What questions should you ask yourself to figure out the next steps, whether you’re looking for a new job or nearing completion?
Luke Hanson, academic advisor and postbac at the University of Alabama in Birmingham
Stories are not just for children. Storytelling is a critical key element for continuous learning, development, productivity, and ultimately performance. Yes, adults, also and especially for you.
One concept I’ve always loved is to be the hero of your own story. Approaching goal achievement as a set of solid black and white tasks is nowhere near as entertaining or effective as considering the process as a journey and a goal as an end point / treasure / gate to the next level.
Capsule’s second mission is about writing our own stories. It focuses on the hero’s journey and overlays it with our personal aspirations to become stronger as people achieve goals and develop. It also contains instructions on how we can make our stories redeeming, starting from a difficult or otherwise unfulfilled place and working purposefully upwards.
This approach works because stories activate and otherwise engage parts of our brain that are typically found in more elaborate learning activities such as reading, listening to bullets, or watching videos with instructions. They also form bonds because brain activation begins to align with both the narrator and the listener when a story is exchanged.
In the classroom, storytelling can help improve general literacy and help students connect to their learning at ever deeper levels. On the college campus in particular, storytelling encourages and improves engagement, critical thinking, and retention of concepts as students become more diverse and professors look for new and effective ways to reach them.
I am teaching newbie experience. At a conference a few years ago, I attended a session to improve this course for students. One statement that comes to mind from the moderator was: “We all know that they listen to each other more than we do.” And he was absolutely right for my students. We don’t focus on calculus or organic chemistry; We focus on skills that will benefit you in the first semester of your studies and beyond.
In the first semesters that I taught the class, I tried different approaches to deliver material to reach everyone. After the presentation, I turned the script over and tried to find out how little and effectively the lecture could be given as little as possible to prepare and support students to teach each other about concepts such as time management and postponement. It’s a small sample size, but grades and class ratings have increased since then.
The benefits of storytelling are not only found in the classroom. Professional leadership can use stories to develop all types of employees, regardless of role or learning style. Stories create connections between employees, company values and company history. They help to highlight and improve past mistakes.
And now I’m leaving you with a (shocking) story.
Our college is about to hire a new dean. We accepted five candidates and I had the opportunity to hear all of them and ask questions. I promised five hours in total. One instance stands out.
A candidate was praised by the Search Committee for its experience and success in collecting and developing donations. Riveting stuff, right? There is nothing better than being politely asked to fund something philanthropic to make you feel uncomfortable.
But it is a necessary part of higher education and countless other elements of society. His approach is probably not unique, but I hadn’t heard him outlined that way. I paraphrase the quotes, but his answer was:
“I’m telling a story,” he replied seriously. There was unanimous laughter in the crowd and he smiled in response.
“I know,” he said. “I know what that sounds like, but I really do. Put yourself in the position of a potential donor. If you are asked for money at a gala to fund an art program, you may have all of these preconceptions about what that means. You play such a big part in your decision making what makes it easier to fill your own gaps with negatives and politely say ‘no’. “
He paused and then talked about a specific fundraiser.
“We were in a beautiful lakefront house. Everyone was well dressed. The food was fantastic. And we had our choral ensemble perform. We exhibited student art. We had students present to speak to potential donors.”
He continued: “Instead of asking for money to fund the arts, we could say, ‘This is what it’s about.’ We also gave the students an opportunity to tell their stories about how philanthropic donations gave them the opportunity not only to create this art but to attend college in general, and provided their full narrative, a direct example of where exactly that money was and could go, and how effective it could be. They made the donors part of this story. “
Ultimately, we want to be the heroes of our own stories. The process of storytelling enables us to participate in others’, to create new ones together and to create our own. If we take into account our personal experiences and values and develop these stories as drivers for where we want to go, we inherently take more – knowledge, relationships, empathy, skills – from these trips when they get us there and are more in contact with our goals and the “why” behind them.