Four of the Most Powerful Words in the English Language

“The best arguments in the world won’t change a person’s mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story.”Douglas Powers

Meditations in Motion

The woods were still wet from a thunderstorm the night before when Bill, our friend Al, and I stepped onto the Horseshoe Trail for a run last Friday.

All day long, I had to keep reminding myself it was not Thursday. We usually do our trail runs on Thursday and I am a creature of habit.

Maybe that’s what threw me off. I was lagging behind on the trails this week. We generally run single-file on single-track trails. Al is ordinarily in the lead, followed by me, then Bill brings up the rear.

Al, an outgoing and garrulous retired chemistry teacher, has a wide variety of stories in his repertoire. Bill is typically quiet, especially when he runs. It is my role to respond to Al’s tales and to throw some of my own anecdotes into the mix as well.

This week was different. I couldn’t keep up with the guys. They ran ahead of me, slowing periodically to make sure I made the appropriate turns onto the correct trails. I heard them talking as they ran ahead, alone with my own thoughts and happy to have a bubble of relative quiet around me.

I thought about the group Al and I used to run with and the tales that were told as we churned out the miles. The group was a loose association of parents whose teenagers were friends or teammates. I was their kids’ chemistry teacher and one of only two females in the group.

Once, not too long after I began running with the group, the other woman, Eileen, and I decided to do a 20-mile training run together. We were both training for (different) marathons and our long-run schedule coincided.

I was slightly anxious about doing a three-plus hour run with a woman I didn’t know very well. Unsure if our long run paces would match, I was worried about running out of things to talk about.

My worries, as usual, were completely unfounded.

Eileen and I, as it turns out, had the same philosophy about long runs (run slowly and take frequent walk breaks). We had plenty of time to exchange life stories.

Eileen is a nutritionist and yoga instructor. She is a world traveler, with fascinating tales to tell about cliff-diving in Belize and meditation retreats in Tibet.

We talked for the duration of the run, showered at her husband’s place of work (and our destination), then continued talking on the drive home.

We began the day as relative strangers and ended it as very good friends.

That’s the power of telling our stories.

I come from a family of storytellers. Some of the best memories I have from my childhood is of my mother telling me stories about her childhood.

I learned compassion and empathy from listening to my mom. I learned she knew what it was like to be less than perfect, to do dumb things, to feel left out or neglected or alone.

My dad, it was said, would talk to a fence post.

When my children were babies, Dad, recently retired, would visit my house every morning to take them for a walk in their stroller. It gave me 30 precious minutes to take a shower, grab a cup of coffee, or clean up the mess in the family room, but Dad had an ulterior motive.

He used my (adorable) sons as bait to begin conversations with people he passed on the sidewalk, where pedestrians would ask him, “Are they your grandchildren?

I learned to have the confidence to be outgoing and to be interested in other people’s stories from my dad.

The most important stories are the ones we tell ourselves.

We tend to tell ourselves the same stories over and over, so it’s important that the stories are (1.) true and (2.) positive.

The stories we tell ourselves define who we are. If I say to myself, “I can’t stop worrying, that’s just the way I am,” eventually I will take that message to heart.

If I tell myself, “I am not good at math“, or “I don’t have an active imagination“, or “I don’t enjoy exercise“, or “I have bad luck selecting suitable partners“, then I will not be good at math, have an active imagination, enjoy exercise, or select suitable partners.

Here is the thing: we can change our stories.

We can use positive self-talk to improve our outlook and our actions.

First, we need to be aware of the stories we tell ourselves. If the stories going through our minds are not helpful, let’s get rid of them.

Four of the Most Powerful Words in the English LanguageWe tend to live up or down to our own mental image. If I tell myself, “I can’t eat healthily, I love sweets too much to give them up“, (which I once did), I will fulfill that story.

To break out of the unhealthy patterns we have locked ourselves into by the stories we tell, we must say the following four powerful words: “I can do this.

I can give up sugar.

I might not give it up completely, I might cheat every once in a while, I might slip up now and then, but I am committed to changing my life by changing the story I tell myself.

If I make a mistake today, I will do better tomorrow.

Stories matter. Words matter.

We all have the power to change our lives by changing the stories we don’t like. We need to frame our stories in a positive way by telling ourselves, “I can do this.

Or maybe you prefer, I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

 

You can find the places I link up here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

85 comments

  1. Indeed, stories are perhaps the most human thing about us. Our human brains probably advanced through and because of storytelling. And you are so right: we need to be aware of the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. Wise words!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Laurie, hi! I love this reminder that we can frame our stories, even the tough ones, to have some redeeming value, some level of encouragement and hope even while being authentic and truthful.

    Sometimes this seems impossible. But that verse you shared says it all. I don’t have to drum up the strength or the energy on my own!

    I’m so grateful …

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Linda! It does seem impossible sometimes to tell ourselves good stories. I am having some success with the no-sugar story. I need to work on the stories I tell myself when I run, though.

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  3. I do find that by sharing stories, I find out that I have way more in common with people than I originally would have thought. Plus it’s such a great way to learn more about people. I once did a 10 mile training run with someone I didn’t know that well and it ended up being such a great experience and we still speak today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry it took me so long to respond to this, Kim. for some reason your comment went into my spam folder. I should check it more often! Yes, that is so true – sharing stories is a good way to find common ground with people.

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  4. The stories we tell ourselves and the words we use absolutely do matter, Laurie. It’s through our stories, and hearing those of others, that we truly connect, as you have so aptly illustrated here. Let’s keep the stories coming!
    Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. If I had a penny for everything that I’ve accomplished that started with “I can’t”, it would be some serious cash. It’s human to doubt and divine to give up that apostrophe and make it an “I can”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry it took me so long to respond to this comment. Not sure why it went into my spam folder??? I think running is the best conversation starter. Thanks for hosting.

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  6. Love the family stories! I love the story about your dad taking the children for a stroll and giving you time to catch your breath. Thoughtful and wise. But I also appreciate the transition you make between your family stories and the stories we tell ourselves. blessings, Michele

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I recently read a book by an Aussie performer Claire Bowditch “Your Own Kind Of Girl” that was about just this – the stories we tell ourselves and how we can change them. Great piece and as always I love how you wind your post through your running – or is that vice versa?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You’re so right about the self-talk Laurie – it’s something I’m working on and over the last few years it’s improved, but I still have a long way to go. I’m not sure where that critical voice originates from, but it’s very hard to shove it into the background and to allow truth and positivity to take its place.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am working on that right now in regards to my running. For some reason, on a long run my inner voice is telling me “I can’t.” I must change that. Good luck to both of us we will work on it together..

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  9. I believe it was Henry Ford who said, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right”. Our minds are so powerful and the thins we tell ourselves really do matter. Good words.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. “The most important stories are the ones we tell ourselves.”
    Definitely. Every one of our limiting beliefs is a story we told ourselves some time before. And hope lies in the fact that we can tell ourselves a new one, any time we choose. ❤
    Lovely post!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Laurie,
    I have put on more than the COVID 10 pounds. There has been a constant stream of negativity flowing through my brain. I so needed to hear those simple words today, “I can do this.” And, yes, the only way I can do it is through Christ who strengthens me. It seems almost trite to ask God to keep me out of the fridge and pantry and show a little willpower, but He cares about all aspects of our lives. Thanks for starting off my week on a good and positive note!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I agree…self talk is so powerful! There’s been a lot of self-talk (and re-written stories) in recent months. As much as I am shaking my head in frustration at people’s behavior (and their words), I’m constantly reminding myself that I’m not n their shoes nor have I lived their experiences. They have their own baggage they’re bringing to the current scene, and they will act (and speak) accordingly.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. So it’s in your blood! I’ve often commented on how much I enjoy your stories, so this shouldn’t surprise me 🙂 Your content here today—the stories we tell ourselves (ABOUT ourselves) is one I’m hearing a lot these days. It’s time to chew on it, I think.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. knowing yourself first was key…. most are not aware they are telling themselves stores they are so ingrained from childhood. That’s why it’s sometimes good to have a listener who will reflect your stories so you can hear them out loud.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry it took me so long to respond. For some reason, this comment went into my spam folder! It is difficult to be honest with yourself all the time. It’s something I sometimes find myself questioning. I am not sure if the stories I am telling myself are honest.

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  15. I would have also been anxious to run with someone I don’t know. I am a solo runner since I am much slower and I don’t like it when other people talk too much on a run. 🙂

    Haha, I love the story of your dad using your kids are bait.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I came from a family of storytellers, too. Learned that skill at an early age. I like your simple four word mantra. Encouraging yourself to do/be your best is a skill like storytelling. We all need to learn it.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. There’s a Ron Kenoly song that goes “Whose report will you believe? We shall believe the report of the Lord…” I recall this song when I’m tempted to believe the lies in my head. Because it affirms what I know – “His report says I am free; His report says victory. “

    So words and thoughts definitely do matter.

    20 mile run! Wow!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I used to beat ,myself up horribly when I made a mistake. Then I realized I would never talk to someone else the way I talked to myself. Since becoming a Christian, the concept of grace has been so freeing. I can confess what I have done and learn from it without it continually hanging over my head.

    I definitely need to change the “I love sugar too much to give it up” narrative. I’m trying to find the motivation between “I know I should, but..” and “I need to do this for my health no matter how I feel about it.” I have friends who seem to be able to eat anything without repercussions, but I need to avoid envying them and deal with the body I have.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I sometimes find that I “forget” about allowing myself to accept grace. I am working on that. I gave up sugar to lower my cholesterol. I don’t want to have to take statins. I have a friend who is a biology teacher who told me that was the way to lower my cholesterol number. She was right. I reduced my sugar intake and my numbers went down over 50 points in a year.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. To be able to share your story, make a friend whilst running & talking that i would say is a winning story. I love stories, i can turn the most simple situation into a complete life ultering melodrama before im even out of bed. haha. My best stories are those that happen & those I make up about our managery & working on the land. Great blog story ( ;

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Natalie. I am sorry it took me so long to respond. Your comment went into my spam folder for some reason. Moving outdoors is the best inspiration for writing. You have a wonderful week too.

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  20. Laurie – I don’t know that many people anymore since I have no family and have worked from home nearly a decade, but my boss has told me for years that I always have a story for everything. I guess that is true because it seems if someone has written a topic on something, I seem to always have a little story about it. The stories’ origins are those relayed to me from my mom as I sat and looked through the old photo albums, or that she told me about her youth when I was young. Storytelling is good if you’re a blogger.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are a wonderful story-teller, Linda! YOu can make a great story about going for a walk in the park. You even tell stories in your comments. Is is a good trait for a blogger to have.

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      • Thank you Laurie – I sometimes think I could write a book on all the quirky or funny little stories that I carry around in my head. Going for long walks helps to add to those stories – may I never be at a loss for words.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well thank you Laurie – something to strive for in retirement when I have all the time I am looking forward to enjoying. 🙂 Even when it’s not my own story, I have a story – Anne Mehrling’s post on a Bible study group and a chicken visiting and you commented – there was the fact that a rooster was in the Bible. Yesterday, our local Humane Society carried off 200 roosters as a guy in a nearby city kept them as a hobby (he claimed; although the policy were tipped off they were used for fighting which he denied). I said to Anne that surely the neighbors would have been annoyed at some point at the crack of dawn when 200 roosters started crowing!

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      • I’ll bet that happened with you Laurie, but you had more things going than I did as you did your run first thing every morning before you even got to work so early … that was a feat in itself. I used to ride my exercise bike 20 miles every night after dinner for years.

        Indeed – I’m surprised no one complained to the police long before the guy was caught.

        This morning I had an eye exam so I asked the eye doctor, who also wears glasses and had donned an N95 mask, how he keeps his glasses from fogging up. He said they had tried a couple of products and they were not working, so last week he tried something new. Had the staff apply it to their glasses, then put on masks – no one reported fogged-up glasses. I was thinking fogging would not happen in the office, but maybe it did. So I ordered two bottles for when I pick up my glasses. I will let you know if it works or not in this high humidity (and hopefully in Winter).

        Liked by 1 person

      • Wow! 20 miles on the exercise bike EVERY night?!?! That’s amazing!

        I wore my sunglasses this morning on my run. It was so humid, they fogged up before too long and I had to put them on top of my head. I can imagine lots of people are having trouble now with their glasses fogging.

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      • Yes, those were the days — youth! I’d work all day, and still have lots of energy. I did that all the time. I need to get back into that regimen though not as many miles now.

        I thought I’d ask if the eye doc had a solution since he wears glasses and I know he belongs to a gym as he mentioned it when I said I was an avid walker. He said his staff had no fogging the entire day – most of the staff wears glasses. I’ll try it out after I pick up my glasses – they did not get it in yet. I’ll give you the name then if it does the trick.

        Safe travels to you and Bill!!

        Liked by 1 person

  21. I sure hope the longer I hang out with you the wiser I will become. Self-talk is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Love the story of your sweet daddy. I always felt like my daughters were my best conversation starters because they had very unique looks – exotic – and nothing at all like me. I was always taken for the nanny!!

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    • Ha! My friends would probably say just the opposite – the longer they hang out with me, the less wise they become! 🙂 So funny about you and your daughters.

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  22. I likes this Laurie and agree with you, our stories do work and changing what we tell ourselves can help us change our attitude. My daughters laugh at me as I talk to strangers all the time and usually about them 🙂

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