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What's Your Story?

Or, how your life will work out.

Your mood is important and can be the difference between success and failure. How do you take care of them? Or do you find that you are gripped by your moods and feel like you’re stuck with them?

One way to look at moods is that they are ungrounded assessments of how your life will work out the future.

Ungrounded assessments

When you feel like things are going to turn out well, you are in a good mood. However, when you feel that things aren’t so good, you feel bad. Why does this matter? Have you noticed that when you’re in a good mood, you are more productive and have better ideas? How about when you’re in a mood of despair or anxiety? You probably have seen that your capacity to work on important tasks is diminished or non existent. Not only that, but when you’re in a bad mood, well, you’re in a bad mood…

With moods having such an impact on our thoughts and actions, wouldn’t it be great if we could just be in good moods whenever we want? An interesting observation of moods is that they are not “in” your head, they actually are characteristics of the conversations you have with yourself and others. When people say moods are contagious, they mean that when new people come into the conversation, they often experience the same moods as the rest of the group. This also holds true when you’re just thinking - you are in the mood of the stories that you are telling yourself when you think. How does this interpretation of moods help? What if you could change your mood whenever you wanted to? It turns out that you can. You just have to change your story of the future.

It’s not obvious, but we are always in a dialog with ourselves. That dialog affects our mood, so try listening to what you tell yourself about how the next few minutes or hours are going to turn out. Then reflect on what you are currently anticipating about your next few years. Pay attention to the mood you’re experiencing. If you are anticipating a vacation or spending time with someone you love, you are probably experiencing a good mood. Likewise, if you are anticipating something unpleasant like filing your taxes or taking a test you’re not ready for, your mood is likely more negative.

Tell yourself a story…

Ok, so now you may see that moods are a reflection of how you are anticipating your future, but we can’t just change the future, can we? Try this. Tell yourself and others around you a story of a future as you would like it to be. You don’t have to build up the basis for that future, just make it meaningful to you and what you care about. Include situations you would like to be in, like acing the test, receiving a big tax refund, and include outcomes of those new situations, like what new things they allow you to do or unpleasant things they allow you to avoid. If you speak this story to someone else, especially someone who is included in the story, your (and their) moods will improve.

With this newfound good mood, turn your attention to what you want to accomplish and notice that you are able to act with increased productivity and passion for the outcomes. Include the potential outcomes in your story, and you will be able to hold that mood, enabling you to perform more productively and effectively, which itself will produce a better mood.

So, what’s your story?