Why Stories Matter

Eric Barker writes a fantastic weekly blog on life and how to be better at it. He researches up the wazoo and publishes in-depth, insightful and evidence-driven articles.

A recent one was on rituals to create strong connections within teams and families. A great read as always but the final point had me paying attention, as it’s an area I’ve done a bit of reading on too, it’s about having a purpose, and the best way to share that purpose is via a story. I wanted to share his thoughts here as a kicking-off point for an ongoing theme in this blog.

He’s also written a book – Barking up the Wrong Tree – and quotes a section of it in this post:

“Stories are the invisible undercurrent that promotes success in a shocking number of the most important areas of life. What best predicts the success of romantic relationships? It’s not sex or money or having the same goals. Researcher John Gottman realized that just hearing how the couple told the tale of their relationship together predicted with 94 percent accuracy whether or not they’d get divorced. What’s the best predictor of your child’s emotional well-being? It’s not great schools, hugs, or Pixar movies. Researchers at Emory University found that whether a kid knew their family history was the number-one indicator. Who finds their careers meaningful and fulfilling? Hospital cleaners who saw their jobs as “just a job” didn’t derive any deep satisfaction from their careers. But cleaners who told themselves the story that this was their “calling”— and that their work helped sick people get better— saw their jobs as meaningful.

You can tell me Batman’s origin story. Where he came from. Who he is. What he does. What he stands for. What his goals are. If the story of a fictional crimefighting billionaire in tights gets real estate in your gray matter then maybe your work team and family deserve one too, eh?” (taken from This Is What The Best Teams And Families All Do: 3 Rituals From Research)

It’s not just the stories you read in the books on your shelf or your latest magazine, it’s the stories you tell others and, most key, that you tell yourself. These stories are memorable, they have little velcro hooks on them that stick in your brain in a way stats and facts can’t even begin to copy, so the more powerful and inspiring the stories you tell, the more powerful and inspiring you’ll find your world and the quests you undertake in your personal epic.

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