If I asked you to tell me about the story you are living right now, what would you tell me? Would your story engage me like five-star movie or lose me to a lackluster plot?
Even if the story you tell is leading to a better future, are you conscious of the characters and scenes that you are creating every day?
When I teach leadership classes, I ask participants to consider the Leadership Story they want to live. I tell them the class will be a journey where they will overcome obstacles, take on new challenges and begin to see their role as leader in a new way. By the end of class, they all have a new Leadership Story they wanted to live.
I got this idea after reading Donald Miller’s book,A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Miller wrote a memoir but it wasn’t until he was asked to turn his memoir into a movie that he was forced to focus in on what was most meaningful and memorable about his life. This realization launched him to take his current life, which had become stale, and write risk, uncertainty, loss, meaning, connection and love into the pages he was living.
What story you want to live? How does it play out this year? This decade?
Take a moment to ask yourself about the story you are living right now. Is this the best story for you? For your work team? For your family?
Next, start your new story by asking yourself, “What am I longing to experience? What doesn’t want to play by the rules? What would I do “if only…?”
When choosing your plot line, consider these questions. In the story you want to live, are you…
- Creating something that would affect many people’s lives or are you doing something that makes you feel the incredible depth of your knowledge, skill or art?
- Able to glimpse and share something important about the future giving people hope or direction or are you fixing something or improving something that wasn’t working before?
- Getting your sense of joy from helping other people or are you achieving great things that make you and your family feel proud?
- Giving people hope or laughter or are you working to create a life that has more time to let nature nourish your soul?
You might find your plot line by answering one of the questions or you might find your story in a hybrid of answers to two or three questions. There are no correct answers. It is your story.
The easy story is boring. Consider the ending, the plot that leads to the ending, the chapters you want to include, and the characters you want to be most active with including their motivations for being in your story. Consider the surprises you might have to deal with or you would embrace if they showed up. Twists and turns will happen in your story. The unexpected situations keep your story moving.
This means you will be changing your story on a regular basis if you want to keep it interesting. Tension helps you discover what you stand for. Conflict, if you take it on, moves your life forward. “You can either get bitter or better,” says Miller.
Remember, like most memorable movies, it’s not how you end your stories that counts, but what you become on the way to the end.
Write your story and then muster the courage to share it with others. Miller says, “A good storyteller doesn’t just tell a better story, though. He invites other people into the story with him, giving them a better story too.” How about trying this out at work?
If you consciously choose your leadership story and invite others to help the story unfold, you will all enjoy telling your stories over and over. One good story leads to another.