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Change the Narrative
Change your narrative, change your life.

Change the Narrative is a new feature series on the Sentencing Solutions blog that will discuss and explore change on the personal and systemic levels.

The premise is quite simple: (1) change may appear beyond one’s reach or ability to control, but it is always within one’s ability to influence; and (2) personal narratives, the stories we tell ourselves and others, shape our experiences.

Since ancient times, and across diverse cultures, man has held belief in the power of a ‘name’.  To know the name of a person, place, or thing is to have dominion or power over that thing.  In modern times, for example, knowledge of a person’s wrongdoings facilitates blackmail and snitching.

“And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.”

Genesis 2:19 (King James Bible)

On a personal level, naming or labeling feelings and emotions, for example, is a required first step toward exercising control over them by identifying and challenging limiting beliefs associated with the particular feeling or emotion; and it is a life-long process.

I like acronyms (and metaphors). Both are convenient mnemonic devices that a person can use to encode and recall information.  In the present context, MAGIK represents the following:

  • Meaning-Making: refers to the process of how persons construe, understand, or make sense of life events, relationships, and the self. Our personal narratives are the result of meaning-making.
  • Attention: refers to the process of selectively concentrating on information while simultaneously ignoring other information. Attention also refers to the allocation of limited processing resources.
  • Growth & Development: refers to the human capacity for positive change: physically, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, and socially.
  • Identity: refers to the unique attributes, characteristics, and experiences of the individual, organization, or system (who are you?).
  • Knowledge: refers to the familiarity, awareness, or understanding of a person, organization, or system; including facts, information, descriptions, and skills that is acquired through personal experience, education, perception, discovery, or learning.

Changing your personal narrative requires a growth mindset.  According to psychologist and author, Carol Dweck (Mindset: The New Psychology of Success), mindset can be described as a perception or theory of one’s self, comprised of personal beliefs.  Mindsets are constructed individually and may operate inside or outside of conscious awareness; either way, they have a profound impact in all domains of human experience.  They can be divided into one of two categories: fixed or growth.  In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities (intelligence, talent etc.) are simply fixed traits – meaning they are not amenable to change (I am the way I am and nothing can change that).  On the other end of the spectrum, in a growth mindset, people believe that abilities (opportunities & circumstances) are amenable to change through commitment and commitment.  Identity and knowledge are foundational elements of the self that manifest themselves in a person’s mindsets which have a filtering effect on attention and a biasing effect on meaning-making.

Over the next weeks and months we will explore this narrative power of the self, as well as the transformative power of personal MAGIK.  I welcome your comments, questions, and general participation in discussions related to personal development – especially for the justice-involved.