I have been thinking lately about the power of narratives. Warning: this post might get a little new-age-self-help-y, but there will also be plenty of snark, sarcasm, and selfies.
Lately I have noticed some negativity creeping into my internal monologue. Now I’m certainly not walking around like Eeyore with a permanent rain cloud over my head. However, I have caught myself thinking things like: ‘ugh, I am BURNT out,’ or ‘making RNA is SO frustrating, it NEVER works the first time.’
Telling yourself negative stories is easy. Telling tourself negative stories is also lazy. Negative self talk is a three part tango of mental sleight of hand. The first step is expecting the worst, and feeling like a martyr for it. Then you pirouette around making any effort at improving your circumstances. Cap it off with a self-satsfied dip for correctly predicting you will be unpleasantly unsurprised.
This morning as I was about to head out the door for seven miles of Fartleks I caught myself thinking: ‘it is 39 degrees and dark outside. You are absolutely bonkers for doing this.’
So I told myself a new story. I said: ‘it is 39 degrees and dark outside, you are absolutely BADASS for doing this.’
And you know what? Those seven miles FLEW by!
Similarly, today at work I was quantifying RNA levels from 2 different promoters I have been using. Working with RNA can be finicky because it is so unstable, an I caught myself thinking: ‘man, I am so terrible at RNA work, this sucks.’
Why try to do an experiment if I’m predicting it’s going to fail? So I loaded my qPCR plate and made an effort to tell myself: ‘Man, I have gotten so much errrr at RNA work than I used to be…this is going to make a great figure.’
Popped that plate in, and lo and behold, it worked just fine. The answer is one promoter is 1.5 times stronger and half as leaky as the other. It took me one afternoon to figure out…after a solid week of talking myself out of doing the damn experiment for no real reason.
So I’m trying to take back the narrative. It’s not always the easiest thing to do, but the most worthwhile things often aren’t easy. I can’t believe that I’m going to sign off with a quote from Perry Como, but life really is better if you accentuate the positive!
Ok- special bonus picture: The 8th wonder of the world: the Merrikh Lab user qPCR plate pyramid: