Who doesn’t love a good story?
I know I do. In fact, I love stories. This is the unsurprising answer of a book-loving introvert.
I heard so many stories — from my family, friends, co-workers, and complete strangers on YouTube — and I read even more in books, magazines, blogs, social media, you name it.
Some of these stories made me who I am today. They helped me know myself better and understand others much easier. They also shaped my world perspective and guided me through unique life situations.
But are stories really worth your attention when every day there’s a myriad of things competing against each other to win it?
What makes stories so special?
The role of stories in our lives has captivated my attention for a long time now. The BA paper I did a few years ago, which was an extensive study of Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement, highlighted the power of storytelling as a means to achieve atonement.
Most likely, the idea of a literary atonement as a quite endearing but improbable way to mend real lives with fictional thread sounds more exciting for an English literature student than for a casual reader. Nonetheless, bear with me for a little longer.
What I also discovered during my research on the anthropological nature of the narrative is the fact that stories are not only essential for our understanding of the world and of ourselves but also for our ability to negotiate our relationships with others.
A book that I’ve been reading recently — that is Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari — comes to reinforce my findings by pointing to the fact that stories are important to the existence of human society as a group.
Moreover, he claims that narratives (and especially fictional ones) allowed us to collaborate as larger communities of people and encouraged the fast innovation of social behaviour for thousands of years.
You’re probably thinking that yeah sure, stories are a big deal for us humans, but how does that affect me, the individual with unique hopes and dreams and very specific Starbucks order preferences? I’m getting to that, I promise.
In our day-to-day life, stories still keep their magical powers. It’s just that so much happens in a day that we don’t really pay attention to how stories influence us and our family and friends.
While we slow down for a moment, allow me to show you how stories impact your life.
Stories bring people together
Your family comes with its one-of-a-kind stories. So does your group of childhood friends. And even your group of co-workers.
All these stories allow you to connect and empathise with other people by sharing your joys, passions, dreams, fears, and misfortunes. Not to mention that our values and perception of the world are influenced by the stories of the people we hold dear and most admire.
Stories even transcend death when it comes to keeping your loved ones close to you. This is something I discovered when my grandmother died and when, shortly afterward, a crushing pain nestled uninvited in my soul.
As memories are sometimes made fuzzy by the grief of losing someone you love, stories will be the ones that come to heal you.
My grandmother’s stories about her life, her friends and her neighbours were the ones that helped me keep her memory alive in my heart when other memories were just too painful to remember.
Stories help you grow
Stories are powerful tools when it comes to planning your future. Dreams, goals, intentions — all these are essential parts of your story that you use to become what you want to be in life.
Still, identity-building stories can as easily empower as they can break you. It all depends on your mindset.
On the one hand, a positive mindset will help you create stories that build your confidence and fuel your ambition to achieve your goals — be it to get the job you’ve always wanted, buy your own house, travel across the world or whatever else your heart desires. Such stories are the ones you must focus your energy on.
On the other hand, a negative mindset will distort your stories and make you their prisoner. Anxiety and overthinking are just two ways in which negative thoughts and feelings can affect your perception of the world and keep you from being the best version of yourself. You don’t want to know such dark, overlapping stories. Trust me, I’ve been there.
Self-confidence is also a story about yourself that you control. Yes, I said YOU. Not the people that tell you that you’re not ready yet, you’re not old enough, your experience is not enough, etc.
Whatever those people might have to say, please remember that they’re only secondary characters in your story. You are the narrator and also the hero, so don’t forget to give yourself the superpowers you already have within.
Stories create trust
I already mentioned how stories help people connect. What I am going to address here is another type of relationship, more exactly that between a company and its customers.
If you are an entrepreneur and you run your own business, chances are you’re constantly telling the world a story of how it all started, what your mission is, how your products/ services can improve your customers’ lives, etc. After all, a brand is just another story.
How can one make people believe and support such a complex story? A company with a great brand story that inspires people will succeed to gain their trust similar to how your friend’s stories do.
Nowadays, people don’t want to be attacked by a swarm of ads and sales emails anymore. They’d rather have a good story instead.
Social media has changed the traditional way in which brand stories are told, leading to the creation of participatory storytelling. This way, a company’s interactions are humanised, which makes it a lot easier to build strong relationships with an audience.
Do you know what the best thing about stories is? You never get stuck in stories.
Characters in a story stumble upon various obstacles, they discover things they didn’t know or didn’t have the opportunity to learn before they embarked on their journey. The same goes for real people.
I like to think of life as a more complex narrative where you get the chance to reinvent yourself over and over again. Each person, you and I included, is a collection of unique stories brought together by particular circumstances.
If you didn’t like last year’s story, this year is a new adventure waiting to be written.