Books That Built Me

3. Living life on your terms through stories | "Choose Your Story Change Your Life" by Kindra Hall

August 17, 2023 Shar Banerjee Season 1 Episode 3
Books That Built Me
3. Living life on your terms through stories | "Choose Your Story Change Your Life" by Kindra Hall
Show Notes Transcript

In this captivating episode, join us for a thought-provoking conversation between two avid readers and enthusiasts as they delve into the pages of "Choose Your Story Change Your Life" by Kindra Hall, a book that has been making waves for its unique approach to personal transformation through storytelling.

With a dynamic exchange of ideas, this episode is a treasure trove for listeners seeking to gain a deeper understanding of "Choose Your Story Change Your Life." Whether you're a dedicated reader, a fan of personal growth content, or someone looking to ignite positive change in your life, this conversation offers inspiration, practical guidance, and a newfound appreciation for the power of storytelling as a catalyst for transformation. Tune into this conversation with Tamar Gaffin-Cahn and embark on a journey of discovery that might just change the way you view your own story.

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Shar (00:24.550)

I'm so excited. I'm so, so excited to be talking to you today. You picked this book. This was a highly impactful book for you and for me, as you can see from all of like the neon tabs that I have signaling my attention. Yeah, like don't forget this page and this paragraph. I'm so, so thrilled to be talking to you about this book. But before we do that, just a little intro on who you are and what's the work that you're up to in this world.

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (00:37.693)


Tamar Gaffin Cahn (00:51.169)

Yeah, thank you so much for this opportunity. It's such an honor to be here and be in conversation with you and talk about really powerful books that have changed us. I currently work for Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. That's my full-time job. I'm a career counselor at our Career Development Center, which is so, so rewarding. I work primarily with grad students. And the other kind of professional love that I have is being a coach.

a professional life coach. I primarily work with high school and young people and helping them kind of navigate the transitional waters of coming into adulthood and all those exciting kind of scary moments that young people experience. And it's just such an honor to be with them through their growth. And so that's kind of where I occupy space in my professional world. And I absolutely love it.

Shar (01:49.914)

Yay! And thank you so much for shedding some light on that. You and I connected on this topic, Tamar, which is just our love and affinity for the younger people in this universe and the power that they hold and the mastery with which they can live their lives 

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (02:14.172)


Tamar Gaffin Cahn (02:28.801)

Appreciate it.

Shar (02:29.790)

Okay, so let's jump in. This is the book. I have so many juicy parts that I wanna talk about, but we're gonna start with the first question, which is the most memorable part of the book for you.

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (03:02.729)

Yeah, I think for me, it's been a lot of like, separating and recognizing that we are telling ourselves these stories. I think like internally, that's been really, really powerful for me. And I also really love how she goes into like the science of storytelling and how like, how human storytelling is, and how much it impacts us as individuals, and our communities and how we

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (03:32.629)

world through storytelling. And so it's really about to me the power and choice that we have with our storytelling that has had an impact on me.

Shar (03:45.450)

basically, what she talks about is this idea that when something happens to us, an event occurs in our life, we think that there is a response.

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (04:04.139)


Tamar Gaffin Cahn (04:14.229)


Shar (04:15.410)

to that event, like that, that happens. And then there is a result to that response. And her entire thesis here is that between the event happening and your response forming, there is a story that you're telling yourself, right? That you're not responding to the event, but you're responding to the story that has generated as a consequence of that event happening. And so as she sheds light on the story,

She goes deeper into how do these stories come up? Are they by default? What sort of grip they hold in your life? And then the mastery of it, which is now that you know that, how can you start telling yourselves the stories that drive for greater impact?

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (05:03.409)

Right. I think about all the little moments that happen in our lives and how we kind of like file those things away. And it's not just about facts and events that happen, but it's how we perceive them and the emotions that come with how we are perceiving all of these moments. And so those go into certain stories. And so we have that power to say, OK, I'm actually going to pick a couple different facts to string it along to create a different story for myself. And that's going to help your future. And help shift your mindset to creating something that works better for you and having a better attitude or having more confidence or just being aware that you are worth it.

Shar (05:40.272)


Shar (05:44.750)

Yeah. Oh man, the one story that she talks about that really sticks in my mind is a story of her daughter. Do you remember that part? Where she talks about her daughter reliving a story to her mom.

Shar (06:17.950)

I got it. I found it. Yeah. So she's telling her mom that this story happened to her and she's insisting that it was her. And she remembers with crystal clarity exactly what happened and the nuances and the, this led to this and this and this and this. And the mom was like, beautiful daughter of mine, that didn't happen to you. It happened to your brother. And she was like, no, no, this was my story. And as a mom, she's like, no, I was there. This was your brother's story.

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (06:38.549)

Right, right. And she.

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (06:50.089)

It's powerful how we can like take on other people's stories. I mean childhood is this whole other topic that I am not, I don't know much about human development, but it's really powerful how we can take on other people's stories based on identity or based on experience or based on proximity. And like she told the story and the daughter had like written a whole paper about it and had like done a really good job in school believing that this was her story.  

Shar (06:57.862)

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Shar (07:05.535)


Shar (07:18.490)

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And for me, the most resonant part of this was how powerful our brains are.  Like it is hardwired for stories to the point that it'll even forget who the main character was or what the, you know, the minor detail of who was the protagonist, because it's so craving the juice of the story.

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (07:19.989)

her story.

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (07:26.114)


Tamar Gaffin Cahn (07:37.331)


Tamar Gaffin Cahn (07:41.429)

Right, right. It's incredible.

Shar (07:45.530)

This book was mind blowing for me because I think one of the things that I took away was the part on affirmations. If you remember that part where she talks about there's so many people who believe in affirmations to say I am worthy, I am great, I'm beautiful, I'm brilliant, I can do this, I'm capable. But affirmations are these one liners that have three words, five words and a period at the end. And her argument is

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (07:54.479)


Shar (08:15.790)

that your brain will likely need to hear these affirmations over and over and over and over again because it's not sticky enough. And the way in which you can make an affirmation sticky is to turn it into a story.

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (08:23.393)


Tamar Gaffin Cahn (08:29.589)

Mm. That's so beautiful. And it really brings me back to coaching, quite honestly. And like the saboteurs and the inner critics and the allies that we have in our mind. And I was literally having a conversation with a client yesterday about, or actually it was today, it was today, about some stories that she would tell herself. And she was recalling times in her head when she wasn't good at something. And her feeling was that she wasn't

Shar (08:35.132)

Oh yeah, yeah.

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (08:59.749)

And then I was seeing her like work through her memory and she would say, well, actually that's not true. Actually, that's not true. So she was holding onto those emotions and that was the story she was telling herself. But when she actually looked back and remembered the facts of the story, she was like, oh, I was good at that. I did contribute to the group project. I did get a good grade. I was worthy. And so the remembering of the facts and maybe not the emotions so much when we think about all these stories that we hold on to is really powerful and can really shift how we see ourselves.

Shar (09:39.590)

That actually sheds a light on a beautiful detail, which is, I think, the premise of why a lot of people struggle with doing this for themselves as an advantage, is that we tend to have this negativity bias, where no matter how many good things happen in a story or in our lives, if there was one tiny naysayer or one negative thing that may have happened, that's the thing that we gravitate to. And of course, that has a huge part to play.

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (09:53.360)


Tamar Gaffin Cahn (10:06.380)


Shar (10:10.030)

in the story that we remember of that event. Right? And so I love this whole idea of when you revisit a story, like a fly on the wall, go back to that same perspective, that same situation, and just kind of watch it unfold and watch for all the other, what, 99 details that lead to an entirely different story if you let it. 

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (10:14.429)


Tamar Gaffin Cahn (10:36.079)


Tamar Gaffin Cahn (10:42.909)

It's powerful. It can really shift your perspective, really shift. And I love that idea of being a fly on the wall, because it right, it's about perspective is that like, when we're living through our life, we're looking at something through our own eyes, and through our own experiences and our own emotions. But when you are that fly on the wall, you see it with just what's going on. It's just observations. There's no meaning to it.

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (11:11.629)

So we have that power to choose what the meaning will be if we can remove sometimes what our own like immediate knee jerk reactions are to a situation.

Shar (11:15.794)


Shar (11:21.590)

Yeah, yeah. Let's dive back into the book. I know we left, we left off with the most impressionable part of the book for you, right? Like the one nugget that you took away, which is the science, the science of the story and how that lands for you. What's another part of this book that you're that you're itching to share?

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (11:24.934)


Tamar Gaffin Cahn (11:37.206)


Tamar Gaffin Cahn (11:44.729)

Yeah, I so much. I mean, I think one thing that she talks about at the beginning is the history of storytelling. And I really I love anthropology, I love sociology and, and the and how human species and community has changed over time, and how we've been these social always been these social creatures. And we've been social creatures through our storytelling, and through our identities and

Shar (12:08.438)


Shar (12:12.670)


Tamar Gaffin Cahn (12:14.669)

community. And I think there was one one thing she said that it kind of all started almost around the fireplace or a fire. And I was like, I remember the first time I like really learned and like deep dived into the importance of fire, and how that's had an impact on humanity. Like, we can cook our foods now. So we wouldn't die of all these other diseases, we would provide warmth, so we could live in colder climates, you know, it's, it's, we centered around something that was so

Shar (12:21.655)


Tamar Gaffin Cahn (12:44.629)

powerful and so much of what we know of like biology is centered around fire. But what about our stories? What are the stories that came out when we were all around a fireplace? And like she talks about like summer camps, like being around the fireplace and like this always that song person, like someone playing a guitar and someone singing wonderwall, you know.

Shar (12:45.972)


Shar (13:09.571)

Me? How did you know?

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (13:12.989)

I'd be right there singing with you. But it's like this importance of sharing your stories. And I also think about it when in the space of conflict resolution, I think Brene Brown has some quote where she talks about you can't hate someone that you know really well. And you know someone through their stories. And that's really powerful. When you get to know someone and get to know their history 

Shar (13:32.371)

Oh yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (13:42.909)

and their background and how they've lived through their own eyes. You have just empathy just like comes with that.

Shar (13:50.750)

Yeah. And there's so much wisdom in that circle around that fire, isn't there?

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (13:55.909)

Mm-hmm. Oh, I just got chills. I mean, like when you say wisdom, I think of like generations, right? Of like grandparents and great grandparents with kids and their grandchildren and what's being passed down and that knowledge. And that's how we've kind of gotten to the point where we are now.

Shar (14:02.350)


Shar (14:08.810)

Yeah. Yeah.

Shar (14:13.570)

I want to just highlight this one incredible detail about this book. As you're talking about generations and passing the wisdom, I think something incredibly touching for me in this book was the story of her father. And the trap that he was in. And I think that it's so incredibly beautiful as we're talking about wisdom. There's also this adage to say that even if you're wise and, you know, much, much older

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (14:26.729)


Tamar Gaffin Cahn (14:30.093)


Shar (14:43.610)

tons of lived experience, you can still be trapped in some of the stories that you've been telling yourself. And in this story about her father who had spent what 30 odd years in this career that he had devoted himself to and was let go just in the most disrespectful manner, right? And his entire world just came crumbling apart. And

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (15:05.514)


Tamar Gaffin Cahn (15:11.849)

like three years until he got, yeah, he like was able to retire and yeah.

Shar (15:14.592)


Shar (15:17.990)

Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. And, you know, and he was stuck in that story because he valued safety and all of those other things that come with it. But the most interesting thing was that he was able to, no matter what age, he was able to stop where he was, retell the story of what made him great, and then relaunch his career from like the ground up doing some, I can't remember exactly what it was. Yeah.

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (15:40.190)

Mm. Mm.

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (15:44.569)

it might have been like real estate or something like that, or he like bought a lot of properties and then like he... Different than he was like doing like, like really powerful, beautiful like law to helping people that needed lawyers. Yeah.

Shar (15:48.531)

Oh yeah, he became a real estate mogul. Yes, yes, yes, ding ding ding.

Shar (15:58.811)


Shar (16:02.570)

Yeah, absolutely. And the reason that this is really striking a chord with me when she shared this beautiful story, it really just shatters, it shatters that thing that we have in our minds that everyone knows what they're doing, especially if they are settled in their careers or if they have that look of having it all figured out, that that's not necessarily the case, right? And that we're all potentially trapped in some story or another. 

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (16:27.650)


Shar (16:34.831)

The trick is to make the subconscious conscious, right? Because to live a story by default is where the mess really lives, right? You're not necessarily as fulfilled or satisfied or doing things with purpose, intention, integrity, and, you know, with all of that awesome passion. When you turn that subconscious on its head and turn it conscious to say,

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (16:39.083)


Tamar Gaffin Cahn (16:47.614)


Shar (17:02.550)

This is my story and this is where I'm going. And you know what, maybe my story's not over yet. Maybe this is the middle of my story, right? Especially for example, the father who was what? 60 plus years old. This is not the end of my story. This is merely the beginning or the middle, but it is not the end and I don't accept that.

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (17:17.150)


Tamar Gaffin Cahn (17:24.109)

Yeah, I mean, I mean, so much to say, but like, the thing that's coming to mind with, with like the beginning, middle of end of a story is like, you have you have your whole life, let's say you live to a wonderful age of 90 or 100 or something like that, you think there's a beginning middle of an end, but then like, let's let's zoom in a little bit. And everything else has a beginning middle and end. Right? Like even within a you have like, you have a book, right? Within each book, there's a chapter. Within each chapter, there's a beginning, middle and end. Within every story that she’s telling, there’s a beginning, middle and an end. And so it's not just like one big picture. It's all of these like little moments that like give into like these smaller stories that really add value and can can like can change, can change your life, can can shift directions. And that's and that's what we should be focusing on, not the pressure of that whole giant arc.

Shar (18:00.531)


Shar (18:04.750)


Shar (18:24.270)

Yeah. And she actually talks about that, that the human mind is designed to think that when you think of a story, the story is already done. For some reason, we have this bias that the story is complete. And if we just shed some light there, you know, we have the words to say, no, it's not, this is just the middle of the book, or this is towards the beginning or whatever it is. But that's the bias that needs to be looked at because you're right. When you look at a book, it has an entire story.

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (18:32.524)


Shar (18:54.250)

tells the story through like 20 different stories.

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (18:57.469)

That's, I think that's another thing that I loved about this book is that she was, it was, she proved her point through proving her point, you know, like, she proved her point through storytelling, which is, which is this whole book. And I just like, I'd loved, like the whole theme of like the yellow brick road that she's, like, as a child, she was obsessed and still is obsessed with the Wizard of Oz. And, and like, life isn't that yellow brick road.

Shar (18:59.990)

Loved. Yes.

Shar (19:06.550)


Shar (19:09.450)

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Shar (19:23.450)


Tamar Gaffin Cahn (19:27.850)

Right? Like, or like you get to choose it. You get to go in lots of different directions. It was something quite beautiful.

Shar (19:31.950)


Shar (19:35.450)

She really is the master of storytelling, isn't she? Because even as she started the book, she talked about Dorothy, the yellow brick road, and her entire fascination with it. She drew those parallels. But at the end of the book, I'm going to do the reveal because we're just going to be talking like, we need... Yeah, pause it. Yeah. Thank you for that. Thank you. Pause it now if you don't want to get there. But the mastery, what she did at the end of the book, which is to say that when she went to go see the play

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (19:38.029)

Thank you.

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (19:52.457)

Pause now, read it, come back.

Shar (20:04.910)

her mom and she was invited to go backstage to meet Dorothy and she was giddy. She looked like Dorothy head to toe. So giddy to meet her idol, knocked on the door only to be met with a human that looked just like her. You know, the hair was aside, the dress was away, and this was just a regular person and that was, I think, the most beautiful conclusion that she could have given to any reader, which is to say the story that you've been told,

The thing that you think is unachievable, like, that's just somebody else living their world. Like, you don't have to be, you don't have to put anyone on a pedestal. They're all living out their own stories. Just because somebody is your idol does not mean that they are less human than you, does not mean that they have less struggle than you, does not mean that they have any less of a desire for love, connection, affection, and all of those things that connect us.

And so I love that she talked about the value of the story and then really just ripped that bandaid to say, yeah, truly ripped that bandaid to say that you don't have to believe the story that whatever you want to achieve is unachievable.

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (21:11.129)

I'm sorry. I'm sorry.

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (21:22.949)

It's so much about choice. And to me, this book is all about you have the power to choose. You have the power to choose your own story. You have the power to choose the life that you want to have. It might be hard, you know? It might be really hard, but it also will be really, really wonderful when you get there. And it's not just about your career or who you,

Shar (21:41.672)


Tamar Gaffin Cahn (21:52.429)

want to live, but it's your relationship with yourself and how that is a choice.

Shar (22:01.090)

one takeaway I had from this book, I recently just finished reading it, but the one takeaway I had was to introduce more stories in my world. And part of my daily practice in how I set the pace and the tone of the day is to talk about the attributes that I wanna remember for myself

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (22:30.941)


Shar (22:31.330)

as I start the day. I now say, you know, the intention with which I wanna start the day, which is to say, I am, and I insert whatever it is I wanna be in that day.

And my next line is all about stories, which is to say, I believe this to be true because, and I write down a couple of stories that I want to remember of things that I have actually done to prove that I was this person.

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (23:15.209)

Yes. Yes. Yes. I think that has been really powerful for me as well. I think that like every time I'm in my head or if there's like a negative story that I'm telling or I can't do something or I shouldn't do like all of anything negative that's holding like I'm holding myself back. I'm like, okay, that can that can exist. That story can exist. But what's the opposite version? And let's just think about the opposite version for a second.

Like actually, I had a really good day the other day. Actually I had great sessions with clients. I have lots of friends that tell me wonderful things about me, you know, and that like lift me up. And they are making the effort to also be my friend. And it's not like, it's reciprocated, you know? And so now, and then I come away with, okay, so I have these two stories. I have like a negative one and I have a really positive one. And then the choice comes into play.

It's like, which one do I want to choose right now? If I just want to be lazy and feel like crap, maybe I'll choose the negative one. Whatever. That can do one night, you know? And then we're going to be, we're going to choose a different one the next day, you know? But that's the choice that I want to be able to have and say, I'm going to choose this positive story about myself and my day and move in the world with that mindset.

Shar (24:39.630)

Yeah. And I call that giving myself a little pity party. I do that too. I do that too. Like sometimes you just need a day, an hour, whatever it is. And I'm fully aware. I'm like, I am throwing myself a little pity party. It is happening because I need it to happen. And then when you accept it, it kind of the power kind of just goes away. You know, and then you invite a different energy.

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (24:42.376)


Tamar Gaffin Cahn (24:55.229)


Tamar Gaffin Cahn (25:03.529)

Yes, yeah, yeah. There was a moment, I'll tell you a story. A moment a few months ago, I had a really bad day and, or I had a bad moment and I had a few, I had like 10 minutes to kind of recalibrate. And I was like, I need to just cry. I need to get it out. So I played a song, it was actually Hide and Seek by Stormzy. So for anyone listening, go listen to that song. Oh, no.

Shar (25:05.831)

Oh. Yeah. Tell me, tell me, tell me.

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (25:33.529)

lifting up song. Okay. So first it was hide and seek by, Imogen Heap. And that just song makes me cry, you know? And I just, I said like two and a half or three minutes, I'm just going to cry. And then I'm going to listen to Stormzy's hide and seek, both called hide and seek. Um, and I know, right? I know. And I'm going to spend those three minutes lifting myself back up. And it was incredible. And like I had the pity party and then I matched the pity party with a, okay, Tamar.

Shar (25:49.550)

How interesting. How interesting. Yep, yep.

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (26:03.529)

This is, you're amazing. Let's get off your butt and show the world that. And so, right, I had those two energies and I gave space to those two energies. And at the end I was like, great, let's go. I can do this. 

Shar (26:08.871)


Shar (26:16.450)

a pity party and a fierce fiesta. That's what you did in 10 minutes. You did it.

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (26:19.213)


Tamar Gaffin Cahn (26:22.634)

in 10 minutes.

Shar (26:24.330)

I love this hack. This is amazing. 

Shar (27:11.590)

Yeah, and as you got into fierce fiesta mode, you know, what were the steps?

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (27:19.969)

I told myself the good stories. I sat in the same spot and the lyrics of Hide and Seek by Stormzy are just really beautiful. It's a poem, I love it. And I just reminded myself of all the good things.

Shar (27:36.457)


Tamar Gaffin Cahn (27:36.909)

and I let myself sit in those good moments. And it's just as uncomfortable of sitting in those bad moments.

Shar (27:39.622)


Shar (27:42.410)

Yeah, this is something that I do as well. I don't do the music, which I think is such a phenomenal idea, and I want to give that a go. The one thing I do, and I share this a lot with the people that I work with, is when something bad happens to me, you know, this thing that you talked about, about, oh, everything's going bad. And then there's one pointed thing that just sets you off this roller coaster of greatness and you're falling and everything just feels like that's it. 10 out of 10 bad. I do this thing where I open up a notebook or a computer, a notepad or whatever, and I'll write the event that happened. So very similar to how she says, this is the event and this is the story. I never realized actually until I'm talking to you now that this is how I parse out my story. So I write out the event exactly how it happened as though I was a robot - no emotion in it, so I write out the situation. Then I write out my feelings. So this is like the original story that kind of happened to me, right? This is my words for my eyes only. And then I take a deep breath and I write down the numbers one, two, three, four, five, and I am forcing myself from number one to number five to write down five reasons that I am grateful that this horrible thing that happened to me at this moment is adding value to my life. And I will tell you Tamar, number one is impossible. Number two is like so painful. Number three is a little bit easier. Number four is like, why didn't I think of that one? And by number five, I actually feel so happy that this thing has provided me the opportunity to get through to 12345. And I close my book or shut off my laptop brand new, ready to start on a new event.

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (29:58.114)


Tamar Gaffin Cahn (30:00.269)

I like sitting in my anger a little bit more. I like being angry. So that's incredible. That is incredible. I hope everybody can someday do that. However long it takes them to do that. Yeah. Wow.

Shar (30:06.714)


Shar (30:11.830)

Yeah, however long, yeah. But it's the stories and I never realized it until this moment that we all have our coping mechanisms and all the things that we do. It's all about saying goodbye to the story that we held and welcoming a new story instead.

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (30:29.709)

That also, that's also an identity thing, right? That if you're saying goodbye to a certain story, you could have that whole story your entire life. I've told myself stories that I'm a certain way, I'm perceived a certain way, like that's just who I am my entire life, up until like a few years ago, when things started shifting and I'm like, hold on, none of this data tracks anymore. And so saying goodbye to that old story has been an identity shift for me. And I'm no longer that person, no longer, you know, and it's been hard because I've had, I've then lived, I like, I live a different way now, which is exciting. It's all good, you know, but I've had to say goodbye to a type of version of myself that I had for almost 30 years.

Shar (31:21.850)

She lives a different way now. She lives a different way now. And that's all because she's changing her life. Choose your story, change your life, literally happening to Tamar. Thank you so much, Tamar, for this incredible conversation. You are phenomenal. You have so much power oozing out of you. This is so fun.

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (31:28.229)

Thanks for watching!

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (31:32.551)


Tamar Gaffin Cahn (31:37.453)

Thank you. You know what you are. Ha ha.

Tamar Gaffin Cahn (31:46.591)

I love chatting with you, Shar. It's always a pleasure. Always.

Shar (31:49.950)

is always, always.