I was watching a video online of a popular self help guru share with the audience the story of a person who went through a success program. As I was listening to what each of them were saying, I begin to feel this negative feeling come up inside me. Because of my degree, I know the impact stories have on our belief system. I am naturally alerted upon listening to “success stories” from motivational speakers because I sense a sales pitch in the mix. But, I can respect these motivational speakers in one sense in that they understand something about the human psyche and how that system of influence works.
Are You Serious?
First, humans need confirmation that something is real. Even when we sometimes witness something with our eyes, we need someone to say they too witnessed the event. The whole reason for the scientific method is to verify others experience the same thing. The scientific method is so intricate with sophisticated mathematical systems and research designs with ethical standards to validate the reliability of what does exist. The power of another person’s testimony has a seemingly tremendous power over our belief system.
Second, the stories we hear that resemble something of ourselves can have a significant impact. In order to influence others to help, organizations prompt listeners “….these are normal everyday people, just like you and me …..and can happen to anyone.” Sometimes, we need these prompts to penetrate our awareness to take action. Do you have a favorite commercial in someway gets you? Advertisers know in order to catch the listener’s attention is to dig into the stories of people’s lives.
I am not down on advertisements. Advertisements are some of the most important commodities we have allowing billions of people around the world know of available products and services that can help solve some common everyday problems. The emphasis here is then about the power of the story of our lives. The story line is a powerful tool regardless of how long or short that story. Think about how story lines affect emotion and how emotion greatly influences our decisions. A person who goes through a traumatic event and receives help is willing to share their story so others can benefit from the help they received.
The Story of Our Lives
The same is true about the story we tell ourselves everyday about who we are in life. If we believe anyone’s story, we believe the story we tell ourselves each day. When we go through an experience in everyday life, our story comes forward—the one we remember—as if our story is part of us lurking in the background supporting or hindering us. A little girl in a video begins to cry when someone suggests she does not have a boyfriend. She is upset maybe because her story is she values having a boyfriend. Even as young as 4 or 5, we have a story line we follow weakening or strengthening us.
Each person whether young or old has an accumulation of experiences resembling small scripts that push us forward or hold us back. Sometimes, we may spend our time and energy thinking only of the experiences that hold us back that overtime might weaken us. Especially, past hurts we yet to resolve. The more we focus on these types of stories the weaker and further out of tune we become to our strengths. These experiences or stories become all that define us. Prompted the other day, we were to write a strength we believe we have that if need be could be of service to others. After a few moments of reflection, some members immediately scribbled, others stared off into space; yet, others seemed as though they did not understand; including me.
My mind went blank; nothing come to surface. For most of the past year I felt I struggled and all I could focus on. Others begin sending their notes to the person on the end of the row, while I sat with my pen in one hand and a blank note in the other. I was thinking deeply and saying to myself “I know I have strengths.” I felt awkward. I think most people might feel awkward when they are unable to think of their strengths. The awkwardness comes due to the fact each and every person has strengths.
Building and Strengthening Our Story; Our lives
Each and every person has some characteristic or strength that benefit others. These strengths may be in force yet seem to elude us because we do not often focus on them. Importantly, we need at least balance in the story we tell ourselves day in and day out. We also gain and can draw strength through recognizing, focusing, and using our strengths on purpose each day. I think people who make a difference in others lives know this truth. What about you? Do you refine your difficult story or stay in touch with your strengths? One strength up on our meeting board stated, “I am a good listener”. I remember thinking when our leader read the note aloud, “I am a good listener.” Truth is we may not know our strengths until we need them or someone mentions our strengths. Each of us have one or more strengths that add value to our and others lives. Highly successful people go a step further and take one or more strengths to help massive numbers of people at one time.
Our next exercise was voicing others strengths so we identified with the impact our seemingly simple strengths make in others lives. Many of those hearing how their strengths helped another person helped them feel empowered. Sometimes, we may not know our strengths others value.
Below I list some strengths stuck to the board. Do any of these strengths resonate with you? Take some time to identify with some of your strengths. Ask others that you spend time with to help you know what your strengths might be they value. Begin implementing these strengths into your story you tell yourself everyday, such as: “I am learning how to be better at ___________ , but I am certainly strong in the area of _______.” Balance your story you tell yourself each day putting these strengths into action as often as you see a need.
List of Values:
- good listener
- make great potato salad
- sympathetic to others suffering
- good vision
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