thing You Can do With Your Life

After a C-level career in finance I decided to launch my own start-up. I was happy working in the city of London, the environment in the company was great, the owners were just yet inspiring. Nonetheless, somehow it was never enough and I dreamed of something more.

Two reasons why you should stop working for someone else

In March 2014 I decided to quit and start on my own. I didn’t know what I was going to do or which direction to go, but I felt it was a rational decision I will not regret. My main reasons for quitting were simple.

#1 it is hard to achieve high financial goals

I realised that no matter how much I loved all the corporate life and the available resources I wasn’t getting closer to my personal financial goals. Successful companies are reluctant to make late comers equal no matter the time and effort they put in.

Even when the results are above all expectations the owners will still attribute it to the company’s generic growth. It’s very unlikely that you’ll become a multimillionaire working for someone else.

#2 It’s hard to feel complete

I always compared myself to other people in the organisation, as a matter of fact that is what all of us are doing when we are working for someone else. We compare ourselves to the people inside and outside the firm.

No matter how much I put in I always felt that I could do more. Nonetheless, I didn’t see good reasons to work an 18-hour day if I will not be made equal. Don’t get me wrong I worked very hard, but I wasn’t “all-in”.

Four reasons to start on your own

It might be hard to find the right idea at the start. Most of my ideas were crazy or stupid, or both. Some of them didn’t make any sense. Until one day… I was back in the UK looking for a horse riding weekend trip in Surrey.

It took me two hours precisely to find what I was looking for. Let it sink in. With an average pay of £500 an hour I hypothetically spent £1000 doing a “monkey search” through Google.

That’s how ActivityFan – the activity booking marketplace was born. As soon as I started working on my own start-up I realized that I will never be able to go back to working for someone else and here is why.

The challenge is real

No matter how challenging your current job is having a start-up will always be much more challenging. It’s green field and you have to build everything from the start. You will not be stuck in routine ever again. It’s requires enormous amount of effort to even get your project of the ground.

If you’ll decide to self-fund you will feel the pressure of having to get rolling before you become flat broke. Trust me it’s the most motivating kick on the backside you can experience. If you ever felt like: “I don’t feel like working today” it will never happen again.

It boosts your creativity

Limited resources will force you to focus on the most effective ways of achieving results. No matter if we are talking about marketing or simply getting things done, you’ll learn to think outside of the box.

It takes up all your time and you don’t mind

When you have a start-up there is no difference between work time and free time. As a matter of fact, all of your free time becomes your work time and all your work time becomes your free time. You’ll enjoy every day. At time it might be hard, but the satisfaction of moving forward outweighs all the tiredness.

You love it with all your heart

You might have heard people saying: “having a start-up is like having a baby” and it’s completely true. The only thing you can talk of is your start up, the only thing you think of is your start-up and you love it with all your heart. It defines you and makes you complete, every success story is your personal success and every failure simply motivates you to keep on going.

Launching a startup is the best thing you can do with your life, but are you ready for the challenge?

This post was written by Elina Pedersen. Elina is a traveller (over 60 countries) and the founder of Activity Fan  – the activity booking marketplace. Elina was born in Estonia, but she lived in Netherlands, Australia, and USA. Elina currently resides in UK. Her main goal is to help people find their next big adventure, as well as to support small-local businesses worldwide.

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