Open Blog Weekend: The Power of Story
As Jim Loehr, the author of The Power of Story: Change Your Story, Change Your Destiny in Work and in Life, says, “Your story is your life.” Your story, according to Jim and others like him, defines who you are and how you live your life.
Yet there are times when some of us need a new story. It is usually then that we look to the stories of others – often through the books we read – to guide us.
Stories have the power to transform our reality, because they take us on a journey through a land called, what is possible. They help us see things we might’ve missed otherwise. They help us see our lives from another perspective. And they help us to have the courage to transform our lives.
Here are three ways in which stories transform us:
Stories help us transcend our lives. Sometimes our own battles loom so large that they blind us. That’s often the way challenges are – like insatiable screaming children. In the midst of trying to quiet our chaos, we can forget that the challenges we face are often represented by greater – universal – life challenges, like the desire for freedom, the fear of being rejected, the desire for recognition, and the quest for truth. These universal themes connect us to a larger truth and a larger reality. That is, we are not alone. There are people – sometimes many of them – on this journey with us. When I read Ender’s Game, the story of his fight for a moral truth that only he believed, had me looking at my own life differently. At the time, I was on a quest for a moral truth too. And I, like Ender, also felt misunderstood. That is, until I read the book.
Stories open our eyes to new possibilities. Most of us never explore the extent of our possibilities. We simply may not think of them, or, if we do, we may not think they are possible. But somehow, when we see a possibility in a story, it becomes a possibility in our own life. What stories do is not only show us what is possible, but they often show us how. And on a deeper level, they probably give us permission. A few years ago, I lent Born to Run, to my brother, who had never been a runner. I didn’t even know if he would read the book. But somehow in learning the story of the lost tribe of Tarahumara Indians who can run incredible distances – for many days at a stretch – he started to think he could run, and within three months, we ran the Leadville Marathon together.
Stories help us see ourselves differently. Sometimes it is not until we see someone else overcome obstacles like the ones we face, that we start to think we can too. This might also be why we gravitate toward stories – because they embody the strength we need. This is what great stories do – they pull us in and transform us. They take us from where we are to where we want to be. And often, they take us from self-doubt and fear, to hope and courage. When I gave Andrei Agassi’s memoir, Open, to a friend, I had simply thought that he would enjoy the story – coming from a professional sports background himself. What I didn’t realize was that Agassi’s depiction of finally standing up to his controlling father – after years of divisive parenting, gave my friend the permission to stand up to his own.
Claire Dorotik-Nana, is the author of LEVERAGE: The Science of Turning Setbacks into Springboards. For more information about Claire or her work, visit www.leverageadversity.net