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How the Story You're Telling Impacts Your Life

Author Jonathan Gottschall wrote, “Until recently we’ve only been able to speculate about story’s persuasive effects. But over the last several decades, psychology has begun a serious study of how story affects the human mind. Results repeatedly show that our attitudes, fears, hopes, and values are strongly influenced by story.”

With that in mind, imagine being able to generate stories that helped you produce a thriving experience each day.

According to anthropologists, storytelling is central to human existence. Without even thinking about it consciously, we use stories to create meaning about our daily experiences, to relay information, to form relationships, and to strengthen interpersonal bonds.

The fact is that whether we realize it or not, we are constantly creating stories about ourselves and others, about what’s possible and what’s not possible, about whether it’s worth it or not to put effort into something.

But, did you also know that your stories actually create your experience?

Contrary to what we may feel, brain science has demonstrated that we’re not really experiencing life as some kind of objective reality. We’re experiencing life subjectively, through the lens of our own storytelling. And, this is where it gets interesting . . . we have the power and ability to create different stories; to see and interact with situations and people more productively . . . if we choose to.

That’s right, how we frame or reframe what’s happening . . . or what has happened can create different ways to experience the facts and, therefore, a broader menu of choices in terms of how we choose to respond.

This option introduces what we believe is one of our primary opportunities and responsibilities as leaders, at work and in life . . . to each take charge of our own state of mind. We do this most effectively when we learn how to create and model stories that enroll others as productive collaborators in the thriving outcomes we develop together.

Dan Schawbel, writing for Fortune Magazine, revealed that “many top organizations are now teaching their leaders and executives the art of storytelling.”

Why would they do this?

The five most commonly used purposes of storytelling in business are:

  • Inspiring the organization

  • Communicating a vision

  • Teaching important lessons

  • Defining culture and values, and

  • Explaining who you are and what you believe.

We can do all this and more, by creating productive stories that open the door for effective outcomes. And we’re just not talking about the words we speak. We’re talking about the stories we live, the stories that play out through our actions and our words.

As we contemplate improving our ability to create and model more productive stories, we’re also excited for a new tool to help us do just that. We're talking about the release of our new online leadership development course that will be available January 2018.

Based on our recent book Thriving in Business and Life, the course is designed as an immersive online learning game (you apply what you learn each week in your daily experience), the course will support multiple learning styles and provide tools to assist each person who engages in the game the chance to learn, visualize, and then apply the principles for each game module.

In the meantime, as we await the release of Thriving – A Leaning Game of Self Mastery for Leaders, here’s a thriving challenge you could take on for the week:

Select one aspect of your working experience or personal life that is challenging for you. Ask yourself: “What story am I telling about this situation?

Acknowledge that since this situation is a challenge, you might want to experiment with reframing your story and re-examining what you’re making things mean. Then, create a new story about your situation; one that provides you with more productive choices and then live from that frame of reference and see what changes.

Will Wilkinson and Christopher Harding

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