Our narratives determine how successful we are in achieving our goals – Michael Hyatt.
The Valley Fire
On September 12th, 2015, a massive fire raged in Middletown, California, claiming four lives, forcing over 17,000 residents to evacuate, and destroying thousands of structures. After a comprehensive investigation, CAL FIRE determined the cause of the fire was a faulty electrical connection from a hot tub installed incorrectly. The homeowner admitted that the hot tub didn’t work properly. Now termed the Valley Fire, it is the third-worst fire in California history.
The cost of this fire was unprecedented:
- Four deaths
- Over 76,000 acres were burned
- Four firefighters were seriously injured
- Over 1,900 structures were destroyed
- Over 4,000 firefighters fought to extinguish the fire at a cost of over $55 million.
It’s almost inconceivable to think all this destruction was because of a faulty connection. Yet, in life, many are robbed of their visions, goals, dreams, and even futures because of faulty mental connections. We use past negative experiences and labels people place on us to form narratives that impede our progress. We never imagine accomplishing anything of value because our narratives burn down any momentum we build.
Such was the case of Vince Papale. In the movie, “Invincible,” Mark Wahlberg plays the character of Vince Papale. His dreams come true when he becomes a member of the Philadelphia Eagles as a 30-year-old rookie. In the movie, he carries a paper containing negative things his first wife wrote before she left him because she felt his life was useless: Here is what was in the paper:
- Never go anywhere
- Never make a name for yourself
- Never make any money
If you have watched the movie or know the story of Vince Papale, you know that all those things on that list never come true for Vince. In fact, at some point during the movie, Papale takes the paper, crumbles it in his hands, and throws it in the trash. Papale’s story went on to become one of most inspirational in football and to the city of Philadelphia. It’s a reminder that faulty connections need not dictate our lives.
Don’t Let the Narrative Stick
Faulty connections build narratives that can define us. Narratives help us make sense of life. Unfortunately, narratives, whether accurate or not, tend to drive our lives. We all have narratives. Many of us like, Papale, carry and apply narratives based on faulty connections characterized by statements such as something is wrong with me, I’ll fail as a parent, I’ll never do anything worthwhile in life, I’ll always live paycheck to paycheck.
The narratives rear their ugly head at random times and become the foundation for making excuses and interpreting the current state of our lives. Faulty connections create narratives that keep you stagnant. Each time you make a step forward, the narrative puts you back in your place by reminding you that you’ll never be consistent enough to reach your goal.
The Price of Faulty Connections
According to pastor Andy Stanley, our narratives create excuses, and justifications, and empower us to avoid what we should not avoid and embrace things we should avoid. Like a fire that spreads, faulty connections create narratives that spread through our lives, creating damage that sometimes can be irreparable. To sidestep the price of faulty connections, we must identify moments when the narrative kicks in.
Identify Your Prompts
Best-selling author and pastor, Craig Groeschel says, “You can’t defeat what you don’t define.” To stop the spread of negative narratives, you must identify the prompts that create the faulty connection. When does the narrative play in your life? Does it happen when things are going well, and the narrator in your head proclaims, “Things are going too well; something bad is going to happen.” Or, “People like me don’t get such opportunities; there must be a catch somewhere.” These narratives make us hesitant or even suspicious. In worst-case scenarios, they are self-sabotaging. Prompt identification gives you the awareness to take the next step to conquer faulty connections.
Interrupt the Process
The Valley Fire was controlled and conquered by brave firefighters’ interruption of its devastation. Without this, the damage would have been more severe. Killing negative narratives requires an interruption. This interruption allows us to change the narrative and live a better life story. The next time the narrative rages, interrupt its flow with a question, Why am I thinking this way? It’s the interrupt-to-investigate model of disruptive thinking.
The progression below shows the path to better narratives
Identify > interrupt > investigate > initiate
This interruption closes the gap between where we currently are, where we want to be, who we are, and who we want to be. When Papale threw away the list his wife gave him, he interrupted the process holding him back from becoming who he was meant to be. Moreover, this interruption creates the opportunity to initiate a fresh and positive narrative. This will be the focus of next week’s blog post.
Final Thought: Faulty connections are at the heart of negative narratives. Like the Valley Fire, connections that create these narratives spread through our lives like a fire with devastating effects. To change this, identify the prompts that encourage the narratives that keep you stagnant. Interrupt the process with an investigative question, and initiate a new and better narrative that helps you improve your life through better outcomes.
Keep on keeping on