Are you living life the way you really want to? Is there something you would like to change? Maybe you want to manage your emotions and relationships better, deal with conflict constructively, be more confident, less stressed, get fit, lose weight or achieve something else that is really important to you? Do you have a repeat pattern of New Year resolutions, committing whole heartedly to them year after year until you give up and take them off the list?
Have you ever wondered what stops you from making really important changes to lead the life you want? The answer, surprisingly, lies within your own stories. As humans, we are story making beings. We make sense of ourselves, other people and the world we live in through deep-seated stories, in the form of beliefs and assumptions, which either help or hinder us achieve what we want in life. Our stories create the results we are currently getting, the good and the bad. In the words of Terry Pratchett: 'We think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it's the other way around.'
Some stories are within our awareness while others are hidden, often created early in life and long since forgotten. Ultimately, everything we do and say in life is determined by our stories. At their creative best, they are wise and helpful. At worst, they are misguided and over-protective, causing us to jump at shadows, creating unnecessary fears and anxieties, and holding us back.
Growing up we inherit and adopt our most impactful stories; from our immediate and extended families, from people who care for us, teach us and discipline us; stories from the culture and environment we grow up in, from fairy tales, myths, movies, books and social media. These stories activate survival circuits in our brain, moving us towards things that sustain life, or away from or against perceived threats. They are the real drivers of how we show up in the world.
For the first forty odd years of my life I struggled with the impact of these stories. Self-help books and personal development workshops proliferated, often generating insight and hope which quickly foundered on the rocks of intended actions. The deep, lasting change I craved for remained will-of-the-wispishly elusive.
From my mid-forties, things turned around as I progressively discovered, applied, synthesised and built on the work of key mentors. Sometimes in person, sometimes through their writing, these mentors helped me develop a practical Choose your stories process to surface and rewrite my most unhelpful stories. As a professional coach, I have used this process to help more than one thousand leaders make changes they could not previously make. Inspired by the impact in their lives, I have written this book to make the process available to anyone wanting to overcome the pain experienced when we are 'stuck' and unable to make the changes we really want to make.
The Choose your stories process is brought to life through the stories of four characters; Lili, George, Jan and Stefan. While based on real people I have coached or worked with in leadership development programs, the characters are fictional. Their challenges, however, are real, and it is likely you will find some of your stories in their stories. Using our story library as a metaphor, I explore different types of stories we inherit, adopt, create, and sometimes disown. These include Purpose, Identity and Values stories which drive our lives. The book is filled with rich examples of these stories and coaching sessions with our characters, illustrating how they can be surfaced and rewritten in our metaphoric writing laboratory. Referencing the latest research in psychology, neuroscience and adult development, this book provides a practical tool to re-write your life-limiting stories and make the lasting changes you want in your life.