The Power of 'I Am' in Navigating Change

Recrafting our personal narrative to develop a vision of the future

The nature of life is change. Last year woke many of us up to this truth like never before. Change means you're on your way somewhere new, but you don't yet know what it looks like. There is deep uncertainty.

Agencies are used to change. New business, loss of business, layoffs, new leadership, changing accounts, mergers and acquisitions. As the world changes around you, your roles, your teams and your relationships change—and you change, too.

Most people sit back and let change happen to them. They feel powerless to it. However, there are also those who bravely pause and articulate who they want to be next. And for many of us, this is a year when we have the opportunity to write the story of the next chapter of our careers—to face the change and use it to our advantage.

In the world of coaching, we often call these disruptive events "openings." We live our lives in a certain way, a disruption happens, and we feel stuck. In these moments, we have the opportunity to pause, examine who we are and how we are living, what's working and what's not. We can then be thoughtful and reorient how we're thinking, working and being.

As a former agency brand strategist, I can attest to the advertising industry's love of the phrase "the power of storytelling" when it comes to brand building and connecting with consumers. But have you ever considered leveraging the power of storytelling to build the life you want? The language we use to talk about who we are and what we do is truly powerful. 

"I am..." is the most powerful phrase in the universe. When you talk to and about yourself, what comes after "I am" shapes your reality.

If you take the time to objectively unearth the layers of your own self story, you can very clearly see the ways that you hold yourself back and reduce your potential. These limiting beliefs are simply stories.

We have the power to reshape the language we use to talk to and about ourselves. Recrafting our personal narrative can pave the way for a vision of the future that's motivating, meaningful and impactful. 

The next time you experience an "opening," here are three things you can do to write a new story—one that will allow you to approach change with clarity and confidence:

1) Ask yourself: What is the current, residing story that I tell myself about who I am and what's possible for me? And in what ways am I limiting myself?

Do you find yourself thinking "Well this is the way I've always done things" or "I don't have the skills for that" or "But everyone expects me to be the person who does xyz…" Yes, these are just stories that you have the power to change.

2) Identify your superpowers. Most people have a sense of their strengths and weaknesses. They are often handed to us through personality assessments or shared with us in annual reviews. While this information can be helpful, it can actually be quite limiting because it puts us in a box. The truth is, we all have many superpowers we have yet to access.

One of the best ways to identify your superpowers is to make something I call a "life map." Draw a horizontal line on a piece of paper. This represents your life from birth to today. Map the peaks (the high points) and valleys (the low points) of your life. For each of these, ask yourself, What did I learn about who I am in each moment? Now note the themes. These very often give way to your superpowers.

3) Craft a new "I am…" statement—one that leverages your superpowers and articulates what you want to be true about who you are. Take the time to fine-tune it. Say it out loud, and feel it in your body. You will get a feeling of clarity when it's the right one.

Now, live the statement. Say it to others, and they will respond accordingly. You're now training yourself, others and the world to embrace your story. Until you choose to rewrite it again.

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Lizzie Azzolino
Lizzie Azzolino is the founder of Until Now, a coaching and organizational development practice that partners with organizations, teams and leaders to design and manifest futures they want to be a part of. She is a trusted partner to clients at advertising, design and innovation agencies. Through her story coaching methodology, clients are supported in examining the stories they tell themselves about who they are and what's possible for them, gain awareness of limiting beliefs, and come away with a sense of clarity about who they are, a bold vision for the future and powerful language to give voice to their intended impact.

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