What’s Your Story?

By Susan Wright, TCP President

This is the time of year when most people reflect on where they’ve been and where they’re headed.  It’s a time to ask, What’s My Story?  Stories have always been central to our lives but they seem to be enjoying a particular popularity these days.  For example, Fortune recently reported that there were an estimated 728 corporate storytellers in 2010.  These are experts who make their living by helping leaders create stories that are compelling visions for their organizations.  There are many books and workshops on story, what accounts for a good story, how it is structured to hold our interest and deliver a strong message.

From a personal point of view, our story is our current understanding of who we are, what we value, and how we see the world.  It is the authentic expression of our experience.  Our stories develop through fairly predictable stages just as we do.  When we are starting out, our stories are about establishing a career, a home, partnering and children, a mortgage.  As we mature, our stories change to reflect our degree of success at work and in relationships, our achievements and disappointments, our interests and causes.  As we age, we begin to tell stories about health and fitness, leisure and travel, grandchildren, a condo in the sun.  Have you noticed that conversations with friends center around these topics at different stages of life?  Robert McKee, a famous Hollywood screenwriter says, “Stories are a metaphor for life.” Story is how we make meaning out of life.  It is how we choose to see ourselves in our unfolding journeys.

The fact there are universal themes to our stories doesn’t mean we are passive participants in them.  We create our own stories, each a unique pattern within the whole cloth of society and culture.  We write our stories moment by moment through life, sometimes consciously enacting them but often just allowing them to drift by.  Think about New Year’s resolutions – they are often things of memory soon after they are voiced, stories lacking the passion and commitment required for change.  Which brings us back to the original question: What is your current story?  Is it one that excites you?  Are others interested in it?  Is it a familiar, same-old story or a new and vital expression of who you are now?  What wants to happen in your story right now?  What change, if you made it, would be a turning point in your life story?

  • What one story about you would reveal your essence as a leader right now?
  • What story would you tell about a major change you made and helped others make with you?
  • What story would reflect a turning point in your career and what you learned from it?
  • What story would you tell about a major challenge you are facing and how you intend to overcome it?
  • What themes would you say recur in your stories and what do they tell about you?

If these questions, or your answers to them, interest you in further exploration, I encourage you to consider a workshop on your story, how to tell it and how to change it if you wish.  Leader Coaches tell compelling stories to build trust with those around them, to build awareness of key values and experiences, and to build an engaging vision of the future.  As McKee says, “Stories are equipment for living.”