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Transforming Whines into Positive Change

We all see it - we are in the midst of change.

Being in the midst of change and experiencing a range of emotions about it is a multi-generational, universal experience – it vexes and invigorates us all. It leaves us wondering what’s going to happen next. That can feel invigorating, unsettling, energizing, frustrating, scary, exciting and/or (fill-in the blank). When we are in the midst of new beginnings, we don’t always have the vantage point of knowing “how the story ends.”

But I have great news - you are the story unfolding – you are the main character.

You get to...

  • Write (or rewrite) the script.

  • Decide how the main character (you) responds to _________.

  • Decide what the main character chooses to say about ________.

  • Decide when it’s appropriate to apologize, repair, love, redo, rethink, and try again.

  • Decide how your main character walks the difficult parts of the story when life’s challenges hit hard.

  • Decide if and, inevitably, when the main character gets unstuck from whatever it is that binds them, makes them unhappy, twists them up, and/or robs their joy.

It starts with choosing what we say and do – every moment – every day.

My Own Journey with Stepping In

I mentioned in last week’s newsletter that I am teaching at the university this academic year. The lead came from a partnership/client work I was engaged in with the Department of Communication at North Carolina State University – coincidentally, it’s also the discipline where I received my doctorate in organizational communication (at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana).

It has been wonderful to reencounter some of the material and resources I love so dear – to revisit the organizational settings that have promoted so much personal and professional growth for me over the years – and to give back to the discipline that launched my practice as an organizational development specialist with a doctorate in communication.

I love interacting with, learning from, and engaging in two-way conversations about the world of work with the students. I am proud to be sparking new thoughts and working with the next generation of leaders. And I do this in partnership with my client work, so please do continue to engage with me on your own change needs. You can see more about my services here.

Lest you think I am always positive, I’ve had to do some of my own script rewriting as I reencountered the classroom in face-to-face instruction (much of my client work is still accomplished via facilitating effective and outstanding Zoom meetings)! I walked into the classroom where 25 students awaited – and I have a choice every day about how I interpret my experience while my students ground me in their experience of life right now.

As I walked into the classroom on day one, I decided that this year, I am stepping back into life.

I have missed interacting fully with life in this past year and so this year, I am stepping back in – I am writing my own pandemic script – me, my mask and I.

Whining for Good

All good whine has purpose – it can take us down and/or - when we choose – it can eventually propel us toward positive change.

This week as I was grounding myself in theory I found myself reading change/leadership guru Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s latest book, Think Outside the Building. She has inspired my whining metaphor for today. Specifically, I was inspired by her thoughts on whining and positive action. Kanter writes:

Only ostriches could fail to notice that the world is full of scandals, crises, disasters, and warnings of more catastrophes to come – not to mention hurt feelings, real losses, greater stress, and a diminished sense of opportunity. I sometimes poured the whines myself. But as a generally upbeat and optimistic person, I wanted less whining and more doing. If there are big problems I thought, then we shouldn’t just sit around and complain about them. We should mobilize more people to think bigger and differently about how to engage in positive action.

The type of mobilization I am talking about today starts from within – it’s the kind that bubbles up from the inside out. It powers us as we write our minute-by-minute script – the things we choose to say – the things we choose to do – the ways in which we choose to respond – the ways we talk about it before/during/afterward.

Our words and actions power us – they can invigorate us or pull us under. If we consciously shift our attention to possibility thinking - to making positive statements/affirmations about our life, our direction, our teams, ourselves, our words will support us like a life jacket.

We get to write the script – erase – rewrite – try again. Let the whine propel you – all whining has purpose – we get to choose when to stay the course, step out, step in, step back, etc.

One more Kanter reference – I was taken by a TEDxBeaconStreet talk she made titled “Leading Positive Change in Six Steps.” If you’d like, you can view it here. I’d like to highlight the six steps:

1. Show up.

2. Speak up.

3. Look up.

4. Team up.

5. Never give up.

6. Lift others up.

Although intended to inspire leadership growth, her wisdom has applications for our personal growth. They are profound and universal in their simplicity and so I will let the simple version above speak for themselves as you make application to your life.

Rewriting Our Scripts

Over the last 25+ years, I have worked with thousands of clients on personal/organizational change. These interactions have reinforced the notions expressed above and have taught me that we all yearn for positivity and positive direction.

Positivity fuels us – gives us hope – offers a vision for the future.

How do we get there – from the inside out?

Let's play with the metaphor....


And the award for “Best Screen Writing” goes to….

You are the head writer for your life script. What does your script look like for today? Have you given yourself every chance for success? What lines are you choosing to say out loud?

Sometimes, we may find ourselves rehearsing a “bad script” that needs to be re-written. Can you think of any scripts or scenes that are being repeated in your life? If so, take heart. This crash course in “screenwriting” may help.

Step 1: Define Your Character

Every good story has a compelling lead character. We're going to focus on the positive voices and qualities that light your way. Here are a few questions to get started.

  • How would you like to describe yourself (your main character)?

  • What are your character's best qualities?

  • What are the positive/nice things people say about you (you are so....)?

  • What kinds of statements/sentiments does your main character say out loud?

  • To what extent do those align with your character's best qualities? (Engage in rewrite if needed.)

Step 2: Identify Recurring Scripts

Identify the scripts that are playing in your mind. We often repeat scripts without being aware of them. Begin listening to your inner dialogue today.

What positive messages are you sending to yourself? Positive messages support our success. They feel good when we say them. They give us positive energy. They reinforce our positive qualities.

Positive messages take some form like the following:

“I am good at….”

“People enjoy (blank) about me.”

“I am (insert a positive statement about yourself).”

As you identify positive messaging – take note. Write them down. Then…read them. Think them. Say them out loud. Repeat.

Alternatively, “bad scripts” contain negative messages, or limiting beliefs, that do not support our success. When we repeat these scripts, they do not make us feel happy. These messages de-energize us. Bad scripts have the power to catch us up in a hamster wheel of non-productive thought. To jump off the wheel, tune in.

Here are some of the phrases that may call for a re-write:

I am.... (followed by a negative sentiment).

I can’t….

I could never….

I’m too….

Make note when you say something that doesn’t feel good. Recognize that these statements do not elevate you. Make a conscious decision to re-write the script.

Step 3: Write a New Script with Some Happier Chapters

Script-writing is an important life skill – and you are fully capable! It requires self-awareness and conscious effort. The process involves replacing a limiting belief with an empowering one. The empowering statement has to be sincere/believable to you – that’s where talking to a trusted friend or coach may help. Rehearse a believable script that incrementally improves your chances of success!

As a communication expert, I am honored to coach people through a fear of public speaking – a fear that many of us share. Some of the bad scripts that accompany this fear sound something like this: “I hate speaking in public.” “Public speaking never goes well for me.” “I get so nervous when I speak in public.” They may appear to enjoy telling stories about times when they “flubbed up” in front of a crowd.

This person typically shies away from public speaking opportunities. Generally, they anticipate not doing well. Their bodies respond with predictable physiological responses: sweating, racing heartbeat, shaking limbs, etc. Their physiological response, triggered through negative anticipation of the situation, is likely to result in a performance that reinforces the original conclusion: I am not good at public speaking.

This is commonly referred to as a self-fulfilling prophecy - a prediction for the future that, by virtue of speaking it out loud, informs our words and our actions in such a way that the prophecy becomes true. Scientific research has proven that self-fulfilling prophecies can work either way – and we can choose to use them to support a successful outcome.

All we need to do is reach for an incremental, positive change. Select something you can believe in.

Here are some re-writes for the public speaking script above:

I am well-prepared.

I have a message that I am passionate about.

I am focused on my audience – rather than myself.

People want me to succeed.

I know how to calm myself down.

I can visualize this going well: I see smiling faces; I am smiling.

I am relaxed and confident.

Think about a script that you want to re-write. How can you incrementally improve your chances of a happy ending? What changes can you make?

Replace the limiting beliefs with empowering ones. Select your positive messages – write them down.

Step 4: Rehearse the New Script – Practice Makes Perfect

Now that you have written down some ideas for your new script, begin rehearsing. The rehearsal process for this script should feel a lot better than rehearsing the bad script! Rehearse the new script – again and again. Do not allow the old words to come out – and when they do, put a “STOP SIGN” into your mind. Replace the old words with the newer, more positive script. Commit to forgiving yourself when the old script surfaces – and immediately disallow it, replacing it with the new, more pleasing version.

By the way – if you put any “bad scripts” on paper – re-write them and throw away the old script. No one needs to read a bad script.

  1. Write down the new script.

  2. Read it.

  3. Think it.

  4. Say it out loud – with emotion.

  5. Imagine it happening.

  6. Repeat.

Your thoughts are completely within your power. What positive visions can you integrate into your thinking today? Let it put a smile on your face as you think about it. Commit to becoming a better screenwriter. The rewards will be amazing!

My Personal Walk

We all need to rewrite scripts now and again. This is what I am working on….

  • I want my main character – me - to have more fun again! She laughs and smiles a lot!

  • I’m singing and performing with the North Carolina Master Chorale again this year (with 120+ masked singers).

  • I’m teaching (which gives me increased empathy for our educators who have worn masks, pivoted and more this past year and now – thank you teachers).

  • I'm continuing my work with amazing clients that is focused on virtual excellence.

  • I’m choosing to complain less.

  • I'm inviting opportunities to laugh.

  • I’m focusing on laughing more and being physically present more – with my mask on – I am living life as fully as possible from behind the mask.

I am actively transforming my whines into positive change. Won't you join me? Your positive voice and energy is important in our world - your energy propels those around you - at work, at home, and in your teams/organizations. Thank you for making a difference!

Resources to Assist

Over the years, I have encountered some great teachers and "positive affirmation" mentors – they have inspired my growth and personal yearning for positivity and encouragement (from the inside out). I’d like to share a few resources with you today.

I resonate with guided meditations – I love imagery – I love metaphor – and finding a voice that doesn’t grate on our nerves – finding a voice that speaks to us is important. That voice can resonate – propel – invigorate – inspire.

And so today I am going to offer three different voices – all offering guided meditations that support inner healing and wellness.

The first two represent what I would call “sage voices” – and for me they offer some experience, professional credentials and wisdom. The third reference is one that I cherish and have begun to follow as I have sought/explored free resources for supporting wellness – for my clients, friends and self. I hope you find one that speaks to you – one that offers a moment of peace – one that provides a tool for inner reorganization (the kind that powers us from the inside out).

Belleruth Naparstek – I first encountered Naparstek's work when I was preparing for shoulder surgery several years ago. Although you can purchase a number of her guided imagery programs, I have found some free resources that are readily available to us that are also widely used in hospital settings, military settings and more. You can experience some free meditations for relaxation and wellness at this link and you can explore more resources, if you choose at Health Journeys.

Jonathan Parker – I encountered this teacher of positive affirmations during a defining moment in my life in my mid-30s. I have revisited his work many times over the years and, although I have purchased some of his programs, I have been excited to see many free resources on his website. I have found the messaging to be positive and am pleased not to have been overwhelmed by emails after visiting/experiencing the free resources. I enjoy the emails that occasionally come from this body of work. If you choose, you can explore free resources on a number of topics at this link.

Melissa Kitto – The next link I am providing offers a meditation that is designed to reduce inflammation; as you dive deeper, this particular teacher takes a more “angelic approach.” A friend offered this resource to me more than a year ago and I have found personal benefit from her free resources. If this approach/voice speaks to you, I hope you enjoy and find benefit. Here is a link to a meditation for reducing inflammation and/or pain.

Please keep in mind that these are not endorsements – and I receive no compensation or benefit from referring others to these resources. They are intended to support mindful living and wellness – and finding resources can be difficult. So, I am putting them before you with the intention of supporting your own healing journey – your journey to wellness – your journey to positive change.

I support your journey and your success. We all have reason to whine - I am excited to continue my personal mission and passion to promotes transformation and positive change! Wishing you the best....

© Kathy Sturgis, Ph.D. Kathy is founder of Refreshment Zone and is an organizational and personal development specialist with a doctorate in communication. Contact for more information on motivational programs.

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