How To Use Personal Stories to Bring Your Ideas to Life



“We’re all stories, in the end.” — Steven Moffat

Stories bring ideas to life.

You can use personal stories to inspire others with meaningful messages and actionable insights.

When you share personal stories, you connect with others in a very human way.

You reveal your values, beliefs and ideas, and you communicate your character.

In the book, Anticipate: The Art of Leading by Looking Ahead, Rob-Jan De Jong shows us how we can transform our stories from the conceptual to the inspired and actionable.

Stories are Data with a Soul

Without the story, it’s just data.  A story gives the data meaning.   A story helps us relate in a deeper way.

De Jong writes:

“So how do you use the art of storytelling to make your personal character, authenticity, and values come to life? 

Brene Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, says, ‘Stories are data with a soul.  Data wrapped in stories have the ability to move people, to inspire people to take action.’”

Personal Stories Reveal Values, Beliefs and Ideas

When you share a personal story, you reveal important things about you.   You help others see your values, beliefs, and ideas in context.

De Jong writes:

“For your visionary communication to become authentic, you need to integrate a special type of story–the personal anecdote. 

We all have anecdotes about moments in our lives that gave us wisdom and personal lessons that we still remember and apply today. 

These experiences often provide anecdotal evidence of why we think and behave in certain ways–they reveal the values, beliefs, and ideas that we care deeply about.”

Personal Stories Communicate Character

When you tell personal stories, you communicate your character through the challenges you face, and the choices you make.

De Jong writes:

“Your personal anecdotes are much more than just insightful recollections; they communicate something about your character. 

In other words, they provide your story with a soul. 

Sharing a meaningful personal anecdotes shifts your rhetoric from the head to the heart

After all, the story stayed with you for a good reason: You experienced it and attached significance to it. 

And when you share it, you’ll relive the emotions and show what you truly care about. 

This kind of honesty automatically makes you and your story truly authentic.”

Draw from Your Database of Life Lessons

You can share personal stories of memorable and meaningful moments from your database of life lessons.  Rather than sterile advice, you can share personal stories that bring your valuable lessons to life.

De Jong writes:

“I encourage you to dig into your personal database of life lessons.  Seek out these memorable, meaningful moments and experiences; they taught you something important that still resonates with your today. 

Maybe it was a comment from a parent at a point in your life when you were stuck between a rock and a hard place

Or maybe it was something you did that failed miserably. 

Or a worry that turned out to be unfounded and taught you not to let your fears hold you back. 

Or maybe even something one of your kids said to you recently.

Try to discover why you remember the story–what is the real meaning of this experience to you?  Be honest and authentic. 

And don’t ignore your database of mistakes: What were your expectations, what went wrong and why, and what did you take away from it?”

Empathy is Accessible to All of Us

According to Sue Monk Kidd, we all have access to empathy:

“Empathy is the most mysterious transaction that the human soul can have, and it’s accessible to all of us, but we have to give ourselves the opportunity to identify, to plunge ourselves in a story where we see the world from the bottom up or through another’s eyes or heart.”

Stories Offer Living Proof

According to John Capecci and Timothy Cage, stories offer living proof of our messages.

It’s how we “Be the message.”

Via Living Proof: Telling Your Story to Make a Difference:

“The enormity of problems like hunger and social injustice can certainly motivate us to act.

We can be convinced logically of the need for intervention and change.

But it is the story of one individual that ultimately makes the difference—by offering living proof.”

We are Natural Born Storytellers

According to John Capecci and Timothy Cage, we are all natural-born storytellers.  Our personal stories help us make meaning of the events in our life.

Via Living Proof: Telling Your Story to Make a Difference:

“The ability to see our lives as stories and share those stories with others is at the core of what it means to be human.

We use stories to order and make sense of our lives, to define who we are, even to construct our realities: this happened, then this happened, then this. I was, I am, I will be.

We recount our dreams, narrate our days and organize our memories into stories we tell others and ourselves.

As natural-born storytellers, we respond to others’ stories because they are deeply, intimately familiar.”

Storytelling is one of your greatest gifts.

It’s already inside you.

Share your stories and inspire more people in more meaningful ways.

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