A book excerpt from Tell A New Story
One of the things that helps me to approach life and all relationships in my life from a positive mindset is a little acronym I picked up from a parenting class I took while back: ABI stands for Assume Best Intentions, and it really stuck with me. When you assume the best of others instead of the worst, it allows you to be more empathetic towards them.
Practicing compassion and giving it more freely to others makes it easier to give it to ourselves. When we assume that someone acted out of best intentions, our minds stay open to possibilities instead of fixating on stories about what someone did wrong — stories that we may have unwittingly made up anyhow. When we don’t have all of the answers about something that stresses us out, our mind very craftily makes up a story about what might have happened to fill in the blanks. The problem is that it usually fills it in with something worse than what really happened.
We can see the mind doing its job to protect us from the worst case scenario; however, this hardly helps us get what we want. Instead of enhancing our relationships, it impedes our desire for connection and trust with others. When we assume the person we are in relationship with has negative intentions, we automatically tune them out and start to break down the relationship. There is a tendency to start to judge and blame them based on the story we are telling ourselves.
On a side note, assuming best intentions is different than accepting bad behavior. Setting definitive boundaries is always part of any healthy relationship. Nonetheless, when we constantly question the intentions of others, we put our relationships at stake. Assuming best intentions puts you in a mindset that will bring out the best in all your relationships and help you cultivate an environment of trust, understanding, and compassion, which is all we really want anyhow.
Let’s apply this to our stories. When we assume that our own intentions are pure, we can look at our stories with compassion. We can be the witness and get curious to find out why we were telling a certain story in the first place. Take a look at one of your stories, one that you’ve determined makes you feel like a victim or just makes you feel negative after you tell it. One of the stories that I used to tell myself is that I was a fool for leaving my successful corporate career to become a musician.
I was only three years into my music career when we started a family. Suddenly, I was juggling children with the seemingly impossible task of becoming “something” in the music business. But what did that mean anyhow? At points, I felt I was so deep into my music career and had invested so much time and money that I couldn’t leave. I would blame myself for trying to follow a dream that was obviously impossible. Everyone told me how hard the music business was and that you couldn’t make any money in it. We were in the middle of raising a family and I had these beautiful children who needed my attention, yet I still quietly beat myself up for feeling stuck and unsuccessful because that was the sucky story I told myself. Now, this story didn’t look true to most people who knew me. I had a husband who loved me, two beautiful children, a nice home, and a good life. Inside, though, it was very real.
You can see that this was less than productive or inspiring. Sometimes I got so down about it that I wondered if I should just hang up my guitar and quit. Then along came all the crazy tragedies: when I was pregnant with my second child my older sister died, and eighteen months later, my dad died suddenly and so tragically. It was then that I really turned to the music. It became so cathartic to write in my journals, and these entries turned into my songs, which turned into my first full length album. It wasn’t about being “successful,” because what did that mean anyhow? I still remember my husband sitting me down when we first decided that I would take this challenge on. He said to me: “Honey, you need to define your own level of success. Don’t let anyone else tell you what that means. Define it and don’t forget what it means to you.”
Those words still ring in my head on days when I forget. I’m not sure I would have gotten through that messy era of my life without being able to pour myself into my music and create something that didn’t exist the day before. I took a blank page and made it into a rhyme, which turned into a song, which morphed into a tapestry of songs that would be an offering of hope to others who needed it. I used to tell people that my Almost Home CD felt like it was a piece of my heart all wrapped up in cellophane, waiting to touch the lives of whoever needed to hear it. It was then that I realized that creating music saved me — that I had been brave and successful just because I was doing what scared me and moved me the most.
Getting past my fear of being a flop, and realizing that I had been successful because my definition included making a difference in other people’s lives, was a turning point for me. I had been telling myself the story that I was a fool because I was scared to really step out into the unknown; I didn’t know where it would take me. I realized that my intention with the CD and my true intention behind getting into the music business in the first place was really all about self-expression, creation, and inspiration, which are high aspirations for all humans. It was about returning to the roots of who I used to be as a child before society wrung it out of me. I forgave myself for saying I was a failure just because I didn’t recreate my corporate salary with the music business. I redefined my level of success and realized that making an impact on other people and sharing my insights and gifts with the world was far more fulfilling than the next promotion or President’s Club. I told the story that I was helping other people get through their experiences using music as my message, and isn’t that the purpose of music in the first place? If I can touch or change just one life for the listening, then my job is complete.
I also had two little girls who were watching me intently. They were learning just by seeing what Mommy did day in and day out. Through the years, they observed me lugging my sticker-adorned guitar case in and out of the house to teach music classes to little ones. I started when my second-born was in preschool, and it was one of the most uplifting jobs I have ever had. I loved going to the school to bring joy to everyone in the room. It didn’t pay me a ton, but I was inspiring little ones to fall in love with music at a very young age, and that was priceless. I realized my work was changing the world one little heart at a time. Soon, I garnered more invitations from schools, and before long I was playing at libraries and bigger festivals with my music partner, Adrienne. We launched a children’s CD Let it Shine and it was welcomed with open arms by young families all over the country. We even received our first award from Creative Child Magazine! Next, it was picked up by Pandora Radio, and it made me feel great to know that we were spreading light all around the world.
Do you have a story that is holding you back from following your dream or from living your best life? Do you tell yourself stories in your head that you are too afraid to let anyone else know about? These are signs that your story is sucking the happiness out of your life. Sometimes we don’t even realize that these stories are running in the backdrop of our minds, day in and day out. When we spend some quiet time in self-awareness, examining our stories that we tell ourselves and others, we can start to recognize patterns in these stories. When we realize we had the power to change them all along, we can begin to tell a new and empowering story that inspires not only us, but everyone around us.
Adapted and reprinted with permission of the author from Tell A New Story by Carrie Rowan. 2020, Peony Publishing. All rights reserved.
Carrie Rowan is an award-winning singer/songwriter, certified coach and founder of the STORY method. Rowan is a teacher and speaker uniquely combining the power of provocative storytelling with live music. She is also the director of advertising for “Spirit of Change Magazine,” a Reiki Master and meditation enthusiast. Rowan spent a decade working for Fortune 500 companies before jumping off the corporate ladder to pursue her creative endeavors and inspire others to follow their passions. CarrieRowan.com