Will you change your story?
I was with my teenage grandson walking along the Thames Southbank and we came upon the Globe Theatre, a wonderful re-creation of the original Elizabethan theatre that premiered many of the plays of Shakespeare, and we decided to take a guided tour.
Towards the end of our tour, the guide explained how in Shakespeare’s day there was a huge appetite — an industry in fact –- for plays, with something like 120 plays being performed in the Globe each year. I remarked that this was like the current phenomenon of major TV and network channels producing more series, in what seems like a veritable arms race between Netflix, Amazon, Apple TV, the BBC, HBO etc. And our guide agreed.
We love stories. There is something ingrained in every human that pays attention to a good story. For example, Jesus taught the public solely in stories, much to the frustration of the religious establishment of his day.
Something in a recent podcast by Jeff Goins resonated with me deeply. It was his episode entitled Instead of Setting Goals, Tell a New Story. In brief, here are a few points Jeff makes:
- At this time of year, maybe the best way to review things is not goal-setting – although there is nothing wrong with that.
- Nor is it about setting new year resolutions[Note: I suspect if you have set them on January 1st, it is unlikely you are still keeping them all as you read this. Be honest! You’re not, are you?]
- Instead, he explains that we are all living our story.
- Although it might feel uncomfortable, the turn of the year is a good time to look back on the year just gone, and consider what didn’t work, and what we might learn from that.
- These lessons from last year’s experience might indicate that I need to change the story I am telling myself or living within.
As I explain in my work on stakeholder engagement – helping change leaders turn disinterest, apathy and sometimes downright hostility into favour, ownership and success – that storytelling is a key tool to getting and maintaining people’s attention.
There is an appetite for a good story deeply encoded in all of us.
Somehow, as we are growing up, we believe the lie from our peers – usually when we are trying to be adult – that we have grown out of stories. “Stories are for children, not for grownups.”
So, what story am I telling myself?
Sometimes a major personal trauma helps us realise that we cannot or should not live the story we have been telling ourselves. A divorce leaves an at-home mum realising her life no longer revolves around the man who cheated on her. The widow realises that her sudden bereavement changes everything, so she gives herself permission to live another story. A loyal manager is told by his company that it has now decided to “let him go;” after his anger and his grief have abated somewhat, he realises that he now has a kind of freedom. He allows himself to live another story.
We do not need to wait for life to change our circumstances. We can change our story. Now.
Maybe we do each live out our own story. We are the hero of our own story, as Jeff Goins pointed out. But perhaps that story isn’t the best version of us that we could live. Maybe we do need a better story. Maybe the Hero needs a bolder or different quest.
What do you think? Leave your comments. Tell me your story.