What is your employee engagement story?
The Key Idea: When we master our stories through increased mindful vigilance and intervention of our incredibly rapid and mindless story creation we navigate more effectively through work and other situations. Pay attention to your own stories and mindfully notice where they are taking you.
One cent. A penny for your thoughts. Let me give you my two cents worth. Most of our thoughts and opinions are stories we have created about our world. Yet we take these stories for granted and pay about as much attention to them as we do to a penny. There is value in a penny just as their is value in attending to our stories.
The universe is made of stories not atoms. ~ Muriel Rukeyser (1913 – 1980)
Stories are the building blocks of understanding. We understand the world through story. Story is not just something we read in a book or see in a movie. Story is how we make sense of ourselves, situations, and others. Stories function as fundamental building blocks of understanding and also as a social GPS. Stories are the conclusions, judgments, hypothesis and assumptions about what we see and hear. Stories are the way we communicate with ourselves.
Notice story on your path. In Crucial Conversation we learn about the path to action moving from facts to emotions and actions. But before we move to emotions or actions we pass through stories. The disconcerting thing is that many of us fail to notice story or we confuse our story with facts. When we do this we also fail to realize that story re-creation is a phenomenal lever to change our life.
And the story is… For example your boss turns down your request to join a new project team. How long can you stay neutral before you create a story to explain this:
- My boss is an idiot
- I get no breaks or respect around here
- This is so unfair I will start looking for another job
- I will show him
- Nobody really cares how much I do around here
Fast Flow. Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the author of Flow stated that we make sense of the world in about an 1/18th of a second. The way we make sense is through story. I have also heard that the shelf life of many feelings or emotions is about 90 seconds. If we don’t do anything the emotion subsides. Yet many of us can stay angry for hour, days, or even much longer. How do we do this? I believe we keep generating stories in fractions of seconds that keep fueling the fire. If the math is correct, ninety seconds gives us the potential to generate 1620 stories to keep an emotion alive.
Quick test. How long can you stay story free? Try this quick test that will take under 3 minutes and maybe under a second. Close your eyes and see how long you can leave your mind open without a thought or story coming in. Watch out for a plethora of stories entering through your revolving door of consciousness. Remember, even the thought that this is a stupid test is a story about what you are doing! Most people who begin a mindfulness meditation are shocked at how much “stuff” or story their brain continually generates.
For starters. So what can you do?
- See stories for what they are — just stories.
- Don’t confuse stories with facts
- Act like a scientist and work at dis-confirming your unhealthy or unhelpful stories.
- Work at being more mindful and watch the stories your brain continually creates to help you navigate through your day.
- Start authoring more constructive stories for better emotions and more effective actions
So, what’s your story?
(An earlier version of post was on the Shared Visions website)
David Zinger is an employee engagement network who founded and hosts the Employee Engagement Network. To access his services visit his website at www.davidzinger.com or email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.