Facts are a snapshot in time. They are a statement that defines a present reality. Facts contain no opinions, no morals, no judgement about good, bad, right or wrong. While they may reveal where we’ve been in the past, they don’t know about the future . Facts are simply present.
On the other hand, the beliefs and stories we tell ABOUT the facts are not at all as clear and unbiased. Stories are formed to tell us WHY the facts are the way they are, they tell us if things are good or bad, right or wrong, and provide meaning to our present reality. They also guide our future behavior based on what we predict, fear or hope will occur as a result of them. Can you identify the stories you tell about your own life based on the list below?
Facts: I weigh x lbs
I make x amount of money.
I am x years old.
I am married. I am single.
I have x number of kids.
I am tired.
I got fired/I got a promotion.
I was or was not invited.
My idea/suggestion was accepted or not.
Sometimes these stories are helpful and reflect an insight about a reality, but sometimes they are not. This week, especially in tense, stuck or frustrating moments, I (along with my clients) have been listening to distinguish the difference between the facts of a situation and the story that is being told about that situation (or themselves and others). Then I insert curiosity. (Tip: one indicator that a story may be at play is if the word ‘too,’ ‘always,’ or ‘never’ is attached, ie too heavy, too slow, too much, not enough)
What if the story isn’t helpful? What if it isn’t accurate? How can I dig deeper to discover if the story I’m telling is helpful? In relationships with others, what stories have I been telling myself about their motives and their actions? What stories have I told about myself? What questions can I ask to clarify the story? Is there a more helpful story I could be telling to move the situation and my goals forward?
Facts can be proven but stories and beliefs? That’s a little trickier. Here’s some homework: Follow yourself around this next week and notice where you feel stuck or frustrated emotionally or relationally. Rather than continuing in reactive mode, can you get curious and ask yourself what stories (in addition to the facts) are you telling about the situation, others and yourself?