Change Your Life, Change the Story

by Alli Polin on May 9, 2014

When you change, the way you see the world changes too.  You change the story.

Have you ever noticed people in passing and it’s as if your mind takes a snapshot?  You may not know them, but for some reason, their image sticks with you and becomes intertwined with the stories of your life.  What’s fascinating, is that these flashing images, these moments only seen in your mind’s eye, aren’t static.  You grow, your world-view changes and evolves and as you change your life, you change the story.

Years ago, we were out to dinner at a boisterous and popular pizza restaurant where you had to call ahead to reserve your dough.  It was more than simply a quick bite, but a delicious occasion to be anticipated and savored.  On this particular night, every table was filled with families and friends and there wasn’t an empty seat to be found.  As we waited for our food, I decided to partake in one of my favorite activities, people watching, and that’s when I saw them.

There was one table where a young couple was sitting.  The reason they caught my eye wasn’t because of their age or odd-ball behavior, it was because they were silent.  Not a single word was exchanged as they sipped their soda and ate their slices in a room filled with vocal energy and connection.

In my early 20’s at the time, I made up a story about what must be going on with these individuals. That night, I assumed that they had been arguing, but neither one was angry enough to stay home and give up on their pizza extravaganza.  After all, if they were happy, why wouldn’t they be speaking?  To me, silence equaled anger and that was how I wielded it, as a tool that was deeply connected to emotion.  It would come out to play, like my personal lightsaber, and was more powerful than any words I could shout.

A few more years passed before that memory popped up again and this time I was well into my 30’s.  Of course, these strangers, this couple, came along with the memory like a package deal.  It was really interesting that this time, it was the same scene, different story.  Their silence had transformed in my memory to sadness and isolation.  The husband and wife were present with each other, but lost in their own heads.  They were out to dinner because that’s what couples do, but even the shared activity didn’t bring connection to their relationship.  I was looking at people co-existing, not fully living.

Just this past week, I thought again about this family moment from many moons ago when I was still living in Philadelphia.  I also allowed the image of the couple to resurface and yet again the story had changed.  As I can see them now, I’ve decided that they didn’t need to speak to enjoy the moment.  Words were unnecessary as they were both fully present.  I now realize that they could be in silence and be with the energy of the room, be with each other without words, without sadness or anger or isolation.

The picture didn’t change, I’ve changed. 

You Change and You Change the Story

  • Memories transform from pain to compassion
  • Moments come alive with hope in the absence of fear
  • Relationships move and evolve as you grow and learn

Break the Frame Questions

  • What stories are you hanging on to that it’s time to revisit?
  • How are the stories you’ve been making up holding you back?
  • What learning do you have from your life that has changed the way you see and experience the world?
  • Who’s story do you own?  Yours or someone else’s?
  • What do you need to let go, to embrace new possibilities?
  • How is holding on showing up in your life or leadership?

For coaching, consulting or speaking Let’s Connect!


{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Chery Gegelman May 9, 2014 at 6:52 am

Alli, your post made me smile, first because I love how it showed up in my email…ch-ch-change! Then because I thought of how much we both love diving into and learning from change, and then because I simply love your story. I see the pizza place and the couple and feel as if I were there with you and I love how years have changed your perspective. Thank you for sharing!


Alli Polin May 9, 2014 at 7:12 am

Thanks, Chery! (I’ve been humming that song all day 🙂 ) Change is definitely a favorite topic we share! Always appreciate your feedback and support.


Gilly May 9, 2014 at 8:16 am

I so needed to read this Alli!

There are too many times when the people who have impacted me negatively in the past, pop into my head and take up too much of my current thinking time and space. Just like you had no idea what was going on with the couple in the restaurant, I really have no idea what these people think about any situation, but I can spend far too long wondering… This clutters up my headspace, fills it with negativity and stagnation and stops me from moving forward with the important things in my life that have nothing to do with them! They will go on doing their thing whatever I think!

Thank you so much for reminding me that the only truth I know is my own and for expressing it so eloquently. I am so glad to know you and be able to imbibe your wisdom and brilliant reflections.

Have great weekend.


Alli Polin May 12, 2014 at 6:28 am


Your comment definitely resonates with me. I let people take up my headspace, questioning their motivations and decisions, yet all I’m really doing is putting my judgement and perceptions on them. I think the biggest ah-ha anyone can have in that moment of dwelling on other people is just what you wrote “They will go on doing their thing whatever I think!”

I’ll be back in DC Metro eventually and you know high on my list is meeting you!!



pragati May 9, 2014 at 8:18 am

Time and age change our perceptions unlike anything. What we assume on seeing something largely comes from our own frame of mind at the time, based on the thoughts or experiences topmost in our minds.

Thanks for the insightful post.


Blair Glaser May 9, 2014 at 8:42 am

What can I say, AP? Another, well written, thought-provoking post. I felt like I’ve had this exact same experience (except maybe it was pasta instead of pizza)! Until I read your post, I hadn’t realized that my stories have changed and it made me pause and reflect on how many assumptions I had made that I would make differently now. Time does deeply affect who we are and how we see. The post also reminded me of the classic flick, “Two for the Road” with Audrey Hepburn and Albert Phinney, a good one if you haven’t seen it.
Thanks again for your inspiration!


Alli Polin May 12, 2014 at 6:30 am

I’ve never seen “Two for the Road” but you know I’m going to check it out now! It’s a little like “Same Time Next Year” too (one of my all time faves). Times change, we change right along with ’em.

Thanks, Blair!


Terri Klass May 9, 2014 at 8:48 am

I totally related to your post, Alli, as I am a people watcher too and love, love to make up stories about their lives. I also tend to do this in restaurants and I have gotten my entire family hooked on it.

You bring up a great point which I tend to forget- my stories are always from my perspective and not necessarily based on any information I have.

I can dream right? I can create fiction and pretend it’s real? It actually sometimes helps me laugh and overcome a nutty day.

Thanks for another article that really made me think and giggle! Job well done!

Happy Mother’s (Mum’s) Day! Do they celebrate it in Australia this Sunday?


Alli Polin May 12, 2014 at 6:33 am

I think it can be fun to fantasize about strangers stories (especially at restaurants!) I try to remember that no matter what may seem “so obvious” to me, may not be what it seems at all. It’s all about my way of seeing… even more than their way of being.

Hope your Mother’s Day was fantastic and that your family was able to gather together. Mum’s Day was also this past weekend here. Loved reading their cards and poems and got insight into how my kids see me!

Thanks for sharing your experience here, Terri!


Joy Guthrie May 9, 2014 at 9:08 am

A thoughtful post Alli. We always apply our own point of view to those around us. Great illustration of how that changes as we change. Happy Mother’s Day Alli! Thanks for another great post.


Alli Polin May 12, 2014 at 6:36 am

We certainly do apply our POV… all the more reason to be aware that it’s happening so we can more purposefully shift our way of seeing.

Greatly appreciate your support!


Bill May 9, 2014 at 9:26 am

As I was reading your post, I was thinking about how often in restaurants I see people (of all ages it seems) completely disengaged with who they are with, because they are on their smart phones. Okay, I am being judgmental – they may have been texting to each other 🙂

Great post, Alli


Alli Polin May 12, 2014 at 6:38 am

Don’t get me started on smart phones! Since moving here I’ve (gasp) left the house many times without my phone… and have lived to tell the tale.

The story you tell in your comment is an all-too-common scenario these days.

Thanks for adding this new fact of life to this conversation, Bill!


Samantha Hall May 9, 2014 at 11:17 am

Another great post Alli. : )

This quote stands out them most for me right now:

‘We make up other people’s stories, but the only truth we can know is our own.’

The land of assumptions creates more drama and trouble for every kind of relationship there is, it’s amazing that we all haven’t figured out away to actually ask questions and have conversations!

What a concept! (grins)

I’ve done. Other people have done. We all do it and have done it even though most of us already KNOW assumptions aren’t necessarily ‘truth’ or ‘reality’.

test. Test. TEST! Those assumptions! It’s the best solution that would dramatically reduce the need for conflict resolution.

Twitter is a prime source for assumptions if you consider how many possibilities in perceptions can we create per tweet!? Very few times have I ever been accurate in interpreting the ‘why’ behind a tweet. At least when it comes to the ones that the author eventually made clear what precipitated the tweet and included context.

What the author means and what the reader/listener hears can be 180 degrees off from one another. Literally.

We all need the reminder….Quit making assumptions!

Thanks again for sharing.

: )


Alli Polin May 12, 2014 at 7:44 am

LOVE your example about how we can read into tweets and we’re probably right about the story behind it, what, one out of 100? The rare times someone tells us, voice-to-voice, it’s eye opening and a great reminder too.

Assumptions get us in trouble and keep us in our comfort zone at the same time. Things look pretty good from our armchair 🙂

One thing that always amazes me is that even with my blog posts, people can have vastly different interpretations than my original intention. Initially I thought “they didn’t get it” but now I see that they absolutely did get it… in a way that mattered and was meaningful to them.

Ahhh… assumptions.

Appreciate you and your insights – always!!


Tom Rhodes May 9, 2014 at 11:58 am

Alli, Your posts always bring me to thought. I look backnat some many moments in life and think about how I would see them differently now. Life is a never-ending cycle of change. Live each moment and enjoy those in it with you.


Alli Polin May 12, 2014 at 6:41 am

Stories aside, THIS is what it’s all about: ” Live each moment and enjoy those in it with you.” No matter what.

Thanks for the important reminder. 🙂


Susan Bowen May 9, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Hi Alli,

You have given me my thinking assignment for the weekend! What stories do I carry with me that I need to revisit? Thanks so much for inspiring me to be more thoughtful and courageous!

All the best,



Alli Polin May 12, 2014 at 6:42 am

I wonder what you discovered after some time looking back. New perspective on an old story? Hopefully, like me, what will be most evident is not how the story had changed but how much you have transformed too.

Many thanks, Susan!!


LaRae Quy May 9, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Great post, Alli!

Like Chery, when I saw that title come up in my email I clicked immediately! Something about that word, change…it gets our attention!

I think we spend our entire excavating the significance of our own stories and experiences. It’s truly sad and debilitating when we stop that process because we also stop becoming the person we’re truly meant to be…


Alli Polin May 12, 2014 at 6:44 am

Definitely one of my favorite words to ponder as I, like most people, am living the tug of war between the comfort of where I’m standing today and where life is heading… into the deep unknown.

Stories are what reveal our lives, our way of thinking, and our hearts. I love looking back… it helps me to look forward with greater purpose and clarity.

Many thanks, LaRae!


Mark Biemans May 10, 2014 at 5:31 am

Dear Alli,
I was just thinking that I want and need to change a few frames.
1. There’s this thing that if something has to do with making money, it does not work for me. Money is always lacking.
2. “I have to do everything by myself.” I seem not able to find people to work together with. (Probably people find it difficult to work together with me. Assumption that might be right for now).

It’s about time for me to change both stories. Now.
Starting with:
1. “I make enough money, and it’s easy for me to do so.”
2. “I work together with many people”. “People love my projects and I love to work together with them and they love to work together with me, to realise these projects.”
3. “The main-project that will bring me and other people money and/or satisfaction or fulfillment is called “Equalness & Uniqueness” and can be found here: “New World Peace Globe”:
-Mark Biemans-
PS I know there’s more to do to bring a change, but changing the way I think is probably the most important for now.


Alli Polin May 12, 2014 at 6:55 am

Mark – First of all, welcome! So glad you stopped by my blog and left such a rich comment too.

I’m not only struck by the honesty of what you shared but by your call to action for change now.

Mindset truly is a powerful tool in our arsenal and one that we don’t tap into often enough. When we choose to change or reframe our stories, especially around “less than” we open up the space for positive change to happen.

Appreciate your insights! Thanks, Mark!


Jon Mertz May 10, 2014 at 9:52 am


A thought-provoking look. My first thought was, in silence, we gain a comfort at times. We know the person next to us is present and we can be comfortable in each other’s presence.

My second thought is how often we miss opportunities to really exchange ideas, to notice, and to go deeper into conversations and touchpoints. We need to shake ourselves awake and really use these moments.

Thanks for an insightful article. Jon


Alli Polin May 12, 2014 at 6:47 am

Shake ourselves awake – YES!!!

I’ve had days go by where I’ve had nothing but superficial exchanges and each time I vow to not let it happen again. We create our own moments of meaning or let them slip by.

I’ve learned so much from you this past year on mindfulness and what it can unleash within and in our relationships. Thank, Jon!


Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™ May 11, 2014 at 8:15 am

Hi Alli,
As soon as I read the title of this post, I started to sing the song! Then as I read the article you took me into some very deep inner truths that relate to how we relate.
-How we see things is always shaped by our views and reflects our views
-We can learn the most when we know ourselves and how our views can skew our views
-The journey to an open mind can is achieved, oddly enough, by knowing what our mind is doing.

GREAT post. You always amaze with simple truths that reveal deeper ones.



Alli Polin May 12, 2014 at 6:52 am

Always appreciate your insights, Kate and this is no exception. It’s knowing that yes, we do see the world through rose colored glasses, or green or blue or whatever best represents our perspective. Truly, we can only take them off with intention and a heck of a lot of effort – but it’s worth it.

Thanks, Kate!


Karin Hurt May 12, 2014 at 8:43 am

Intriguing. Of course, any of those stories could be true… or there could be other stories yet untold. What’s interesting is what the changed interpretation says about your perspective. My son and I like to play the game of guessing people’s stories as they walk by us. We often come up with some really wild tales 😉


Alli Polin May 12, 2014 at 10:05 pm

I’d be willing to bet a small fortune that I still have the story wrong even when I feel oh-so-sure I’ve got it right.

Love your game too! Keeps life interesting.


Ryan Biddulph May 12, 2014 at 9:29 pm

Hi Alli,

We change to see a new story, then life changes. Awesome, how we’re designed.




Alli Polin May 13, 2014 at 7:49 am

Ryan – Thanks so much for your comment! Crazy how that works 🙂 With you all the way!


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