Virtual Journey: The Power of your Story

The Power of Your Story 

In this journey you will examine with Peter de Kuster, founder of The Heroine’s Journey the way we tell stories about ourselves to ourselves — and, most important, the way we can change those stories to transform our business and personal lives.

“Your story is your life,” says Peter. As human beings, we continually tell ourselves stories — of success or failure; of power or victimhood; stories that endure for an hour, or a day, or an entire lifetime. We have stories about ourselves, our creative business, our customers ; about what we want and what we’re capable of achieving. Yet, while our stories profoundly affect how others see us and we see ourselves, too few of us even recognize that we’re telling stories, or what they are, or that we can change them — and, in turn, transform our very destinies.

Telling ourselves stories provides structure and direction as we navigate life’s challenges and opportunities, and helps us interpret our goals and skills. Stories make sense of chaos; they organize our many divergent experiences into a coherent thread; they shape our entire reality. And far too many of our stories, says Peter, are dysfunctional, in need of serious editing. First, he asks you to answer the question, “In which areas of my life is it clear that I cannot achieve my goals with the story I’ve got?” He then shows you how to create new, reality-based stories that inspire you to action, and take you where you want to go both in your work and personal life.

Our capacity to tell stories is one of our profoundest gifts. Peter’s approach to creating deeply engaging stories will give you the tools to wield the power of storytelling and forever change your business and personal life.

Join us for a truly transformational vacation for the mind.

Ticket costs Euro 1895 excluding VAT per person

You can reach Peter for a skype meeting about questions you have by mailing him at peterdekuster@hotmail.nl 

TIMETABLE

09.40    Tea & Coffee on arrival

10.00     Morning Session

13.00     Lunch Break

14.00     Afternoon Session

18.00     Drinks

Read on for a detailed breakdown of the Power of your Story itinerary.

What Can I Expect?

Here’s an outline of the THE POWER OF YOUR STORY journey.

Journey Outline

OLD STORIES

  • What is your Story?
  • Are you even trying to tell a Story?
  • Old Stories  (stories about you, your art, your clients, your money, your self promotion, your happiness, your health)
  • Tell your current Story
  • Is this Really Your Story?

YOUR NEW STORY

  • The Premise of your Story. The Purpose of your Life and Art
  • The words on your tombstone
  • You ultimate mission, out loud
  • The Seven Great Plots
  • The Twelve Archetypal Heroes
  • The One Great Story
  • Purpose is Never Forgettable
  • Questioning the Premise
  • Lining up
  • Flawed Alignment, Tragic Ending
  • The Three Rules in Storytelling
  • Write Your New Story

TURNING STORY INTO ACTION

  • Turning your story into action
  • The Story Effect
  • Story Ritualizing
  • The Storyteller and the art of story
  • The Power of Your Story
  • Storyboarding your creative process
  • They Created and Lived Happily Ever After

About Peter de Kuster

Peter de Kuster is the founder of The Heroine’s Journey & Hero’s Journey project,  a storytelling firm which helps creative professionals to create careers and lives based on whatever story is most integral to their lifes and careers (values, traits, skills and experiences). Peter’s approach combines in-depth storytelling and marketing expertise, and for over 20 years clients have found it effective with a wide range of creative business issues.

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Peter is writer of the series The Heroine’s Journey and Hero’s Journey books, he has an MBA in Marketing,  MBA in Financial Economics and graduated at university in Sociology and Communication Sciences.

Become a great Storyteller

That’s why I set up The Heroine’s Journey in the great cities of the world.  A new way to use the power of your story.  To guide you to life-changing, eye-opening movies, art, literature that truly have the power to enchant, enrich and inspire.

In this journey with Peter de Kuster you’ll explore your relationship with stories so far and your unique story identity will be sketched. You will be guided to movies, art, literature, myths that can put their finger on what you want to rewrite in your story, the feelings that you may often have had but perhaps never understood so clearly before; movies that open new perspectives and re-enchant the world for you.

You will be asked to complete a questionnaire in advance of your session and you’ll be given an instant story advice and movies to see to take away. Your full story advice and movies to see list will follow within a couple of days.

Your Story is Your Life

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What do I mean with ‘story’?  I don’t intend to offer tips on how to fine-tine the mechanics of telling stories to enhance the desired effect on listeners.

I wish to examine the most compelling story about storytelling – namely, how we tell stories about ourselves to ourselves. Indeed, the idea of ‘one’s own story’ is so powerful, so native, that I hardly consider it a metaphor, as if it is some new lens through which to look at life.  Your story is your life.  Your life is your story. 

When stories we watch in the movies touch us, they do so because they fundamentally remind us of what is most true or possible in life – even when it is a escapist romantic story or fairy tale or myth. If you are human, then you tell yourself stories – positive ones and negative, consciously and, far more than not, subconsciously.  Stories that span a single episode, or a year, or a semester, or a weekend, or a relationship, or a season, or an entire tenure on this planet.

Telling ourselves stories helps us navigate our way through life because they provide structure and direction. We are actually wired to tell stories. The human brain has evolved into a narrative-creating machine that takes whatever it encounters, no matter how apparently random and imposes on it ‘chronology and cause – and – effect logic’.  We automatically and often unconsciously, look for an explanation of why things happen to us and ‘stuff just happens’ is no explanation.

Stories impose meaning on the chaos; they organize and give context to our sensory experiences, which otherwise might seem like no more than a fairly colorless sequence of facts. Facts are meaningless until you create a story arond them.

By ‘story’ I mean those tales we create and tell ourselves and others, and which form the only reality we will ever know in this life. Our stories may or may not conform to the real world. They may or may not inspire us to take hope – filled action to better our lives. They may or may not take us where we ultimately want to go. But since our destiny follows our stories, it is imperative that we do everything in our power to get our stories right.

For most of us, that means some serious editing.

To rewrite your story, you must first identify it. To do that you must answer the question: In which important areas of my life is it clear that I cannot achieve my goals with the story I have got?  

Only after confronting and satisfactorily answering this question can you expect to build new reality – based stories that will take you where you want to go.

Your Life is Your Story

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Your life is the most important story you will ever tell, and you are telling it right now, whether you know it or not. From very early on you are spinning and telling multiple stories about your life, publicly and privately, stories that have a theme, a tone, a premise – whether you know it or not.  Some stories are for better, some for worse. No one lacks material. Everyone’s got a story.

And thank goodness. Because our capacity to tell stories is, I believe just about our profoundest gift. Perhaps the true power of the story metaphor is best captured by this seemingly contradiction:  we employ the word ‘story’ to suggest both the wildest of dreams (it is just a story ……) and an unvarnished depiction of reality (okay, what is the story?). How is that for range?

The challenge? Most of us are not writers. That is what I intend to do here in this hero’s journey. First, explore with you how pervasive story is in life, your life, and second, to rewrite it.

Story is everywhere in life. Perhaps your story is that you are responsible for the happiness and livelihoods of dozens of people around you and you are the unappreciated hero. If you are focused on one subplot – your business – then maybe your story is that you sincerely want to execute the major initiatives in your company, yet you are restricted in some essential way. Maybe your story is that you must keep chasing even though you already seem to have a lot (even too much) because the point is to get more and more of it – money, prestige, power, control, attention. Maybe your story is that you and your children just can’t connect. Or your story might be essentially a rejection of another story – and everything you do is filtered through that rejection.

Story is everywhere. Your body tells a story. The smile or frown on your face, your shoulders thrust back in confidence or slumped roundly in despair, the liveliness or fatigue in your gait, the sparkle of hope and joy in your eyes or the blank stare, your fitness, the size of your gut, the tone and strength of your physical being, your overall presentation – those are all part of your story, one that’s especially apparant to everyone else. We judge books by their covers not simply because we are wired to judge quickly but because the cover so often provides astonishing accurate clues to what is going on inside. What is your story about your physical self? Does it truly work for you? Can it take you where you want to go in the short term? How about ten years from now? What about thirty?

You have a story about your company, though your version may depart wildly from your customer’s or business partners. You have a story about your family. Anthing that consumes our energy can be a story, even if we don’t always call it a story. There is the story of your relationship. The story of you and food, or you and anger, or you and impossible dreams. The story of you, the friend. The story of you,  your father’s son or your mother’s daughter. Some of these stories work and some of them fail. According to my experience, an astounding number of these stories, once they are identified are deemed tragic – not by me, mind you but by the people living them.

Like it or not, there will be a story around your death. What will it be? Will you die a senseless death? Perhaps you drank too much and failed to buckle your seat belt and were thrown from your car, or you died from colon cancer because you refused to undergo an embarrassing colonoscopy years before when the disease was treatable. Or after years of bad nutrition, no exercise, and abuse of your body, you suffered a fatal heart attack at age fifty – nine.  ‘Senseless death’ means that it did not have to happen when it happened;  it means your story did not have to end the way it ended. Think about the effect the story of your senseless death might have on your family, on those you care about who  you are leaving behind. How would that story impact their life stories? Ask yourself, Am I okay dying a senseless death?  Your immediate reaction is almost certainly, “No!, of course not!

Unhealthy storytelling is characterized by a diet of faulty thinking and, ultimately,  long – term negative consequences. This undetectable, yet inexorable progression is not unlike what happens to coronary arteries from a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet. In the body, the consequence of such a diet is hardening of the arteries. In the mind, the consequence of bad storytelling is hardening of the categories, narrowing of the possibilities, calcification of perception. Both roads lead to tragedy, often quietly.

The cumulative effect of our damaging stories will have tragic consequences on our health, engagement, performance and happiness. Because we can’t confirm the damage our defective storytelling is wreaking, we disregard it, or veto our gut reactions to make a change. Then one day we awaken to the reality that we have become cynical, negative, angry. That is now who we are. Though we never quite saw it coming, that is now our true story.

We enjoy the privilege of being the hero, the final author of the story we write with our life, yet we possess a marvelous capacity to give ourselves only a supporting role in the ‘storytelling’ process, while ascribing the premier, dominant role to the markets, our family, our kids, fate, chance, genetics.  Getting our stories straight in life does not happen without our understanding that the most precious resource that we human beings possess is our energy.  

It is our storytelling that drives the way we gather and spend our energy. Stories determine our personal and professional destinies. And the most important story you will ever tell about yourself is the story you tell to yourself. 

So, you would better examine your story, especially this one that is supposedly the most familiar of all. Participate in your story rather than observing it from afar, make sure it is a story that compels you. Tell yourself the right story – the rightness of which only you can really determine, only you can really feel – and the dynamics of your energy change. If you are finally living the story you want, then it need not – it should not and won’t – be an ordinary one. It can and will be extraordinary. After all you are not just the author of your story but also its main character the hero. Heroines are never ordinary.

In the end your story is not a tragedy. Nor is it a comedy or a romance or a thriller or a drama. It is something else. What label would you give the story of your life, the most important story you will ever tell. To me that sounds like a heroine’s journey.

End of story.

What is Your Story?

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With relatively few variations, heroes and heroines tell stories about basically five major subjects.

  1. Business
  2. Family
  3. Health
  4. Friendships
  5. Happiness

By asking yourself basic questions about how you feel about what you do and how you conduct yourself – and by trying honestly to answer them, of course – you begin to identify the dynamics of your story.

Your Story around your Business

You have a story to tell about your passion for your work and what it means for you. And because more than half our waking life is consumed by working at your business, how we frame this story is critical to our chance for passion and happiness.

How do you characterize your relationship to your work? Is it a burden or a joy? Deep fulfillment or an addiction? What compels you to get up every day and go to work? The money? Is the driving force increased prestige, power, social status? A sense of intrinsic fulfillment? The contribution you are making? Is it an end in itself or a means to something else? Do you feel forced to work or called to work? Are you completely engaged at work? How much of your talent and skill are fully ignited?

What is the dominant tone of your story – inspired? challenged? disappointed? trapped? overwhelmed?

Does the story you currently tell about work take you where you want to go in life? If your story about work is not working, what story do you tell yourself to justify it, especially given the tens of thousands of hours it consumes?

Suppose you did not need the money: Would you continue to go to work every day? Write down five things about working at your business that, if money were no issue, you would like to continue.

Your Story Around Family 

What is your story about your family life? In the grand scheme, how important is family to you?  So … is your current story about family working? Is the relationship with your husband, wife, or significant other where you want it to be? Is it even close to where you want it to be? Or is there an unbridgeable gap between the level of intimacy, connection and intensity you  feel with him or her and the level you would like to experience?

Is your story with your children working? How about your parents? Your sibblings? Other family members?

If you continue on your same path, what is the relationship you are likely to have, years from now with each of your family members? If your story is not working with one or more key individuals, then what is the story you tell yourself to allow this pattern to persist? To what extent do you blame your business for keeping you from fully engaging with your family? (really?) Your business is the reason you are disengaged from the most important thing in your life, the people who matter most to you? How does that happen? According to your current story, is it even possible to be fully engaged at work and also with your family?

Your Story Around Health

What is your story about your health? What kind of job have you done taking care of yourself? What value do you place on your health, and why? If you continue on your same path, then what will be the likely health consequences? If you are not fully engaged with your health, then what is the story you tell yourself and others – particularly your spouse, your kids, your doctor, your colleagues and anyone who might look up to you – that allows you to persist in this way? If suddenly you awoke to the reality that your health was gone, what would be the consequences for you and all those you care about? How would you feel if the end of your story was dominated by one fact – that you had needlessly died young?

Do you consider your health just one of several important stories about yourself but hardly toward the top? Does it crack the top three? top five? If you have been overweight, or consistently putting on weight the last several years; if you smoke; if you eat poorly; if you rest infrequently and never deeply; if you rarely, if ever, exercise; what is the story you tell yourself that explains how you deal, or don’t deal, with these issues? Is it a story with a rhyme or reason? Do you believe that spending time exercising or otherwise taking care of yourself, particularly during the workday, sets a negative example for others?

Given your physical being and the way you present yourself, do you think the story you are telling is the same one that others are hearing? Could it be vastly different, when seen through their eyes?

Your Story about Friends

What is your story about friendship? According to your story, how important are friends? How fully engaged are your with them? (that is don’t calculate in your mind simply how often you see them but what you do and how you are when you’re together). If close friendships are important to you, yet they are clearly not happening in your life, what is the story you tell yourself that obstructs this from happening?

To what extent are friendships important to your realizing what you need and want from life? If you have few or no friends, why is that? Is this a relatively recent development – that is, something that happened since you got married for example, or had a family, or got more consumed by work, or got promoted, or got divorced, or experienced a significant loss, or moved away from your hometown?

When you think of your closest friendships over the last five years, can you say any of them has grown and deepened? People who have a best friend at work are seven times more likely to be engaged in their work, get more done in less time, have fewer accidents and are more likely to innovate and share new ideas.

Suppose you had no friends – what would that be like? This may seem like a morbid exercise but write down three ways in which being completely friendless might make your life poorer (no one to turn to in times of crisis and celebration, no one to mourn your passing, etc.)

Your Heroine’s Journey

 

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Who has a why to live, can bear with almost any how.

When you have a great quest, it dramatically changes your willingness to spend energy and take risk.  When the stakes are a large sum of money people don’t take great risks. When the stakes are love and life and that which has incalculable value, people go the extra mile.

A great quest is the epicenter of everyone’s hero’s journey story. The Quest is one of the three foundations of good storytelling  

Without quest, no character in a book, or movie or in art would do anything interesting, meaningful, memorable, worthwhile. Without quest, our hero’s journey story has no meaning. It has no coherence, no direction, no inexorable momentum. Without quest, our life still ‘moves’ along – whatever that means, but it lacks an organizing principle. Without quest, it is all but impossible to be fully engaged. To be extraordinary.

“I don’t really know why I made this film rather than another. But I have discovered that at my age, what really drives me is the dignity of work itself, the pleasure I get from creating. I’ve learned to leave judgment of the final product to others, especially to the general public” – Fellini

With a quest on the other hand, people do amazing things: good, smart, productive things, often heroic things, unprecedented things. Quest is the thing in your hero’s journey you will fight for. It is the ground you will defend at any cost. Your quest is not the same as ‘incentive’, but rather the motor behind it, the end that drives why you have energy for some things and not for others.

I have seen many seen articulate their quest to themselves and to others. But articulation is not nearly enough; in fact it is really not even worth of a pat on the back, so long as one continues to live one’s life in a way that does very little, if anything, to support that quest. Indeed, to say you have a quest and then to do nothing about it is, first, a sham, and, last, a tragedy.

Most people who have been living in this way, when inspired to be passionate, will quickly identify what they claim to be their true quest in life. 

To find one’s true quest sometimes takes work. Fortunately, the skill it requires is one that every person is blessed with.

For a few people, naming one’s quest comes with remarkable ease. The individual feels it in the deepest part of his or her soul; the quest has always been there, even if it got lost for a very long while, remaining unexpressed to oneself and to those who are the objects of one’s quest. A deep enduring quest is virtually always motivated by a desire for the well-being of others.

You know a quest when you see it.

To author a workable, fulfilling new story, you will need to ask yourself many questions and then answer them, none more important than those that concern your quest. Your quest is the sail on the boat, the yeast in the bread. Once you know your quest – that is, what matters – then everything else can fall into place. Getting your quest clear is your defining truth. What is the quest of your life? Whatever it is, it had better be someting for which you will move mountains, cross deserts, seven days a week, no questions asked.

Once you find your quest, you have a chance to live a story that moves you and those around you. A story that make them live happily ever after.

How Faithful Are you as Storyteller?

The manipulations of our story are numerous, often impossible to recognize or calibrate, and by no means always or wholly destructive. But because outside influences have the capacity to exercise profound, at times paralyzing, sway over us and how we live our days, it is imperative – at least for the vast majority of us who have ever felt a ‘misalignment’ in our lives, a gnawing lack of engagement and joy – that we work out figuring out how we ended up doing what we do and being who we are.

We wake up one morning and feel rotten, not knowing it because we have become so dogmatic and our story so inflexible, that we are impervious to change and even fresh input.  Unaware that every important decision in our life has been triggered by one goal: the avoidance of pain and risk, professionally and personally.

Is there someone out there to call you out on the phony, self – sabotaging parts of your story? Do you have someone who cares enough to do that, and is himself or herself unentangled? Who sees you and the world with some measure of objectivity? Whom you trust and respect? If you have such a person or persons, that is good. Great, in fact. But een if you do, you don’t want to rely on others to police yourself.

Tragedies happen when we don’t examine our story to see if it is really ours anymore, when we don’t look hard to see if perhaps someone or something else has infiltrated it without our conscious knowledge or consent. If you don’t activate your build in storyteller if you don’t start listening to your intuition, ou make your evolving story vulnerable to hijacking, to rerouting, to programming.

That is why it is vital to waken ourselves to the brilliant, subtle methods that individuals and institutions use to indoctrinate us.

Of course, doing what I am suggesting – unerringly knowing what is good for you versus what is bad for you – is anything but easy. The answer ‘it is my story and I’m sticking to it’  speaks to this difficulty. It suggests two things simultaneously. First:  my story is an unchangeable story, and second, my story may well be wrong but I will never abandon it so long as it is mine.  There is honor simply in clinging to the ‘mine -ness’ of it; better to propagate a false illusion one can call one’s own than rent out a truth beloning to someone else.

Is It Really Your Story You are Living?

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The manipulations of our story are numerous, often impossible to recognize or calibrate, and by no means always or wholly destructive. But because outside influences have the capacity to exercise profound, at times paralyzing, sway over us and how we live our days, it is imperative – at least for the vast majority of us who have ever felt a ‘misalignment’ in our lives, a gnawing lack of engagement and joy – that we work out figuring out how we ended up doing what we do and being who we are.

We wake up one morning and feel rotten, not knowing it because we have become so dogmatic and our story so inflexible, that we are impervious to change and even fresh input.  Unaware that every important decision in our life has been triggered by one goal: the avoidance of pain and risk, professionally and personally.

Is there someone out there to call you out on the phony, self – sabotaging parts of your story? Do you have someone who cares enough to do that, and is himself or herself unentangled? Who sees you and the world with some measure of objectivity? Whom you trust and respect? If you have such a person or persons, that is good. Great, in fact. But een if you do, you don’t want to rely on others to police yourself.

Tragedies happen when we don’t examine our story to see if it is really ours anymore, when we don’t look hard to see if perhaps someone or something else has infiltrated it without our conscious knowledge or consent. If you don’t activate your build in storyteller if you don’t start listening to your intuition, ou make your evolving story vulnerable to hijacking, to rerouting, to programming.

That is why it is vital to waken ourselves to the brilliant, subtle methods that individuals and institutions use to indoctrinate us.

Of course, doing what I am suggesting – unerringly knowing what is good for you versus what is bad for you – is anything but easy. The answer ‘it is my story and I’m sticking to it’  speaks to this difficulty. It suggests two things simultaneously. First:  my story is an unchangeable story, and second, my story may well be wrong but I will never abandon it so long as it is mine.  There is honor simply in clinging to the ‘mine -ness’ of it; better to propagate a false illusion one can call one’s own than rent out a truth belonging to someone else.

Your Private Voice

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Is your private voice yours?  Are you sure about that? To help determine this, and whether your private voice is working for or against you, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  1.  What is the general tone of your inner voice?  Harsh, bitter and critical? Or supportive, kind and encouraging?
  2. Estimate how much of the time your inner voice is a constructive force in your life, and how much a destructive one. To what extent does it instill you with confidence and hope? To what extent does it terrorize you with stories of inadequacy, incompetence and regret?
  3. Ever feel that your inner voice is not really you speaking? If it does not feel like you, whose voice might it be? Consider both content and tone.
  4. To help you achieve real happiness and to leave the legacy you desire for those you care about most, what changes would you make in the content and tone of your private voice?
  5. To what extent is your private voice aligned with your ultimate mission in life? What seems to be the driving force behind your private voice? Where is it taking you?

The stories we tell and hear embed themselves more deeply in our subconsciousness the more they are repeated.

In the end though, it is only the one voice that truly matters. Because your inner voice is telling you your story all the time, you are rarely even conscious that you have been telling a story. Indeed it is hard to imagine what it would feel like if suddenly you stopped telling yourself your story, or even just changed this one.

A Quest is Never Forgettable

As its very name suggests, a movie’s primary intention is to move the audience emotionally. Story is the vehicle through which the movement occurs. Story is what stirs us, terrifies us, breaks our heart. A boring story fails because it doesn’t move us, doesn’t tap our capacity for empathy. Think of the very best stories you’ve ever seen or read or heard, and you remember the depth of your feeling for one or more of the characters.

That’s what happens when we craft your new stories. These stories, finally, move their authors – and others, too – the way great movies do. We feel the potential for heroism in what the author/main character aspires to. If you’re seriously going to write a story powerful enough to get you to do great things, then you’ve got to create a quest and a story so compelling that you are moved to make those corrections in your life, and make them for good.

The only way a story can achieve that level of transformative power is when it supports an unassailable quest.

If I asked you what your quest was, how would you know you had got it right? First and last, does it move you? Really, really move you? Some quests are so obviously faulty that the individual can smoke it out by himself or herself. But other quests sound very, very good, so neat, so on message – and yet they’re not quite THE quest. That is why finding one’s true quest is an exercise that requires real commitment and the courage to be honest with oneself.

An ultimate quest is never small. It is never minor. it can’t be, by definition. It is grand, heroic, epic. You never put your life on the line for something not fully aligned with your Ultimate Quest.

They Lived Happily Ever After?

If all you had to give was your total energy, you could accomplish historic things.

What gets you to focus with the highest level of commitment, of reverence for the moment? Is there something or someone in your life so sacred that nothing and no one – not ringing phones, not errands, not games in progress, not thoughts always running through your head, not money or business concerns, not insignificant noises or images whizzing by – could possibly break your concentration?

When I write about the Heroine’s Journey or talk about the Heroine’s Journey somewhere in the world as a travel guide, I mean listening, seeing and feeling with full force, experiencing with full force. Yet that is a kind of focus we so rarely give to things now.  Why is that? What is the story we tell ourselves that prevents this from happening? Is our lack of full engagement just a stage in our life that will pass someday? Or has it always been like this? Is our story that multitasking is necessary as never before? Hey, time is money. Time is shipping away. We are not getting any younger. Anyway, is our somewhat dilluted attention really all that big a deal. Are we really losing that much by nog engaging fully?

Absolutely. Because it is not about time. It never was and never is.

It is about passion.

Every year I see entrepreneurs buy into this story – that it is about passion, not time – in the hope that it will increase performance, productivity and happiness.

Here is the dirty secret, though: The difference in depth between full engagement and multi- tasking is not incremental. It is binary. Either you are fully engaged. Or you are not. It is really that simple, yet we tell ourselves it is otherwise to keep the painful truth at bay.  If a tennis pro preparing to return a 140-mph serve has two thoughts going and one of them does not have to do with returning that serve, do you know what his chances are of returning it well? I do. ZERO. Not 10%, not 5%. The same goes for writing a great story, hitting a golf ball, or doing push – ups the right way or enjoying a glass of wine, or reading a good book.

A distracted hero or heroine will not produce anything of real worth. An entrepreneur with scattered thoughts will not come up with new solutions superior to the competition’s. Indeed, multi-taskers are fortunate even to rise to a modicum of competence. Can’t you always tell when you are on the phone with someone who is simultaneously watching TV or answering e-mail? Does your interaction with that person ever come within a thousand miles of what you would call a satisfying conversation?

Multi-tasking is the enemy of extraordinariness. Human beings can focus fully on only one thing at a time. When entrepreneurs multi task, they are not fully engaged in anything, and partially disengaged in everything. The potential for profoundly positive impact is compromised. Multi – tasking would be okay – is okay – at certain times – but very few people seem to know when that time is. If you must, then multi task when it does not matter. Fully engage when it does.

The Three Rules of Storytelling

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Purpose, truth, action.

When writers really want to emphasize something, they put it in a one sentence paragraph. If they suspect even that is not emphasis enough, then they go to Plan B: break things up into still more melodramatic, one-word paragraphs.

Purpose.

Truth.

Action.

All good storytelling coheres around those three ideas. They are the three criteria, taken together, by which we judge the workability and ultimate success of our story. With those three principles in your pocket, you can summon your best story to live. You are virtually guaranteed to keep your story vital, moving, productive, fulfilling.

Let us review them:

Purpose

What is my ultimate purpose? What am I living for? What principle, what goal, what end? For my whole life, and every single day? Why do I do what I do? For what? What is the thing that would get me to be fully engaged, and to be sure and at peace that it is the right decision, the necessary one, the only one? What is the thing I am driving toward – or should be – with every action I take? Have I articulated to myself my deepest values and beliefs, which are the bedrock of who I am and which must be inextricably tied to my purpose (and vice versa)? Who do I want to be at the end? What legacy do I want to leave? What epitath about myself could ‘I live with’?  When all is said is done, how do I want to be remembered? What is non- negotiable in my life? What do I believe must happen for me to have lived a successful life? Is my story taking me where I want to go? Is it “on – purpose”?  Consistently? And why am I telling this story? What is the real motive? Is my purpose noble or ignoble?

Truth

Is the story I am telling true? Does it conform to known facts? Is it grounded in objective reality as fully as possible; that is, does it coincide with some generally agreed-upon portrayal of the world? Or is it true only if I’m living in a dreamland? Is it a lie I tell myself when I think, ‘This is the way the world is’ – my own, probably biased evaluation of things, one that is dubiously defensible, and which I repeat to myself because it provides false comfort for the way my life has turned out? Do I sidestep the parts of my story that are obviously untrue because they are just too painful to confront? Is my story I still believe when I really dig down, when I listen to my most candid, private voice, when I do my best to shut out other influences and hear instead what I genuinely think and feel? Which is the truer statement: My story is honest and authentic or My story is made up?  Is my story closer to a documentary or a work of fantasy? What myths am I perpetuating that could potentially steal my fate in areas of my life that really matter?

Action

A good story is premised on action … is it mine? With my purpose firmly in mind, along with a confidence about what is really true, what actions will I now take to make things better, so that my ultimate purpose and my day-to-day life are better aligned? What habits do I need to eliminate? What new ones do I need to breed? Is more of my life spent participating or observing? Are my actions filled with hope – hope that I will succeed, hope that the change I seek is realistically within my grasp? Or is my ‘action-taking’ really more accurately portrayed as ‘going through the motions’? Do I believe to my core that, in the end, my willingness to follow through with action will determine the success of my life? Do I believe that if I act with commitment and consistency I will end up where I want to be, where I have always felt I am capable of being? Does the story I tell myself move me to action? Does it inspire hope and determination in me? Am I confident that I can make any necessary course correction, no matter what stage of life I am in, no matter how many times I may have failed at it in the past? Do I proceed in the belief that I will never surrender in this effort because my happiness and success as a human being is what is at stake?

One must hold one’s story up as if against a three – part checklist: your story must have purpose (can you name it?), your story must be true (is it?), your story must lead to hope-filled action (does it?). 

When a hero achieves a breakthrough, it is always – always – because he or she has come to a fundamental understanding of the interlocked nature of all three rules of storytelling. It is nog good enough to satisfy one or even two of the three rules and content yourself that your story has now improved; it will not leave you 33% better off or 67% better off. More likely, you may have fulfilled one or even two of the three rules but because all three rules are not followed, your story remains dysfunctional.

While one needs to understand deeply each of the three rules of storytelling, not all rules are created equally. Truth and action probably give people more trouble than purpose.  For example, what about those people who have purpose nailed…. but not action? This is probably the most common of the permutations, and in some ways the most tragic. In this group you find the novelists who have yet to set pen to paper, lovers who are single and celibate, entrepreneurs who don’t know the first thing about how to attract customers.

They Lived Happily Ever After!

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How do you live happily ever after?

I identify the three things I want to get finished that day – never more than three. At the end of my day I use my 10 – 6 – 1 scale to rate myself.   Now I am giving myself 10’s all the time. I found that I actually got more accomplished more completed – and at a higher level – than when I was doing lots of things. I stopped multitasking at meetings and suddenly they became shorter, crisper.  The effectiveness of conversations improved threefold. Plus, it has been more enjoyable.

Learning to invest your full and best energy in whatever you are doing at that moment in full engagement is what I call The Hero’s Journey.  A story i have developed over more than two decades, which posits at its core that life is enriched, flow occurs, happiness is felt because of the commitment, passion, and focus we give it, not the time we give it. These fully – engaged – in the present moments –  I call ‘Moments of Bliss’ – created me more ‘Moments of Bliss’ and  ‘Days of Bliss’ in two weeks than I had in the five years before, or than I probably would have in the next five years had my life and business continued the way it was going.

One of the exciting discoveries I have made is the almost perfect correlation between engagement, on one hand, and happiness, on the other. Engagement is an acquired skill that allows us to be in the present; it is where people feel happiest. (The happiness we feel about an upcoming event is really not future-oriented, but rather present-oriented happiness in the anticipation). The more engaged we are in something, the more alive we tend to feel; the more alive we feel, the happier we feel. Becoming fully engaged in our hero’s journey that deeply matters brings a rich sense of meaning, depth and dimension to our lives. Disengagement as the opposite, tragic effect. It pulls us from the core of life – characterized by intensity, passion and meaning – to its boundaries, characterized by safety, protection and disassociation.

By being engaged we experience true happiness and joy in our lives. We ignite our talents and skills.

Do You Have The Resources To Live Your Best Story?

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Without proper exercise, nutrition and rest, the body slowly begins to break. You are operating at a perpetual deficit. You are always exhausted. You are seriously disengaged. Your body is now in survival mode. Your stories change. To rationalize how and why this happened requires that, at some fork in the road, smart people must become suddenly stupid; pragmatics, illogical; straightshooters. There are other, totally defensible stories that bring us to this overtaxed point of course – lots of responsibility, good intentions, aging, ambition, sudden change in circumstance – but they are almost never the whole of the story.

You tell yourself things you cannot possibly believe.  In an impoverished physical condition, how can you hope to live a good story? How can you hope to have the energy even to figure out what that story is?

Our physical state influences the stories we tell

Do you think the story you tell changes if one or more of the following conditions is true?

  •  You are tired or fatigued
  •  You have low blood sugar
  •  You have a headache
  •  You are ill
  •  You are in pain

Of course it does! When your physical story changes as by a sudden drop in blood sugar – then your whole story changes.

Many of us know that losing weight on a traditional diet is terribly difficult. One reason for this is that the story most people are telling themselves – lose weight and look better – is frankly not exactly a narrative for the ages. As a life goal for far too many people the objective of losing twenty or forty or even one hundred pounds simply to look better is just not compelling enough. Many who fail at losing weight that way have lost it when their motivation changes to something more urgent, powerful and transcendent – lose weight to be around for your grandchildren; lose weight so you will not be wheel-chair bound the last portion of your life; lose weight to improve your changes of making great journeys in world cities :). By finding motivation from a higher, passionate source or mission, you can affect your physical energy too.

The body we start out with is capable of wonderful things. But if we wish to achieve something truly extraordinary in our lives – be it athletic, intellectual, social, artistic, professional – we must build on this ‘standard – edition’ body and invest it with extraordinary energy.

Indoctrinate Yourself

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Only 5 % or less of the mind should be classified as the ‘conscious story’ – controlled by self – regulatory, willful acts – while an astonishing 95% is nonconscious, automatic, instinctive.

Residing in your subconscious is most of the hidden matter that influences our stories – all the instinctual urges coded in genes (governing autonomic responses like fight-or-flight, for example), all the conditioning that took place during childhood, all the indoctrination that has occured since the first day of life. All the conflicts and challenges beneath the surface, waging a constant battle between our wants and needs.

It is this subconscious story that is hardest to retrieve and bring to the surface, to full awareness. Yet it is the mortar that goes a very long way in determining who we are and the shape our life story has taken.

“Before filming Satyricon I interviewed university professors, experts on ancient art, priests, magicians, astrologists, experts on the occult… The things they told me, the things I saw, were more fascinating than the film” Fellini 

Many people find it hard to accept that our lives are ruled by habitual stories rather than moment – to – moment acts of conscious stories. They don’t want to acknowledge that our stories might acutally be so profoundl influenced by factors outside our normal state of awareness. After all, once we acknowledge the extent to which our behavior is governed by subconscious forces, how daunting is it to exercise full responsibility (whatever the means) for our life when but a paltry 5% of that life is really under control?

Rather than being troubled by the percentages, and the perception that they may give rise to, I see them as a glorious challenge. Forget that so much, percentage-wise, of what we do is out of control. The part that does matters – the part that makes the real difference – is the part that we control. It is this capacity that separates us from all other life forms. This evolutionary masterpiece is the only hope we have for making course corrections in our life story.

The evolution of the human species has, despite frequent missteps, moved progressively towards greater self awareness. The more self aware we are , the greater our capacity for conscious, deliberate storytelling, for creating new stories – the better able we are to change directions, to adapt, to survive and thrive. While consciousness may represent a mere 5% of our complete story, the influence this fraction exercises in the whole story of our life is far profounder than that.

It is our conscious 5% that allows us to make story corrections to the future, especially when the 95% has taken us off a desirable course. The conscious 5% is unquestionably the most important portion inside us. It is, in fact, what truly separates us from all other species. It is what creates the possibility for self – directed change.

The more aware we are of hidden needs, conflicts and past dilemma’s, the better chance we have of crafting stories that meet the three criteria of storytelling (purpose, truth, hope-filled action). Once a memory of an important event or happening can be brought into your conscious story you can start to explore how that past material might be affecting your current story.

The Story Effect

 

If our Heroine’s Journey story is your ultimate life mission, then your Action Story are the actions you take to fulfill the aims set forth in your Heroine’s Journey story. They are your concrete measurables, evidence that you are acting on your story.

Inevitably, there are many changes you wish to make to turn your life into the story you want it to tell. It would be nice to think that all these changes could be made in one enthusiastic burst of self-transformation. But that does not happen. Pick a few changes and just make sure that each is:

  • Important enough to you
  • Realistally fixable
  • Clearly defined
  • Supportable by behavioral changes (rituals) that will do the trick

There is a training effect for stories. With each repetition of a story you tell yourself, that story travels your neural pathways more easily. Tell yourself that story again and again and again and soon enough pathways that were once unpaved roads, metaphorically speaking, have now become slick six – lane superhighways. Gradually repetition reinforces the primacy and value of that story – not to mention pushing away or ignoring alternative stories undeserving of your energy, which then atrophy or die, and the pathways they once traveled now narrow again, growing less supple with disuse. You become indoctrinated by your current story. You are training yourself to believe it and to live it.

Every story we tell has some effect. Stories move the needle every time we tell them. Because of this powerful story effect it is imperative that the story you tell be a constructive, not destructive one.  The effect of training makes it hard to break the bonds that form. It is crucial then, to be utterly conscious about who you are and what you are doing with your life – in other words, to be brutally truthful with yourself about your purpose – so that you are aware of your story and can assess whether and how it is helping or hurting you.

There is a problem , though. You may be thoroughly well – intentioned about examining your story, yet often it is difficult, if not impossible, to see the immediate consequences of your story on yourself or others. Your story’s impact may not reveal itself for years.

Your New Story

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Now that you are familiar with the major concepts from our The Heroine’s Journey travel program – how our stories are our destinies; how everything we do, with or without our conscious knowledge, helps to shape our stories; how stories either take us where we want to go or they don’t; and the three fundamental criteria of all good storytelling.

Here is your Heroine’s Journey towards a new story in six steps:

  •  The most important story you will ever tell is your own life story
  • The center of your life story is PASSION.

Step 1.  Identify PASSION (Ultimate Quest)

Questions to help in the process:

  •  What makes you happy every day?
  •  What makes your life really worth living?
  •  In what areas of your life must you truly be extraordinary to fulfill your destiny
  •  How do you want to be remembered?
  •  What is the legacy you most want to leave for others?
  •  What is worth dying for?

Step 2.  Facing the Truth.

Here you must identify and confront your dysfunctional current stories. Some questions to get you going:

  •  In which of the following areas of your life is your story not working? If your behavior is not aligned with your core passion, then this story cannot take you where you want to go.
  •  In which areas do you need or want to be more engaged to fulfill your Ultimate Quest?

Step 3.  Select a Story to Work on First 

Because almost all of the core stories in our lives need at least some editing, here are some questions to help you with the selection process.

  • Which of your stories causes you the most concern and grief?
  • Which of your stories causes the most disruption in your life?
  • Which of your stories creates the greatest misalignment with your ultime quest in life?
  • Which of these stories would you most like to work on right now?

The story you have chosen to edit is your first Heroine’s Quest. If you are to enjoy genuine transformation, then you must commit to work on this story for the next ninety days.

Step 4.  Write the story you have been telling yourself that has allowed the misalignment to occur.

This means including the faulty thinking and strange logic that helped to form the story you now wish to edit. Write in as much detail and with as much specificity as you can. Your task is to unearth completely your current dysfunctional story.

&  In what way(s) does the story yourself allow you to ignore that it is not taking you where you ultimately want to go in life – is not on passion?

&  What logic do you use in the story to justify that your story does not reflect the truth?

&  In what way(s) does the story not inspire you to take action to make this part of your life better?

Before you finish your Old Story, take a few dives into your subconscious world. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What hidden influences might be behind some of your faulty thinking and beliefs that helped to create your current story?
  2. Do you get very defensive about your faulty story? If you do, then what are you protecting? Specifically, in what parts of this story are you most fragile and vulnerable? What are you most afraid of here? If you follow the fear, where does it take you?
  3. The story you currently tell yourself that you wish to edit clearly has not inspired you to make a change. What is the logic and rationale you have used to keep this faulty story alive in your life for so long?
  4. Is this really your story you are telling or someone else’s? Whose voice is it?

Step 5.  Write a New Story 

Write a new story that

  •  Is fully aligned with your ultimate quest and your passion
  •  Reflects the truth
  •  Inspires you to take hope – filled action

To help you articulate your new story, some suggestions:

  1.  Start with the words ‘The Truth is…. ”  Describe as vividly as possible what will likely happen if you continue with the Old Story you have got. Face reality head on by connecting the dots.
  2. Don’t labor over every word. You will edit it later. Just get your initial thoughts on paper, quickly.
  3. Because your New Story packs a cannonshot of reality it will necessarily stir a lot of emotion (the more powerful the better)
  4. Your New Story should clearly reflect and connect with your Ultimate Quest in life. Anyone reading your New Story Should have no trouble connecting it with what you care most about.
  5. Your New Story should be inspirational for you when you read it. It must move you powerfully: move you emotionally and move you to take action.
  6. Your New Story should contain a strong message of optimism and hope that the change you seek will indeed happen if you remain dedicated and persistent.
  7. Make sure that this is your story, no one else’s! Be sure this is what you really want!
  8. If possible craft your New Story in the context of a major turning point in your life. This change you seek should be characterized as a breakthrough.
  9. Work hard to summon your voice of sincerity. Your inner voice must be able to express the message, content, and direction of your New Story completely and unambivalently.
  10. In your story aim forward your best voice of passion. These voice can’t come forward without your encouragement.

Step 6.  Design Explicit Rituals that ensure your New Story becomes reality

  • Rituals are consciously acquired habits of behavior that enhance energy management in service of a mission
  • Rituals represent the vehicle by which your New Story receives the investment of passionate energy
  • Link the ritual to one or more values
  • Invest energy in it for thirty to ninety days
  • Acquire no more than a few rituals at a time
  • Create a supportive environment
  • A particularly valuable ritual is to begin every day of your ninety day mission by reading your new story