The Importance of Learning to Critique Your Story

Do you regularly critique your story? Learn how asking these simple questions can help you eliminate destructive behaviors and start living to your full potential!

Have you ever started a new job and immediately noticed all the things that needed improvement? All of the operating procedures that could be streamlined or tweaked to result in faster turn around time or greater efficiency?

I always had this happen to me when I entered a new work environment and was quick to ask questions about why things were done in certain ways. My problem after being in that environment for a period of time was that I got used to the procedures. I stopped innovating. It was no longer as easy for me to realize when things were outdated or needed improvement. It’s just “how things were done.”

If I’m not careful, the same thing starts to happen with my own personal story. I start operating on auto-pilot, becoming complacent, and stop questioning which behaviors are beneficial and which could be eliminated. I am existing, yes, but am I existing to my full potential? Learning how to critique your story is important not only for your own personal development, but also for achieving a sense of purpose and fulfillment day to day.

The following questions are a good starting point for assessing whether you are living an actionable life or simply one that involves waking up, eating, and sleeping. There are many ways to critique your story, but these are a great starting point.

What can I do with where I’ve been?

Everyone has a story and everyone can find something they relate to in someone else’s. Stories of perseverance, illness, success, and how we deal with life’s struggles are inspirations to other people and what shapes us as individuals.

What do you have to offer? How can you use your experiences to help others? Maybe you have a chronic illness like my friend Susie, but choose to live your life without limits and push past that adversity while also sharing those struggles with others. You’d be surprised at how many people can relate to something that you may not think is a big deal. I wrote about my discouragement with getting a credit card after the wreckage of my financial past and I received more comments than I thought from people who had been in similar situations.

Your experiences and how you got through them offers hope to those who may be in the same situation. What can you do with where you’ve been?

What can I do differently?

“It’s how I’ve always done things.” This is a phrase that I’ve found myself saying over and over again. It’s something that makes me feel comfortable because I’m not forced to change, but it’s also a quick way for me to fall back into close-minded thinking. This is a broad question that can be applied to so many facets of life from decision making to how you go about interacting with others on a daily basis.

For me, I ask myself this question most often when trying to accomplish a goal that is taking longer than I’d like. I can continue operating the same way and get the same results (which are often nonexistent), or I can learn to think outside the box and take another approach to achieving that goal. This is what I did when I changed careers after moving to Chicago and wanted to work in the fitness industry. Rather than apply to job after job, I decided to reach out directly to studio owners to see what opportunities there were. Almost a year later I’m now a personal trainer and fitness instructor at more than one studio in the city!

Related: How To Get A Fitness Job With No Experience

What is no longer working for me?

Reflect on your own story. What has worked for you and what hasn’t? What has gotten you positive results and what negative patterns do you find yourself repeating over and over again? Take some time to think about those behaviors or thought patterns that hold you back rather than lift you up and start taking steps to change those things.

It may help you you to physically write a list of what is no longer working for you or ask others who know you well what actions seem to be working against rather than for you. Sometimes it’s hard to look objectively at yourself, so asking someone whose opinion you value may help provide better insight.

What are my goals?

Although it seems cliche, ask yourself where you want to be in 5 years. 10? 20? Maybe even just 6 months from now. Living day to day helps us in the short term, but to really critique your story you need to take a look backwards AND forwards. Are you working towards something or are you merely existing?

Make a list and reference it often. This way you know where you are on your way to those goals and what actions need to be done to get there. Writing down those action steps will also prevent you from simply staring at a nebulous goal with no pathway to get there.

Ultimately, your life is yours to do with as you wish. Learning to critique your own personal story will help give you better insight into what’s working, what’s not, and what you need to do to live your life to the fullest.

Thanks to Amanda for letting me think out loud.

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26 Comments

  1. December 10, 2015 / 6:46 am

    To be honest, I think this is one of your best posts yet. And not just because you gave me a shout out (much appreciated), but because I think that you see yourself as flawed, yes, but capable, truly capable, of accomplishment, both incredible and everyday. Aka confidence, acceptance, and self love. This is one of my favorite posts from you because I have seen it all along, but you have finally seen it for yourself. That you are worthy of improvement, rather than simply flawed and nothing to do about it.
    Susie @ SuzLyfe recently posted…Reader Support, Healthy Living, and other Suz ThoughtsMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 10, 2015 / 6:57 pm

      Hey thanks love. It’s crazy when you write something and don’t expect it to be much and then it really resonates with people. That always seems to be the way haha

  2. December 10, 2015 / 7:18 am

    I love this Erin. I focused on many of these questions this past year and have grown/changed immensely. I would also apply these questions to any relationship, especially when you feel things are getting stale. If think it starts with the person working on themselves, then coming together and working through these questions again.
    Bri recently posted…Gabrielle Bernstein’s 7 steps to happinessMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 10, 2015 / 6:59 pm

      Thanks so much Bri! Yes, I definitely agree that this can be applied to so many different situations.

  3. December 10, 2015 / 7:26 am

    Great post. I am always trying to evaluate where I am in my life and what I’m doing. Sometimes we start going through the motions and forget to live the life we really want to and be how we really want to. Thanks for sharing this insight.
    Ivanna recently posted…The Wellness by Ivanna Lucid Fitness Training Plan is HereMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 10, 2015 / 7:00 pm

      Thanks Ivanna! It’s so easy to just keep doing the same thing day after day and not take a look at things in more detail.

  4. December 10, 2015 / 8:23 am

    I realized this morning, after reading Carla Birnberg’s post, that I don’t critique myself enough. Hardly at all. I get so used to going through the motions, day in and day out. Am I not making enough time for my own personal development? It’s hard enough to make time for blogging and other things I want to do, but perhaps I should put my own wellness up at the top for a bit!
    Jess @hellotofit recently posted…Why Secret Santa Gift Exchanges Give Me JoyMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 10, 2015 / 7:01 pm

      Self-care and making sure that we put ourselves first is so important. It’s easy to lose that in the middle of everything.

  5. December 10, 2015 / 8:26 am

    It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut of monotony and forget how good innovation and change feel. Plus, there’s being scared that if you change it’ll all back fire. I tend to feel this the most when I change jobs. I’m so scared to move on because I’m afraid I’ll fail. When in reality, it might just be the best thing that has ever happened to me.
    Pragati // Simple Medicine recently posted…Homemade HolidayMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 10, 2015 / 7:02 pm

      I definitely get caught up in that fear. You’ll never know unless you try!

  6. December 10, 2015 / 9:08 am

    Absolutely love this post, Erin. I have a tendency to fall into ruts and routines, and I definitely notice myself losing my spark and zest for life whenever I do. It’s like being on auto pilot and going through the motions without really taking the time to make the most out of things. Thanks for the great reminder — those questions are awesome.
    Amanda @ .running with spoons. recently posted…thinking out loud #160My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 10, 2015 / 7:03 pm

      Thanks Amanda! That auto pilot is a dangerous thing.

  7. December 10, 2015 / 9:17 am

    Although I’ve been reading a short time, I agree with Susie: this is one of your best posts.
    I’m such a creature of habit, and I’ve let myself become complacent over several years. Now, I’m almost afraid I don’t even know what my goals are for the future.
    These are great tips and I’m going to make a point of reflecting in these ways (& reaching out to others) over the next few weeks and into the new year. Thanks for sharing <3
    Catherine @ foodiecology recently posted…3 Simple Ways to Improve Your Life…Right NowMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 10, 2015 / 7:03 pm

      Thanks for the kind words Catherine!

  8. December 10, 2015 / 11:33 am

    I looooove this! I got complacent with running (just doing the same stuff over and over with training and racing) and ended up injured because of it. Next year I’m going to reevaluate what’s gong on and how to do a better job of reaching my running goals. And as for the rest of my life, I’ve recently been able to form it into something I’m proud of – I moved to Alaska last year and got my dream job teaching, so I’m super excited to be happy with how things are going! And it’s all because I wasn’t afraid to say that I didn’t like what I was doing and was willing to make the biggest change of my life. This is such a great message and I’m for sure going to share this today!
    Kristen recently posted…One Word to Describe the HolidaysMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 10, 2015 / 7:04 pm

      Congrats on Alaska! I had that happen to me too with running. I love how there are so many different facets of life and situations that you can apply these questions to.

  9. December 10, 2015 / 3:10 pm

    Shooooooot.
    I’ve been feeling like 2015 just hasn’t been my year, and I think a lot of the reason is because I’ve become quite complacent and haven’t evaluated my life and actions as much as I have in the past. Thank you.
    Ange @ Cowgirl Runs recently posted…Thinking Out LoudMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 10, 2015 / 7:05 pm

      Thank YOU for reading. Don’t forget that it can be your year whenever you decide to make it 🙂

  10. December 10, 2015 / 5:53 pm

    Really love this post Erin! I am probably in the minority when it comes to looking for ways to redefine yourself or changing how you do things. My job as a consultant has taught me to always doing this. In some ways it’s a bad thing though because I never feel fulfilled or like I’m doing the right things.
    Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious recently posted…The Ultimate Blogger Gift Guide 2015My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 10, 2015 / 7:07 pm

      That’s a good asset to have though, but I definitely understand it can go both ways. My husband is a consultant too and he’s always looking for the next thing or that satisfaction haha.

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 13, 2015 / 10:30 pm

      Thanks Ashley! I’m so glad you got something out of it!

  11. December 14, 2015 / 9:53 am

    This is so true, Erin! I also think that sharing our hardships or fights with others makes us understand not only how we’re not as alone as we feel, but also, that we can open ourselves up to more opportunities. It is easy to just say, “it’s how I do it” or “if it ain’t broke…” but questioning things makes us understand more of why we do what we do, not just that “it’s what we do”. Great post!
    Erin@BeetsPerMinute recently posted…Silver Linings and Creative VisualizationsMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 14, 2015 / 9:16 pm

      Exactly! It took me a long time to figure that out. Also where have you been?? 🙂

  12. December 14, 2015 / 3:27 pm

    So important to remember these things from time to time! I know I definitely needed to read this right about now, so thank you! 🙂

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 14, 2015 / 9:14 pm

      Anytime! Thanks so much for reading Rebecca and I’m glad it helped you out 🙂

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