A transformative story changed my world.
Last night, I found myself in an awkward position. I had volunteered to present a real-life professional challenge to a group I’m a member of (more on that later- you’ll want to hear more about these people, I guarantee) and even I wasn’t exactly 100% on board with my own thought process.
After diving into my presentation, the rest of the group had the task of guiding me through the rough spots and help me get closer to my goals.
As it happens, it didn’t turn out that way at all. The first group member came up with a stunning observation: it was quite clear that my heart wasn’t in the project, and it had actually affected him in an unsettling way just to hear me talk about it. When everyone had taken their turn with reflective feedback, it was absolutely clear that there wasn’t a reason in the world that I should continue to commit to this project.
Imagine if we all had the structure to come together in groups like these and have the space to share a challenge, and then get such rich and powerful feedback? Not advice, not admonition, not “correction”- but genuine reflection that gets you to the next place with honesty and integrity.
My story so deeply affected someone else and he was able to turn it back to me for reflection. One by one, the group said things like, “You’re focused on the seeds that should be sprouting, rather than on the soil that will sustain them,” and “You’re looking into a mirror but it’s in shards.” For a few moments, I was honestly triggered, until the regeneration part came along.
There are much, much more important questions:
If these things are the case, then what needs to happen to fix them? Rather than focus on the broken present, why not lean into the healed future? Instead of feeling like a “loser” for getting into an unhappy professional situation, why not use that as raw material for what will come next, which actually does work?
This group I’ve been talking about is one of the hubs that have come together as part of MIT’s MOOC “Leading from the Emerging Future.” The process of leaning into a healed future is exactly what this class is all about spreading around the world. For it is a process, and one that actually is so much easier in the end than it seems at the beginning.
Students in this MOOC are self-selected into hubs, either locality-based or topic-oriented. Each hub is then asked to undergo a weekly reflective exercise, which allows them to identify the ways in which they can become fully engaged in building the most positive and fruitful future.
I’ve espoused the power of stories for a very long time, and this was one of the most powerful ways that I saw a story changing something literally right before my very eyes.
Wouldn’t you know it, as the conversation ensued, and I started talking about a different project that I’ve also been working on, which is far more enriching and exciting- a project that is precisely about transformative storytelling- the group noticed an obvious change in my energy and body language. And I in turn saw them awaken and engage in a totally different way.
By shifting the narrative from one type of story to another, in the space of an hour, the very problem became a legitimate solution. Rather than advise me in all the different ways to bite the bullet, this hub guided me through a transformation that made it obvious that one project was non-productive and irrelevant. The other project was where I really wanted to put my energy the whole time.
The cornerstone of this hub process is empathy and reflection. These are also the basic building blocks of a good story. Now that I’ve experienced my own thorough transformation, I am more inspired than ever to dip into my bag of transformative storytelling and spread some of that glitter around.
More glitter! More GLITTER!!
About the author: Hillary Strobel is a content single mother, fierce learner and teacher, ardent lover of life, and ass-kickin’ President and CEO of a Social Enterprise, The Flyways, Inc. After a long and varied career in just about every kind of Liberal Arts field imaginable, and in every type of job position- volunteer, employee, entrepreneur, non-profit worker, and freelancer- she has decided to put her money where her mouth is and marry her two deepest passions: stories and social justice. The results have surpassed her wildest expectations.