I’ve always loved a great story. And I’ve always been fascinated with people who are great storytellers. The way they reel you in with the tone of their voice, the way they pause at the perfect time and how they string together bits of ordinary information to make an extraordinary story is something I have admired all my life.

All of us have known someone who tells a great story. Maybe it was a parent or another family member. Maybe it was a teacher or a preacher or a friend or colleague of some sort. Regardless of who comes to mind, we can most certainly picture or remember someone who has a knack for capturing our hearts, minds and imaginations with the power of a story.

However, the person who tells us the most powerful stories in our life is us. While other people’s stories can entertain us, the stories we tell ourselves each and every day guide us and create our reality. The stories we tell ourselves help us to see the world as our friend or foe. They tell us whether we are smart or stupid, capable or incapable, bold or timid, deserving of great outcomes or poor ones, lucky or unlucky, attractive or unattractive, likeable or not, worthy or unworthy and destined for success or for failure. Our stories tell us an ending first so that we can take the appropriate actions to make it so.

The cool thing is that the voice we hear telling us our stories is not really us. It’s not who we are. It’s a voice that exists because of us and it has whatever power it has over us because we give it permission to talk to us. If our voice is telling us a story about how great we are and what great things are possible for us, then cheer it on and keep listening! If it’s telling us everything that’s wrong with us and what limited results we are destined for, then we need to stop the story and tell our voice to tell us a better story.

Some of us were born with a great voice inside our heads. Others weren’t. Regardless, the voice that tells us our most important stories comes from a kaleidoscope of influences in our lives. Our parents, our family and friends, our teachers and preachers and colleagues and mentors, the books we read, the things we watch and see, and the experiences we have all play a part in creating the voice that tells us our most defining stories.

Whatever the stories are that are playing in our head, we have to remember that they are only opinions, regardless of how compelling they are. Just because we tend to prove them true doesn’t mean the stories are factual. Our greatest opportunity in life is in developing our ability to hear the stories in our head for what they are and to determine if they are what we want to be true for us. If so, then great! If not, then we need to create actions that support what we want to be true, as opposed to taking actions that would allow the stories in our head come true. In either case, we have to take action. And perhaps, our first course of action is to separate our storytelling voice from who we are, to take control of it by demanding it tell us the stories we want to hear.

Our stories are not our truth unless we allow them to be. The stories being told in our heads should be determined by us, rather than us being determined by our stories. We can enjoy our stories without being defined by them…or not. The choice is ours to make, and we must (learn to) make that choice wisely.