Excerpt published with permission from chapter six of Your Third Story: Author The Life You Were Meant To Live by Flip Flippen and Dr. Chris J. White
In classic literature there’s a pattern of storytelling called the ‘hero’s journey’. I’m sure several of your favorite books and movies borrow elements from it. In the hero’s journey the adversary tries to prevent the hero from achieving a goal – Harry Potter had Lord Voldemort, Luke had Darth Vader and, in fairy tales, knights had to fight dragons. While our real-life adversaries don’t appear to be as dramatic as the ones facing our favorite literary or onscreen heroes, they can be just as debilitating. Your dragon may not breathe fire or be covered in scales, but it can definitely send you scurrying back to your castle, charred and unsuccessful.
In this section, we’re going to explore the most common ‘third story’ dragons. These fire-breathers can lumber out of their lairs anytime we approach the cusp of finally letting go of a distorted Second Story. Dragons prey on our fears and insecurities, and they are adept at finding weak spots in our armour. But by learning more about our adversaries, we can be better-equipped when they rear their ugly heads. Below are some of the most common dragons I’ve found, each with its own ‘dragon-slayer’.
We live in a day in which we measure our importance by our busyness. How many of us live our lives bouncing from one calendar event to the next? And how many of us feel weird or guilty when we find ourselves with nothing to do? Isn’t that crazy? Busyness is a formidable dragon because it cloaks itself in good intentions. Doing a lot and being a hard worker are admirable virtues. Doing too much? Not so admirable. What if the good things in your calendar are keeping you from great things? Writing and living in your ‘third story’ takes time, and the dragon of busyness can be a constant distraction, sapping your time and energy.
Dragon slayer: Conduct a quick self-audit to examine how you’re spending your time. Are you overspent? Schedule some time right now to work on your story plan or just some time for you to do nothing! And set up a weekly calendar reminder for the next six weeks to pause and reflect on your plan and your progress.
With the advent of social media, this dragon has grown larger than a jumbo jet. Every day, we’re slammed with photos and stories of people who appear happier, richer and more attractive than us – and many of these people are our friends! When writing your ‘third story’, playing the comparison game sets you up to lose. You lose because your life isn’t perfect, even though you know deep down that no-one’s life is. Dwelling on how you aren’t as (fill in the blank) as someone else ends in a feedback loop of envy that is difficult to escape.
Even with your role models, it’s easy to over-compare yourself to them and paralyze your progress on your ‘third story’. The most effective comparison you should make is this; compare where you were to where you are today.
Dragon slayer: Think of one of your traits you tend to over-compare and decide today to stop. Also think about your typical mindset as you scroll through various social media or other headlines—are you stealing the joy of your own journey by inviting envy or disappointment?
At first glance, the perfectionism dragon looks a lot like the over-comparison dragon – but there’s a crucial difference. While comparison looks toward others, perfectionism looks inward. Perfectionists set unrealistic expectations of themselves and then beat themselves up when they don’t meet those expectations (did I mention the part about being unrealistic?) There is nothing wrong with seeking excellence at home or at work, but perfectionism isn’t the same as self-improvement. Perfectionism ramps up our desire to be better by attempting to perform at impossible levels. And, perhaps most dangerously, perfectionism can set you down a path that will only lead to more guilt, anxiety, and self-judgment.
Dragon slayer: Quit setting unrealistic expectations for yourself and be okay with imperfections. Think about this question: how much of your guilt, stress and pressure is related to you establishing perfection as your baseline?