The Power of Story

It’s All Story – IgniteBend 2009 from Michelle Barry Franco on Vimeo.

I think a lot about story. Do you? I wonder if other people (besides Chris Brogan and Donald Miller) think about story as much as I do.

The way I see it, it’s all story.

What I mean is, story is the essential driving force in our lives and in our businesses.

Story drives behavior.
Story drives strategy.
Story even drives feelings.

There are lots more ways that story drives elements of living, but I’m betting you’re tracking the idea here.

My Parenting Story

For example, in my own life, Equally Shared Parenting is my main parenting story. I make my parenting plans around this story. I make my work plans around this story. I even have friends precisely because of this story in my life. It’s just a story. I could have a different one – like stay-at-home-mom or primary financial provider for the family. Different stories – different behaviors.

My Business Strategy Story

Another example: I have a new story that I love product design and creation. I love creating a Vision for a product, outlining a development and marketing strategy and seeing the Vision to become a real-life 3D reality. My business strategy has changed as a result of this new story. Different story – different strategy – different behaviors.

My Mothering/Working-Outside-the-Home Story

And one last example (to round out the list I have above of ways that story drives life) about how story drives feelings in my life. I used to have a story that mothering was the most important job I would ever do (I still have that story) and my kids needed me with them as much as possible for them to have the maximum experience of a fabulous life. Based on that story, I couldn’t do outside work (unless is was absolutely required for our very survival.) No matter how much I wanted to do work that I loved in the world beyond mothering, my story that mothering was the most important job I will ever do and that in order to do a fabulous job mothering I had to be home pretty much all the time made it impossible for me to work outside the house. Even though I was an itchy, frustrated, distracted stay-at-home mom. I did a bunch of research about how kids who have working moms turn out, had passionate, tear-filled conversations with my husband and friends, and searched my soul for a new story… until, voila! I got one!

New story: I am a better mom when I am Contributing in the world in meaningful ways beyond mothering. For me and my personal alchemic blend – this working/equally-shared-parenting/mothering thing is a great new story. Now, I work 4 full days a week, have one “Mama Day” with the girls and share most of the weekend with the whole family together. (okay, I work at night, at 5:30am and while the girls are happily playing in the sandbox sometimes, too – I’m an entrepreneur, after all.) Different story – different feelings – different behavior.

It’s not that simple. You’ve got to believe the story.

I’m not saying it’s all about semantics – that we can just say new words and new feelings, plans and behaviors result. An essential element of a powerful story is that you believe it. It feels real and true and right for you. That’s a story that causes real change, movement… action in your life.

I started this blog post on Story because Chris Brogan invited me (well, lots of us really) to in his blog post yesterday. But I’m writing it for you all – and me – just as much. It helps me to remember that the stories I choose drive my life and business. It’s not a simple as it sounds – unless we have Radical Clarity on our own stories, it’s hard to know the ways in which they might be guiding our lives. But it serves us to reflect on them – reveal the ones that are working really well and dig deeply to find the ones that might be getting in our way. I talked about this in the IgniteBend talk I did last October, the one that’s there at the top of this blog post.

So, I’m excited to read this book A Million Miles In a Thousand Years by Donald Miller that Chris Brogan recommends so highly because he says it’s all about story in our lives. I hear Miller shares many of his own stories as illustrations and if you ask me, nothing more powerfully expresses the essence of a concept than a story, so this should be good. I’ll let you know what I think. And if you’ve read it already, please tell me what you thought of it.

I’d love to hear about how story plays in your life. Do you have particular big stories that serve you really well? I’d love to learn from those, if you wouldn’t mind sharing here in the comments – or in email, if you prefer more privacy. Wherever. Let’s just share some stories, okay? Thanks.

P.S. One of my favorite books on the power of story is called just that: The Power of Story by Jim Loehr (Amazon Affiliate link.) Check it out if you want a really straightforward discussion of the way story influences your life – and many stories about people who have changed their lives through revised stories.

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