Stories are for children... aren't they?
Stories are just for children, aren’t they? For those of you who shouted 'no!', I quite agree.
No one is quite sure about who told the first stories, but there is no doubt that it has been used as a medium for sharing information and shaping our lives for millennia. Our mental image might be of people around a campfire; children listening enraptured; possibly a film; or a good book. In all of these, the storytelling is deliberate and intentional. It could be said that stories are part of our psyche. What about, however, those stories that are told as part of our everyday lives? The ones that we’ve established throughout our lives that become the background to ourselves, our family, our social life or, indeed, our business?
At a conference recently, I attended a seminar with Andy Green from Story Starts Here entitled 'What’s your company’s story?'. I was fascinated, as storytelling can be a powerful coaching mechanism, so I wanted to see what links there were. And there were many.
Andy talked to us about the seven-story archetypes, and, in my research, I’ve related each of them to how they can be catalysts for change, invoke helpful states, and help us become the hero in our own story. One of the purposes of good coaching practice is to help you become the narrators of your own life story, to be able to have your own power and control over your life.
See if any of these story archetypes ring any bells with you;
Rags to riches
A story of you perhaps not really living your best life. Maybe you’re not using your talents as you could in your business? Perhaps you dream of a different lifestyle, but you're not really sure how to make the change? In this storyline, a coach could be seen as the fairy godmother to transform your life. In reality, a good coach wouldn’t claim to be able to do this, but they’d act as a change broker; someone who could help and guide you rather than take control.
A story of someone searching for something. In a coaching context, you might want to be happier, reduce anxiety, or increase your resilience and confidence. The coach’s role in this is to provide the tools and strategies that you can use to reach your goal. A quest is usually done in the company of another; your coach by your side as you make the changes you want to make.
Overcoming the monster
This story kind of does what it says on the tin. You’re worried about something, or identify a hurdle to overcome in life; something that’s getting in your way. Sometimes this might be something like addiction, or a fear of something such as interviews. With a coach, you can look at options for a time when you’re without your monster; you’ve left it behind in your story.
Journey and return
Often, in this story, you’ve been thrust into a scenario that you didn’t expect, or something that hasn’t quite turned out as planned. The journey you’re making is one where you’re exploring what’s happened, and whilst it’s unlikely that things will return to how they were before, there’s a new life to be found. This is where your coach can help you make sense of your life event while you integrate it into your own story.
This can be a challenging story as quite often you might not even be aware of the change to be made. In a coaching context, you might embark on coaching to deal with a particular issue, only for something more fundamental to emerge. With a skilled coach, this is an amazing opportunity to learn so much and be wiser about life. Often, this story leads to quite major, long-lasting change.
Perhaps not as odd as it seems, the comedy storyline is about a situation which is muddled for you. Perhaps you find yourself coming across the same scenarios time after time, maybe things turn out the same way every time. This can quite often manifest in jobs, or in relationships where repeating patterns crop up. Whilst no laughing matter, when a coach helps you stand back and see the configurations for what they are, it’s easy to imagine how they can be straightened out and you can take a different path.
In storytelling, a tragedy often ends with the protagonist being overcome by their flaws. In a coaching context, you might feel as though no matter how hard you try, you can’t change things. You might feel as though everything you do seems to make things worse. It might feel like you’re not sure which way to turn. However, many people find solutions with a skilled coach as there are always options to move things forward. There may be no quick fix, but with time and focus, a good coach can help you change things around so your story has a happier ending.
So, we can see that, apart from imparting information, or forming a structure in our lives, the purpose of stories is to invoke feelings. All of the stories that make up who we are make us feel a particular way. In coaching, you’ll get to explore all of those feelings in a non-judgemental environment, and find that they’re simply catalysts for the change that you’re making.