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If you’ve ever gone to the movies and found yourself so involved with a character that it feels as though watching their journey has actually shifted something in your own life, you’ll know what I mean by the power of story. We learn, we get inspired, we transform… all from the stories we’re told, or the ones we tell ourselves. Today I want to share some of what I’ve learned about how to use stories to create change, so that you can begin to apply it in your own life and work.
Story is an extraordinarily powerful tool. We remember stories far longer than we remember any points that have ever been taught to us. So storytelling is something that I have spent a lot of time studying and learning and practicing over the years.
If you have a vision to create real change in the world, today I invite you to think about how story could play a part in that.
Why stories work
If you’ve been to one of our live events you’ll know that we always start with stories – often opening with the start of a tale, and closing it at the end. It’s one way we weave a little bit of magic into the experience, and it’s a key focus for our One of many Certified Trainers when they learn how to create extraordinary experiences for groups.
As human beings, we naturally create stories to explain our experiences. When you think about it your life is really just a series of moments. Our perception of our lives as being journeys connected by meaning – I did X, so I learned Y, and became Z – is in the narrative our minds create.
We weave a story to make meaning of what this series of events could tell us, about us and about the world and about others.
Sometimes they’re empowering stories and sometimes they’re disempowering stories.
You could be telling yourself a story right now, reading this article.
You could be telling yourself that you’re connecting with me, a woman called Jo who has something that she wanted to share with you. Maybe this is a story about sharing and sisterhood.
You might tell yourself that you’re taking a few minutes to read these ideas and to absorb some wisdom that’s going to help you grow, perhaps in ways you don’t yet know, or won’t know until you need it.
Or you could tell a remarkably different story about this moment – maybe you’re berating yourself for “wasting time”, telling yourself a story about how easily distracted you are.
It’s really just a choice you make of how you want to link these pieces of your experience together.
Using storytelling as a leader
So the first part of discovering the power of story is to be conscious that you’re always making stories and that those in your team are always making stories too.
From a leadership perspective, there’s a part of us that takes responsibility for the stories that her team are making from the events that occur.
It’s the Women’s PowerType we call Sorceress. When she’s in leadership she knows that she is accountable for the stories that her team are making. And that it is her job to make sure that whenever events happen, that she takes charge of the stories that are made.
A couple of years ago we ran a retreat where the place we were staying was completely snowed in. Actually, it was one of 3 retreats that year where we found ourselves in the midst of epic snowfalls. I’m sure there are some stories I could make about that!
By the time we came to our closing session for our Lead the Change participants on Sunday, the outlook was pretty grim. We were hearing one by one that the roads were closed, taxis weren’t running, trains had been cancelled, airports were closed…
As you can imagine, our team were faced with a big challenge.
We had lots of material to cover, for which we needed the participants to be present and receptive. But the fact is, for most of our community just taking a couple of days away from home and work is a big thing. It takes a lot of rearranging. So the prospect of being stranded for an extra night, even if it was at a perfectly comfortable hotel and spa, was a pretty distracting one.
One of my first jobs, then, was to find the narrative. Not to ignore what was happening, not to let things sink into panic, but find the possible narratives there could be and reframe them in a way that enabled us to be present and feel safe and supported.
That’s what the sorceress leader knows. She thinks “There’s a narrative here. Let’s take charge of what it is.” She’ll think through the possible stories, and take charge of the narrative that her team agree to tell themselves. From there, we can find unexpected possibility.
How do you use story?
Have you come to one of our events and experienced the power of story? Or perhaps you’ve shared your own story, and seen the effect it can have to inspire and empower others. Share your story in the comments below.
In fact, we will remember stories far longer than we remember any points that have ever been taught to us.