creative support for times of change

the stories we tell

I recently spent some time devouring a journal on social change directed at leaders and folks like me who work with organizations around the people side of change. Among other idea’s, one approach that stood out for me was:  transform the stories we tell ourselves.

Stories offer a perspective, a view point, a way of seeing. They engage and connect us with ourselves and one another. A good story also tends to carry our emotions – and our emotions are an indicator of what’s important and has meaning to us. Those emotions can also distort or limit our perspective of the whole picture.

Let’s start with ourselves …what story are you telling yourself about what ever is currently happening in your life that has your attention? Are you a hero, a villain, a victim in that story? All three perhaps? How does this story serve you? How is it supporting your vision or goals right now? Is the story keeping you stuck or keeping you moving in a positive direction? If you decide it’s not truly serving you, how might you alter the story, reframe it so that you might breathe a little easier, move into a more spacious place of compassion and possibility?

For me I have been telling myself a story about my stressful situation. Each time I tell it – to myself or to others – I need to find evidence to make that story true. Lately I’ve decided to tell my story differently …and I’m already feeling lighter, noticing more and more positive, supportive things happening as I find, invent or stumble upon ways to cope with the stresses that are a part of this journey…and notice which ones I have some control over! It’s a great feeling! And a much better story!

I will soon be facilitating a team retreat and I’m pondering ways we might explore their individual and collective stories, what those stories say about themselves, each other and their work.  By listening deeply and perhaps with a different intention, might they also notice in those stories what is wished for? Might there be some acknowledgment of some distortion, missing information, or an assumption getting in the way of working even better together than they are already? I know that creating a space for that kind of listening and telling does open up ways to transform the stories to identifying what it is they all want more of…and the opportunities to move it in that direction. 

My hope is that you will uncover more opportunities and possibilities in your stories – even the ones you tell only to yourself – than at first or 10th telling. Try to listen differently.  Sometimes that in itself will produce subtle shifts. Let me know what happens.