What’s Your Story? (Part 1)


books 2No, I am not referring to your “elevator speech.” Some major changes in our lives (for instance, beginning a new job) may require the elevator speech. Every major change we face warrants a story.

Virtually since the advent of oral communication, story-telling has been with us. It is a way of passing on our history, of sharing our experiences, and of vocalizing our dreams. Skilled story-tellers are able to arouse our deepest emotions, and to move us from intellectual curiosity to committed action. They bring stories to life.

So why do I believe that every big change in our life should have its own story?

The first reason has to do with attainment.

By definition, major change is tough; it carries with it a real chance of failure. While we may begin full of optimism, at some point, we start to understand the many challenges that stand between us and success.

Think about it. Whether it is a personal change or a global business transformation, if the change is perceived as positive, it begins with a honeymoon. But, honeymoons are not forever. Daryl Conner of Conner Partners, a strategy execution consulting firm, refers to this as the move from uninformed optimism  to informed pessimism. When pessimism takes over, it is much harder to remain focused, to stay committed; it is much more challenging to maintain the momentum.

If we have our story–and it is well constructed–we are better prepared for the inevitable shift to informed pessimism. Quoting Mahatma Gandhi,

If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it’s possible that I may end up by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capability to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.

Implicit in Gandhi’s quote is the second reason I find stories so important when on the change journey. The change story (whether your own, your family’s, or your business’s) is not written to be told once and to sit on the shelf. You don’t “acquire the capability to do it” in one telling, or a dozen. Change stories are constructed, and then they are lived.

Several years ago I worked with a client who was preparing to retire. She had been a high-level executive in a nonprofit organization for many years. The thought of no longer coming into the office truly frightened her. She had formed a mental picture of herself as an unhappy old woman, angry at the world for taking away the meaning in her life.

In fact, together we crafted a very different story, and she moved into a very different retirement… one of both peace and purpose. And along the way, she lived her change story.

Next week I will be offering some guidelines on writing your change story. Subscribe to Change Mentor to receive my posts in your email.

Feel free to share a bit about your own change story and the role it played in your journey in the comments below.

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