I love story.
My love for story seems to have started when I played a video game made by Nintendo. It is as cliche as stories get – Mario saving the Princess from Bowser. Nintendo made that one cliche all by itself. 🙂
The game is Paper Mario for Nintendo 64.
You start off being invited to a party at Princess Peach’s castle. After mingling with the charming guests, you make your way to Peach’s quarters. Just as Mario is about to lay the sugar on the Princess, Bowser makes a fashionably late appearance, busting through the window. Then Bowser defiantly declares that he is taking the Princess with him.
So what do you, the hero, do?
You jump in front of your woman and say, “No way! You have to go through me first.” And so he does.
Mario jumps in front of the princess, ready to stomp Bowser’s lights out. But Bowser possesses a magical “star rod” that gives you (Mario) no chance against him. He easily defeats you and sends you flying out the window to who knows where. Then he dashes off in his flying bowser cup with the helpless Peach.
As a man, I know the pain of not being able to protect your woman is most severe. I, Mario, was going to get her back or die trying! And don’t worry, I got her back. I even lost and reclaimed her in the sequels. 😛
I clearly remember how motivated that made me feel. I was really upset with that giant green spiked turtle and I desperately wanted to save that cartoon princess. I sound crazy when it’s described literally – but my response to the story wasn’t based on logic – my response is hardwired into me.
We Respond To Stories
Your life is an interwoven collection of stories.
Life is a story that begins with your birth and ends with your death. You are a part of the story of the human race. Regardless of your views of religion or evolution, our existence is a fascinating story with plenty of excitement throughout history. You are also character in countless other stories involving the lives of others.
Any way you look at it, you are in the midst of dozens of overlapping stories. And that’s why you’re drawn to them. We all are.
Have you ever wondered why nearly everyone likes movies, music, and books? They are mediums that tell us stories of hope, love, loss, and anything else we can relate with. Naturally, we like happy endings because we want them for ourselves.
Advertisements take advantage of your weakness to story. This make-up will make you look like the beautiful star on the screen – what an uplifting tale that is. Who wouldn’t want that? That book about how to become a millionaire will make you rich and fulfill your dreams. Again, that’s a pretty nice story. But be wary of stories that sell you something – not all stories are true.
If stories are so powerful, how can we use them in our daily lives, if at all?
Can Stories Change Us?
Oh yes. Indeed. Affirmative.
Stories move us emotionally. They also reveal new ways of looking at things (logic). These two tools can motivate us and direct us to change for the better. So I would say yes, story can play a big role in positive life change. But how can we use it specifically?
1. Write your story
Of course you’re in the middle of your story now. The last pages are blank, but maybe you should write in a few details of what’s to come. Writing down your desired outcome in important areas can serve as a potent motivator and “stake in the ground.” When you are trying to get to point B (i.e. be debt free), your brain will begin to think of possible creative ways to move towards it.
The gap between A and B is what fuels creativity. You’ve written that your story takes you to point B of having no debt, but how does it happen? That’s for our hero to figure out. And you will if you have the determination to make your story a good one. And you do.
2. Tell Your Story To Others
Redemption is a critical theme in many stories. Zero to hero never gets old, does it? Tell others how you used to be (even until present day) passive, but that your path is veering towards becoming decisive. People like to hear that you’re improving something, especially if you follow through. Of course, you’re more likely to follow through if you told everyone you know that it’s going to happen. The best part, is that the people you tell can become supporting characters in your story to change. And that is invaluable.
3. Listen To Others’ Success Stories
Don’t just look to yourself for inspiration. Others have overcome your big challenge already. They know how it’s done, though sometimes they’ll want to sell you a book about it.
There are a couple of my Facebook friends who have lost a LOT of weight. They look great now. If I needed to lose weight, I would be incredibly inspired by what they’ve done and I would ask them how they did it. They would surely have a story for me – about when they really got serious about losing weight. About the measures they had to take. About the struggles they had along the way. Their experience is valuable and helpful (not to mention inspiring) if you want to overcome the same problem.
Using these three tactics, you can leverage the power of story that is built in to you – that you will forcefully respond to. Who is your Bowser to fight? How are you going to get the Princess you’ve always wanted?
For whatever ails you or whatever you’d like to improve, I hope one day you can tell the following story:
“I used to be _____, but now I am ______!”