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A Story to Improve Your Performance!

Mindset Made Simple Tip #202 – Listen or watch HERE.


Let me tell you a story!   When your parents led with that, you probably rolled your eyes.  But they were on to something. 

Stories have power.  And they knew that if they told you a story, you would somehow relate to or remember it.  They believed that whatever lesson they were trying to teach would stick through their oh-so-interesting narrative 😊!

Why do you believe what you believe?  A lot of what you believe comes from the same type of stories our parents used to make us crazy…I mean, smarter!  We all believe in something from big beliefs like the power of a higher being to our ability to do math.   Some of these beliefs we challenge—others we accept at face value.

And most of what we believe comes from stories…the stories we were told or the stories we wrote ourselves.

Listen to the same story long enough; it will change what you believe and how you act!!  Maybe it makes you double down on what you already believe or alters your beliefs.  Either way, listen long enough and it will change you!  Think about the stories you read and hear in today’s political climate.  People repeat the same thing repeatedly and suddenly, it becomes the truth…people start to believe it.  Even if the storyline conflicts with other stories they have clung to for decades, repeated stories sink in!

Stories have power.  Why do you think the Bible, Torah and Quran are filled with them?  Stories told over time become a part of who we are…and how we act!

We are constantly creating narratives…about others, our environment and abilities.  According to Vanessa Boris and Lani Peterson in a discussion brief about leadership and storytelling in the Harvard Business Review, storytelling helps us receive, analyze, organize and archive information.  They say that “facts enter as data points: stories connect the dots.” They help us make sense of things. 


Researchers have found that facts enveloped in a story are 20 times more likely to be remembered.  Add a tune to them and you’ll be driving down the road 30 years later spitting it all out as if you sing the same song every day…because 30 years ago, you had the song on repeat in your cassette player!  You heard the story and it stuck…still!


Stories connect us to others, our emotions and our experiences.   Our stories are our reality!


Why are stories important in our performance?  Because stories drive our performance!


What we hear, from outside sources and in our head, shapes how we think, feel and act.  Stories have power. 


And if we want to perform at our best, we need to harness this power!!


I was talking with one of my athletes last night about the stories he hears.  A “friend” and teammate that we’ll call “Billy” has been telling my guy stories of late.  Billy continually asks Matthew why he is swimming in certain races saying he should just drop this race or that race because he isn’t winning.  He goes on to tell my guy other stories about what he should do and can do, and these stories drive my guy nuts.  They sneak in and make him second-guess himself.


You’re probably thinking, “Who cares what Billy thinks?”  But you know as well as I do that letting these stories float off into the abyss as a 15-year-old (or a 50-year-old) is easier said than done!


Stories have power.  The stories others bombard us with can alter the stories we tell ourselves, too.  And this is where OUR STORY can make a difference!


We know the world tells us stories of who we can or should be.  Even the best of us are affected by stories.  I often hear that NBA players read their own reviews in the locker room – at halftime!  They are reading about what some guy sitting at home in his mom’s basement thinks of his first-half play.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

But we do it, too!  The stories these NBA guys are reading on X at halftime connect to stories they were told at some point in their lives and if they connect to unhelpful stories, guess what happens to their 2nd half play?  Now the coach, while trying to make adjustments and improve performance, is battling the stories these guys have about their play AND the stories that seep in from the outside.


Stories have power!


So what do we do?  As Trevor Moawad says in It Takes What It Takes, our inner ad campaign, or the stories we tell ourselves, must be louder than those in the world.   Our stories MUST work FOR US!  The stories we tell ourselves are the most important stories we will ever hear!


Performance specialist, Dr. Jim Loehr, in The Power of Story, Rewrite Your Destiny in Business and Life, says we need to identify which of our stories are not working for us. 


Back to my athlete, he must first identify that Billy’s stories aren’t his AND that Billy’s stories don’t work for him!


Dr. Loehr suggests that we figure out which of our stories cause us concern, grief, disruption and misalignment in our lives. , Just as important is for us to identify the stories that WORK FOR US!  I bet, if we are willing to look, we will find more of the former and fewer of the latter and this, in itself, is an important revelation!   Dr. Loehr also says that to edit any story, we must first find where it takes us off the rails. 


Annette Simmons, author of The Story Factor says that people don’t need new facts.  They need new stories.  My guy knows the facts.   But unfortunately, facts without a story aren’t remembered as accurately and if a new story comes in that ties to other beliefs and emotions, our facts go right out the window because they don’t seem relevant at the moment.  And if we aren’t careful, they will be replaced with “new facts” which are not facts at all! 


We must be ready to edit our story when it isn’t working for us.  To do so, it takes an intentional examination, a stepping outside ourselves to examine the narrative.  It is so easy to get sucked up into what is going on around us and lose sight of where we want to go.  And reminding ourselves of where we want to go is part of our story!

Dr. Loehr says that building a new story must meet the Purpose – Truth – Action standardDoes it take me where I want to go?   Is it grounded in reality?  Does it lead to action that stimulates genuine hope and productive action?

Matthew's work for this week is to WRITE DOWN his story.  Why does he swim in the races he competes in?  More importantly, why does he work his butt off every day in training, and adjust his nutrition, sleep and other habits to compete?  Why does he love to swim?  Where does he want to go with it?  What are the things that he does well, where has he improved and in what ways does he continue to grow in the sport?

The "writing it down" part is important here. When we physically write things on paper, our brain navigates the information differently than when we are thinking the same thoughts or even typing them.

First, when we write our story down, it forces us to pay attention to our thoughts. We can't analyze our thoughts with our thoughts very well. But we can analyze our thoughts as we read them. We can then edit, expand, adjust and find ways to make what we do match our story.

We can also benefit from what neuropsychologists call the "generational effect" which says we tend to remember things we have created ourselves, more than things we hear or even read because we are first creating a picture in our minds. We then get an extra boost when we recreate the picture to fit into words as we write it down. And we know from our work in mental performance that the pictures we see influence our performance!

Matthew's story, which started with a picture of who he is and what he does now written and committed to memory, must outweigh the world’s!  He has a story about himself as a swimmer. To be able to withstand Billy’s story, he must be well grounded in his own.  His story can’t be, “I am the greatest swimmer ever” because he knows that’s not true.  His story must have purpose, truth and action as Dr. Loehr suggests.  It must be grounded in truth and facts so he believes it.  It must be hopeful and motivating so he likes to listen to it. 

This story can be turned into what I call "back pocket notes" or BPNs that can be carried with you physically as a constant and intentional reminder of YOUR STORY!

Sometimes, the story needs to be simple and direct like this “Matthew, you compete because you love the challenge, even when it is hard.  You have proven over the past year that you can get better when you put your mind and effort to it and if you keep your focus and intensity, the chances are your improvements will continue.” 

This story doesn’t promise anything, and it isn’t pie in the sky.  It says why and how.  It is simple and based on facts.  It is forward-focused and provides a bridge from where he has been to where he wants to go.

And it sounds VERY different than Billy’s story.  Billy’s story is his own.  Now Matthew has a story of his own.  And with this story, he gives himself a fighting chance against his competitors, the clock, Billy and himself!

What stories do you need to evaluate and edit?  Remember, your story must WORK FOR YOU and be louder than those out there in the world.  Because the more you hear something, the more you believe it!

Manage the moments and your story!




P.S. Is it time to change your approach to training the mental game?  I can help! Shoot me a text at 234-206-0946 or an email at and get scheduled today!

Julie Jones

Mental Performance Coach

SSB Performance • 234-206-0946 

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