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The Power of Stories

What we believe shapes our reality in surprising ways.

Stories. How we love stories. From the news to reality shows to yarns spun around digital campfires, to mystery thrillers, rom-coms, and sci-fi spectacles, we can’t seem to get enough.

Then there’s the story of our own lives, which can easily seem boring by comparison.

But then again, professional storytellers have a huge advantage. And it’s one we can utilize to improve the 24/7 story we’re living.

What’s their advantage?

Time. Whereas our experience is immediate, moment by moment, stories in print and on the screen, even told live, are pre-meditated. They are created beforehand and then presented, perfected over time in ways we can’t with our real-time stories.

Well, what if we can learn from the pros how to hack our own life story?

We can, with three simple techniques.

First, they understand that it’s important to start at the end.

Why? Because once they know how their story is going to end, they can plot their way there. That’s how GPS works, right? You plug in your destination and off you go.

Imagine trying to use GPS without knowing your endpoint. That’s not going to end well.

A writer comes up with their ending, then they write their way toward it. We can do the same thing by starting with a vision of what we want to achieve, then planning how to get there. Anyone in business understands the importance of projecting income/expenses into the future. But that’s often done just with numbers and rational analyses of the marketplace.

What’s missing?

The secret sauce, when it comes to using this technique in our lives, is emotion.

Remember, the best stories always make us feel something and the best endings always have a kick to them. So, how do we want an episode in our life story to end and how do we hope to feel when it ends that way?

Number two: editing.

The pros write and re-write. Again and again and again, until they get everything just right. Some scripts go through dozens of revisions before they are ready to be produced into the film we see, years later. How can we edit the stories in our lives? Easy. We use simulations, otherwise known as daydreaming.

This isn’t frivolous. Some of the greatest inventions have shown up in daydreams, including The Internet, robots, rocketry, test-tube babies, and scuba diving.

So, we can daydream about a certain episode of our life story and explore various twists and turns, before committing to a final plotline. This can be tremendous fun because, for starters, we get to experience ourselves as the hero at the center of it all.

That’s not arrogant, it’s actually true for every person in their own life. But the overwhelm of everyday challenges can easily obliterate that awareness, hence the boring stories some of us live out (which would also happen in print or on-screen if those heroes forgot who they were).

We detail how to do these simulations in our book, Thriving in Business and Life, and we lead guided audio exercises in our app. Think of this like rehearsals before the big show.

The third technique is actually something we can do that writers can’t: improvise on the fly.

Once a book is published or a film is in the can, that’s it. No more changes. We don’t suffer that limitation. This makes it possible for us to create even better stories in real life than anything we could ever hear, see, or read.

So, once we’ve referenced a perfect ending to map out our journey, experimented in simulations, edited until we perfect our plot, and rehearsed our hero role, we’re ready to hit Play.

And . . . we can course correct as we go. That’s the really fun part. It takes imagination and daring but, like anything we do, practice makes perfect.

In our next article, we’ll dive deeper into the secret sauce, the emotion-based part of all this.

When we can feel the story we’re creating, it’s much more likely that we’ll be able to successfully live it out in real life.

~ Will Wilkinson and Christopher Harding


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