Have you ever wondered what stops you from making really important changes to lead the life you want? The answer, surprisingly, lies within your own stories. As humans, we are story making beings. We make sense of ourselves, other people and the world we live in through deep-seated stories, in the form of beliefs and assumptions, which either help or hinder us achieve what we want in life. Our stories create the results we are currently getting, the good and the bad. In the words of Terry Pratchett: ‘We think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it’s the other way around.’
Some stories are within our awareness while others are hidden, often created early in life and long since forgotten. Ultimately, everything we do and say in life is determined by our stories. At their creative best, they are wise and helpful. At worst, they are misguided and over-protective, causing us to jump at shadows, creating unnecessary fears and anxieties, and holding us back.
Growing up we inherit and adopt our most impactful stories; from our immediate and extended families, from people who care for us, teach us and discipline us; stories from the culture and environment we grow up in, from fairy tales, myths, movies, books and social media. These stories activate survival circuits in our brain, moving us towards things that sustain life, or away from or against perceived threats. They are the real drivers of how we show up in the world.
For the first forty odd years of my life I struggled with the impact of these stories. Self-help books and personal development workshops proliferated, often generating insight and hope which quickly foundered on the rocks of intended actions. The deep, lasting change I craved for remained will-of-the-wispishly elusive.
From my mid-forties, things turned around as I progressively discovered, applied, synthesised and built on the work of key mentors. Sometimes in person, sometimes through their writing, these mentors helped me develop a practical Choose your stories process to surface and rewrite my most unhelpful stories. As a professional coach, I have used this process to help more than one thousand leaders make changes they could not previously make. Inspired by the impact in their lives, I have written this book to make the process available to anyone wanting to overcome the pain experienced when we are ‘stuck’ and unable to make the changes we really want to make.
The Choose your stories process is brought to life through the stories of four characters; Lili, George, Jan and Stefan. While based on real people I have coached or worked with in leadership development programs, the characters are fictional. Their challenges, however, are real, and it is likely you will find some of your stories in their stories. Using our story library as a metaphor, I explore different types of stories we inherit, adopt, create, and sometimes disown. These include Purpose, Identity and Values stories which drive our lives. The book is filled with rich examples of these stories and coaching sessions with our characters, illustrating how they can be surfaced and rewritten in our metaphoric writing laboratory. Referencing the latest research in psychology, neuroscience and adult development, this book provides a practical tool to re-write your life-limiting stories and make the lasting changes you want in your life.
Choosing your life stories can indeed change your life. In this fabulous book, John Sautelle explains why you create the life-limiting stories you now carry, and how you can build new ones to unleash a new and greater life.
- Michael Marquardt, Professor of Human Resource Development and International Affairs at George Washington University, co-founder and first President of the World Institute for Action Learning, and author of 24 books in the fields of leadership, learning, globalization, and organizational change
There were times where I felt I was the author, there were times when I was one of the characters in your stories; you stopped me in my tracks and made me rethink, you took me places I hadn't been and other places where I had long avoided, and had me hearing things that I so needed to hear; you stretched my mind, made me laugh and cry.
- Allan Parker, best selling author, behavioural scientist, international business consultant, negotiator, mediator, facilitator and trainer
Some personal development books are engaging, but do not lead to long lasting self-improvement. Others lead to short term improvement by scratching the surface of human behaviour, but are not overly engaging. Choose Your Stories: Change Your Life is both engaging and self-improving, over the long term. Written with compassion as well as experiential and academic insights, this book shows readers how to free themselves from negative life patterns using an easily relatable and clever 'books in a library' metaphor. This book will help people change their lives forever.
- Major Luke Foster, Psychologist, Australian Army
This is a very important book.
- Ken Everett, Adjunct Professor at The Chinese University of Hong Kong and author of Designing the Networked Organization