Own your story: Why our stories matter and how to define yours

Own your story: Why our stories matter and how to define yours

Each of us tell stories daily and our stories come to define who we are. To know someone well is to know their story, what shaped them, the ups and downs, the challenges they faced. When we want someone to know us, we share aspects of our childhood, our parents and family, our political views, our music interests and so on.

Stories are needed during change – when we join a new company or take on the leadership of a new team – telling a compelling story of who we are inspires confidence in others, it tells of our character, our values, how we are likely to be with them.

Finding your own story

Each of us has a unique story to tell, if told authentically, no two stories are the same. What we mean by telling our ‘authentic story’ is sharing a story which is deeply true for us, which then engages our audience to develop an interest in our success.

When I talk to leaders who are unwilling to share information about themselves, it usually takes longer for them to build trust with others.

When we are clear on our own unique story and how it has led us to where we are today it gives us certainty and helps us believe in ourselves. It also gives us a sense of purpose and enables us to inspire others.

When significant change and transition happen in our lives, having a thread to our story that incorporates the change can help smooth the way. A good story therefore, is essential for making a successful transition. Good stories have a hook, a point in our lives when things changed, usually for the better, where we made a choice or overcame a significant challenge. Stories need to be genuine, they enable us to build trust with the listener.

A real life case study

Let me share an example: A Project Manager for a Global Retail Firm had requested some coaching support as he was no longer enjoying his job. He had been in the same role for over 8 years and was no longer feeling as challenged and was eager to learn and progress in his career.

When he took the time to reflect during our coaching sessions, he realised he’d always focused on meeting his family’s need for security and other people’s expectations for his career, rather than his own. He had stayed too long in his current role.

A few weeks later he decided to speak to his manager about his aspirations and desire to learn and progress, this sparked ideas for his manager who was able to outline a new role which was in the process of being created. He researched the role in detail, spent time assessing his skills, career interests and the growth opportunity that the role would provide. On the basis of this he decided to put himself forward for the role and successfully secured it.

Five years on and he hasn’t looked back, he has progressed further in his career and enjoying the every day challenges that arise. The best bit about it he says, is that he made the choice, he pursued new opportunities and he will always know he made the change that he needed to make to feel more fulfilled in his career and life at that moment.

Reflecting on this example, in which situations could it help you to have your story clearly defined?

Getting the story right is critical, as much for motivating ourselves as for enlisting the support of others. In times of change we most need to link our past, our present and our future into a compelling whole. It gives us a sense of purpose and a guiding light for moving forward.

3 Essential aspects of your personal story

  1. What’s your why? Identify why you’re telling your story and why your audience would be interested to listen. Think about a particularly significant turning point in your life and what steps you took to get through that? What did you learn about yourself or about others? What inspired you? What was the final outcome?
  2. Authenticity: Authentic story telling draws on personal experience, some of the best storytellers share vulnerable moments in their lives. When the story is authentic your audience can sense it. Sharing our moments of learning can help build connection with others and inspire others to push through their own challenges.
  3. Visualise the impact: Be purposeful about how you want your audience to feel after you’ve shared your story. Do you want them to feel uplifted? To feel ready for action? To have a sense of hope through change? Decide on your desired outcome and then work backwards to ensure your story achieves this.

By Patricia Abbott, Chartered Organisational Psychologist & Coach

If you would like to work on your personal story and need support with this, contact us on info@coachanddevelop.com to book an appointment to explore how we can help.