Is Your Story Holding You Back?

Mar 20, 2018 By Dave Nelson, Survivor, Founder, CEO, Speaker & Coach at Milestone Mind

Most stories have protagonists who is the “superheroes” of the narrative. They’re the main characters that we cheer for...the ones who are out there trying to make the world a better place. 

Most stories also have an antagonist. This is the person who is trying to disrupt the main character and throw him or her off course. Without a protagonist, a story is not going to be particularly interesting, because you need some sort of conflict to keep your listeners engaged.

A truly great story holds your attention. It’s got an intensity that keeps you on the edge of your seat when you’re listening to it. You want to keep hearing more of the story, to find out how it ends.

We also personally relate to the protagonists of great stories, because of the oxytocin our brains release when we’re hearing the story. As we listen, we actually adopt the identity of the lead character because of these neurochemicals. Our brains literally light up when we hear a great tale.

I have an attraction to certain movies, like Rudy, Braveheart, or 300, because I related to the main characters and the put myself in their shoes as they move along their journeys. 

Have you ever noticed that when you see a great movie or read an incredible book, you still find yourself thinking about that story several days later? That’s the power of storytelling.

Now I want you to ask yourself, “What’s the story I’m telling myself about my own life?”

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The Moment I Realized My Old Story Was Outdated and Useless

When I was in my early thirties, I started asking myself some BIG questions. 

“What brought me to this point?” 

“What are my values?”

“What is my identity, and how to I view myself? What’s the story I have in my head about who I am?”

When I wrote down some responses to these question, I realized I valued being tough and being the best. I also valued strength, courage, independence, curiosity, and kindness – but I had this story in my head  was all about being a fighter. 

In my mind, a fighter is someone who survives, and someone who always stands on his own two feet. There have been many times in my life when I fought to make things happen. This was a fighter’s mentality, and somewhere along the line, I decided I was a fighter. 

Once I made this realization, I asked myself, “How old is this story? When did I decide I’m a fighter?”

I want to pinpoint the time in my life that I developed this story. Had I just been following this story (and believing what it says about me) for years? When I really searched for an answer, I realized that I created this story when I was about 15 years old. Since then, my priorities, goals, and choices have been run by this internal identity as a fighter. 

Now, I’m not going to lie – this “fighter” identity served me well when I was a teenager. I used it to survive a tumultuous and dangerous family life, and this story propelled me to athletic and professional success in my younger years. 

But I was reflecting on this story when I was 30 years old. My life had settled down considerably, and I had to ask myself whether I was truly with this old story. Was it still useful to me? Was it serving me? Was it helping me inspire others?

The answer to all of these questions was a resounding “no.”

In many ways, my old story that framed me as a fighter made me the antagonist of my own life. It was me against the world, and I always had a chip on my shoulder about everything, because I had to fight for everything I did, and fight the bad guys along the way.

If you don’t take a pause to examine these stories in your own life, and ask yourself if they’re still running you, it’s really easy to get complacent. You can pay the bills, and you’ve got a moderately successful career, so you get comfortable. You start resting back on your heels a little. 

I wanted to break through that complacency, and live a life that truly inspired me. 

How to Create a Story That Works for You, Not Against You

It’s critical that you get really clear on exactly who you are and what your values are. These questions about identity will have a huge impact on your life, so it’s worth spending some time with them and giving them some serious thought. 

Want to discover more about your own identity, and the story you’re telling yourself about who you are? Ask yourself:

  • What led me to where I am right now?
  • What capabilities and talents did I need to have to get here?
  • What belief systems do I embody?
  • If I had to put my identity into one word or phrase, what would it be?
  • Am I happy with that word or phrase (and with that identity)? 
  • How old is that identity? Is still serving me?

If you find out that you developed your current identify many years ago, it may be time to reexamine your current behaviors, belief systems, and values, and figure out a new story for yourself.

Once you’ve established that new, authentic story, your can let your new identity shine through, and start using it as a compass to lead you to the things you want to accomplish in your life. 

Don’t Let Your Old Story Hold You Back

If you uncover your story and discover it’s guiding you well, great! Keep going. You don’t necessarily need to change a thing.

But if you’re like the vast majority of us, you may find that you need to uncover a more authentic story that truly reflects who you are today. If that sounds like you,I urge you to start asking yourself some of these bigger questions. 

I decided to shift my identify from “fighter” to “adventurous leader.” I’d love to help you figure out what your new story is, and help you start living from that new identify. 

You can make your new story come alive for you – and discover the amazing journey it can take you on from here. 

Next Steps...


People often times struggle identifying what their values actually are as they get older, but it is critical you do this.

Let us help you by getting you started with the Milestone Mind Institute's Free Online Course Vault.