One of the things I’ve noticed recently is that there are a lot of unhappy parents and teens out their.
This is something that I’ve been coaching on regularly for the past several months.
And, to be honest, this is something that I’ve been struggling with in my own life recently.
Then recently I heard my coach say, . . .
“Unhappiness comes from the gap between where your current life is (story) and where you think it should be (story). That gap in between is the ‘unhappiness gap’.”
~ Jim Fortin
As I thought about my own recent unhappiness, I explored, “What are my stories that are making my unhappy?”
I realized that I had a lot of stories about all the things that I thought should be different in my life.
I had stories about my business, my business partners, my clients, my wife, my kids, my weight, and on and on.
And, these stories were making my unhappy.
Let’s use the example of my weight. When I think, “Man, I should weigh 195 lbs. instead of 240-ish lbs.” This makes me unhappy.
And, it’s completely untrue. Maybe it’s true that I weigh 240-ish lbs., but that doesn’t mean that I should weigh 195.
Thoughts that make me unhappy in my business or with my partners are thinks like, “My business should be further along,” or “I should have this figured out by now,” or “My partner should do this instead of what they are doing.”
The truth is, those are all stories.
When I create a gap between reality and what I think reality “SHOULD” be, I experience feelings like disappointment, frustration, discouragement, shame, guilt, doubt, worry, and just unhappiness in general.
I’m not saying that it’s bad to be unhappy.
What I am saying is that you get to choose whether or not you will be unhappy by the stories you tell.
There are things that make me unhappy, like the death of innocent people, especially children, but it’s because of the story that I tell myself, that innocent people and especially children, should not die.
When this happens, I choose to be unhappy by choosing to believe my story.
Everything Is a Story
The truth is, EVERYTHING is a story.
There’s a beautiful tree in my front yard. In the fall it turns dark read and it is beautiful. It’s a special tree because I almost killed it twice, but I nursed it back to health both times. The first time my wife and I were out of town for a couple weeks straight in the middle of summer and it didn’t get watered, and when we can home it was all wilty. The second time I was trying to straighten it, because it’s always windy in my town and the tree leans to the east, and I was pulling on one of the thick limbs right above where it forked, and I totally broke the tree in half, just like breaking a turkey’s wish bone. Anyway, I glued it and put a few screws into the tree to hold it together, and after a while it totally recovered.
Everything I told you is a story.
Sure, everything I told you is true, but it’s also a story. My neighbors might think (their story) that my tree is ugly, and that it should have died when it had the change.
When you realize that everything is a story, you can start to develop some awareness behind the stories that you allow to be told in your mind.
Once you become aware of what stories you’re telling yourself and others, you will have the power to be intentional about the stories that you tell.
What Are the Stories of Your Herd?
As I’ve been coaching both parents and teens on being unhappy, I’ve noticed a few patterns.
First, they’re not really aware of the stories that they’re telling themselves.
And second, they’re not really aware of the stories that they’re picking up and believing from their herd.
Let me give you an example.
While President Trump was president, I had a friend who constantly believed that he was actively trying to destroy the country. He was almost constantly unhappy, and he blamed Donald Trump.
A few months after President Biden became our president, I was coaching a teen who was really worried because his dad had told him that by the time Biden was done being president, we’d have zero freedoms left and probably be slaves to China.
These are two examples of listening to the stories of others, people in your herd, and adopting those stories as your own, and then letting those stories impact your happiness.
Many of the teens that I’ve coached on being unhappy were believing the stories of others in their herd, like a coach telling them they should have won, or friends telling them they look dumb and should wear cooler clothes.
Many of the parents that I’ve coached on this are unhappy because their teen’s teacher is telling them that their teen should be a straight A student, or because their neighbors think they should have “tighter reigns” on their kids.
The truth is, just because your herd believes certain stories, does not mean you should believe those same stories.
Be The Hero Of Your Stories
Another thing that causes unhappiness, and one that I am a master at, is positioning yourself as the victim in your story.
I do this all the time.
I blame the guy who cut me off, or my wife or business partner for a disagreement.
The problem is, anytime you blame someone else, you position yourself as the victim in your story.
Sometimes we secretly want to be the victim. It’s easier to blame someone else than it is to take accountability, but the truth is, being the victim of your stories will make you unhappy.
If you or your teen are unhappy, check your stories. Are you blaming someone or something outside of your control?
If the answer is “Yes,” that’s awesome news because YOU have the power to be the hero of your stories.
Start Developing New Stories
There’s a trend in life coaching to really focus on what you are thinking.
This isn’t bad, and I love thought awareness, but I think there’s also power in focusing on HOW you are thinking.
Blaming is a way of thinking.
Catastrophizing is a way of thinking.
On the other hand, being accountable or taking responsibility are ways of thinking.
Instead of catastrophizing, you could proactively think optimistically.
Instead of seeing everything as a threat or an obstacle, you can see things as opportunities.
Rather than believing that the world is working against you, you can see that it is working for you.
As you change how you think, you will start practicing new stories.
You can do this both on the individual level of WHAT you are thinking and on the bigger picture of HOW you are thinking.
Want to Be Happier? Tell Better Stories.
I recently heard someone talking about the ability to make sense of things that have happed or are happening to you and how important this is to being mentally and emotionally healthy.
There was a time when my business was new, we weren’t making much money, and we had to get help from our church to provide food for my family.
I remember thinking things like:
I’m a failure.
My business isn’t working.
I should quit.
This isn’t working.
It’s the market’s fault.
As I did some self coaching, I started replacing my old stories with more helpful stories like:
This is an opportunity for me to grow from desperation.
This will be a good story to help inspire future clients.
If I can get through this, I can get through anything.
Making sense of your past or current trials and struggles is kind of like connecting the dots between where you were and are and where you want to be.
Making sense of your life is simply choosing the stories that you will tell and the interpretations you will make.
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One of my favorite things to do is to coach football! Here are some early leassons learned from this season.
“In the absence of feedback, people will fill in the blanks with a negative. They will assume you don’t care about them or don’t like them.” ~ Pat Summit
I LOVE Football!
First, I want to say that I LOVE football!
It really helped me as a struggling teen, and even as an adult, football plays a beneficial part in my life.
For the past 4 years, I’ve helped coach football in some capacity. Several years before that I also spent 4 years coaching at the high school level.
It’s thanks to football that my wife and I got into foster parenting and part of the reason I got into education. And now, as a life coach, football has a heavy influence on how I teach and coach parents and their teens.
This year, I wanted to take a minute and share some powerful lessons that I’ve learned so far from this season.
Lessons I’ve Learned So Far that You Can Use with You and Your Teen!
Feedback is important!
This is the first year that I’ve coached with this set of coaches.
One of the things that I’ve noticed that sets the best coaches apart from the others is their ability to give consistent feedback!
The coaches who are most respected give consistent feedback. Do something wrong, they’re going to calmly let you know. Do something right, they’re going to calmly let you know. The best coaches give players feedback, for example coaching on how to block better, then they wait and watch for you to do it right so they can give you feedback in the form of praise.
Recently in talking with my son, he told me that he didn’t like certain coaches. When I asked him “Why?” he explained that he didn’t think that they liked him. Again, I asked my favorite coaching question, “Why?” To which he answered, “I don’t think they like anyone. They never tell us anything. They never talk to us.”
How can you consistently offer feedback? What feedback would you like to offer?
For me it’s teaching my teen, it’s praising his efforts, and it’s letting him know that everything is just right.
You are responsible for your culture!
I love the team that I am coaching with, and I am grateful for the opportunity. I want to be clear about that!
I also want to share some of the lessons that I’ve noticed and some things that you might be able to apply in your home.
This lesson has become glaringly obvious lately.
You are responsible for your culture.
Recently I overheard some coaches complaining about players being late. The funny thing was, this group of coaches is consistently late themselves. They are responsible for the culture that they are complaining about. Not only do they tolerate players being late, but they also model that behavior by being late themselves.
Being responsible for your culture is both a blessing and a curse. We can see the negative impact in the example above.
This is also a blessing because if you want to change your culture, it starts with YOU.
Be the change that you want to see.
How are you responsible for the culture in your home, both the good and the bad?
How can you take responsibility for your culture? Where would you like to start BEing different?
For me in my home, it’s positioning myself as the hero by avoiding my tendency to complain and blame. It’s creating a culture of responsibility and BEing the hero of our own stories.
Excitement is contagious!
It’s been fun to coach with these coaches. One of the new coaches is my son’s favorite coach. When I asked him, “Why?”, he said, because he’s always happy and excited. This coach is one big buff, athletic-looking, dude! When he gets excited, it’s a little scary because he’s so massive, but EVERYONE around him gets excited.
What if you got excited every time you saw your teen? What if that was one of your new ways of BEing? What impact would that have on you and your teen’s life?
For me, it’s celebrating my teen’s victories and successes. It’s being excited to see him and spend time with him.
Call to ACTION!
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How you interpret things and the stories you tell will determine whether you are the victim or the hero of your story!
“You are not at the mercy of your circumstances. You are at the mercy of your interpretations.” ~ Jim Fortin
Interpretations are Just Thoughts and Stories.
Most people think that their interpretations are facts, just the way things are.
If they were facts, they would go in the circumstance line of the model.
Fortunately for us, interpretations are thoughts. This is the best news ever because it means that you have the power to choose your interpretations.
You can look at your interpretations in the model and see how they impact your ways of BEing. How do they make you feel? How do they make you act? What results do you get from your interpretations?
Since interpretations are thoughts, how you interpret things will determine what you look for, where you put your attention, and how you think.
If you’re not intentional about your interpretations, your interpretations will create results in your life that you are not happy with.
Why Intentional Interpretation Is SO Powerful.
Interpretations are just your stories of how you perceive circumstances around you. How you interpret life around you determines the stories that you tell yourself in your own head.
So, when you have an interpretation, it shows up in your thought line in your model. As a thought, your interpretations create the feelings that drive your actions which create your results.
This is HUGE!
If you don’t like how you feel, or you don’t like your actions, or you’re not happy with your results, choose new interpretations.
Here’s an example that I use when I coach football.
Look at being physically exhausted.
Most people interpret being exhausted or tired as meaning that you need a break, you need to slow down and conserve energy or that something has gone “wrong” and that it’s bad to be tired and exhausted.
Most of these interpretations take place on the subconscious level. You don’t even realize that you are thinking this way.
In football this causes athletes to take plays off and slow down to conserve energy.
When I coach, I change my team’s interpretation of being physically tired or exhausted.
I teach my team to interpret being tired as simply our internal indicator that the other team is tired. I teach my team to understand that it is human nature to want to rest, slow down and conserve energy when you’re tired.
When we are tired, we know that the other team is also tired, and this is a good thing for us because they are more likely to make mistakes. And, when they make a mistake, we’re going to be ready to take advantage of it.
I teach my teams that being tired is simply a physical reminder to step up and take advantage of the other tired team. We play our best football when we’re tired. We get sharper, we pay attention to detail, and we take over games during the 4th quarter. We love being tired because it gives us a huge advantage.
Games are won and lost when people are tired. This is what we’re preparing for.
How to Be Intentional With Your Interpretations.
First, you have to be aware of what your interpretations are.
To do this, practice awareness throughout the day. When you notice an interpretation, identify and label it. “This is an interpretation.”
Thought downloads are also powerful tools to help you identify your interpretations. Any time you find yourself saying things like, “It’s not fair,” “My teen’s lazy,” “I’m not good enough,” or “This is bad.”
These are all interpretations.
Second, once you’ve become aware of your interpretations, you can start to be intentional about how you interpret things. When you identify and label your interpretation, intentionally more your attention to your desired interpretation.
It might look like this.
“My son is lazy. Wait, that’s an interpretation. I move my attention to the interpretation that my son is doing his best.”
We identified the unintentional interpretation and moved our attention to an intentional interpretation.
This will impact the rest of the stories that we tell ourselves.
Third, as you do this, practice new intentional interpretations by doing models. In the first step I invited you to do thought downloads. Once you’ve done this, you can do an unintentional model and an intentional model based on the thoughts and interpretations that you identified in your thought downloads.
Call to ACTION!
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If you want to take your parenting to the next level, I want you to be a part of this program.
“Understand and challenge your personal narrative. Narratives become choices and actions — which become your life.” ~Bryant H. McGill
What is a personal narrative, and what does it have to do with my teen?
Personal narratives are the stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves, others, and our circumstances.
These narratives are tied to our thoughts and our beliefs, which then influence our feelings and actions.
Our personal narratives as parents are often reflected and copied by our children.
The stories we tell ourselves, our personal narrative, become our reality because we begin to believe them.
Some of my past personal narratives.
I’m the first to admit that this is an area that I used to struggle with. As a teen I thought that there was something wrong with me. Those thoughts carried over into my adult years until I finally addressed them through coaching and using the model.
I’m not good enough
I’m a trouble maker
I’m not smart enough.
I’m not cool
I’ve ruined my life
Nobody likes me
Narratives that I’m practicing today.
You CAN change your personal narrative. You don’t have to continue believing the harmful stories from your past.
It isn’t always easy, but it is totally doable. Here’s a few narratives that are helping me right now.
I am good enough
My past troubles were actually preparing me for greatness
I can bounce back from anything
My teen is resilient
He is doing his best
His struggles are preparing him for greatness.
So, where do I start?
Lot’s of parents want to change their teen’s personal narrative. They say, “My teen doesn’t have confidence because he’s constantly telling us that he’s ‘not good enough.'”
His narrative is definitely linked to his confidence, BUT you have to remember that you can only control YOUR NARRATIVE!
You cannot change your teen’s narrative.
You can only have an impact on their narrative by controlling your own personal narrative.
Here’s a good place to start.
Become aware of your personal narrative about yourself
This is the most powerful place to start.
If you have negative narratives about yourself, you are more likely to have narratives about others or even just your circumstances.
Become aware of your personal narrative about your teen.
Start to pay attention to the thoughts that you have about your teen.
How you think about your teen impacts how you treat them.
Explore your teen’s personal narrative through observation and conversation.
Watch your teen. Look for clues as to what their narrative is.
Listen to the things they say about themselves and others.
Have a conversation with them about this.
Become intentional about your personal narrative.
Once you’ve become aware of exactly what your personal narrative sounds like, start the practice of becoming intentional.
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