3 min read
Building Resilience through the stories in our heads: Improving results with storytelling

We are all living through a moment in history that will be remembered and retold for generations. The resilience of the human spirit is what truly makes this time unique. People find strength and hope through their real and imagined stories, even in adversity. I aim to uncover how these stories can help us build resilience and overcome difficult times. With faith, courage, and creativity, we can navigate our way through any challenge that comes our way! So let's take a journey together to explore the power of stories and find ways to use them to stay strong during tough times.

The stories in our heads are powerful.

Our Stories Connect us. 

Research shows that connection to others through shared experience, even if we do not know them well, strengthens internal psychological resilience while building social bonds. Visual thinking creates meaningful links between our stories and the world around us. It allows us to manage our emotions better and make sense of challenging situations. Our capacity to form connections between different pieces of information defines what it means to be human. By understanding how those connections work between various forms of mental representation, we can better design strategies to become more emotionally resilient.Research has consistently shown that individuals can achieve emotional resilience most effectively if they work with the stories – connections – in their heads instead of relying on a single story or seeing every issue disconnected from everything else. Focusing on the narrative structure helps us see patterns or themes across various situations to understand ourselves and others better. This requires two critical skills: recognizing standard features across experiences (connecting) and noticing differences between those experiences (discerning).In addition to connecting stories, one way of increasing resilience is telling positive stories about self-worth, well-being, and happiness so that attitudes can shift away from viewing specific challenges disproportionately negatively compared with other events. Our own stories must have a positive plot line to survive these challenges because they provide us with an outlet for dealing with ambiguity while providing hope instead of despair during difficult times. The more positive experiences accumulated over time, the more your psychological resilience will increase.

The links between story and resilience-building are part psychology and part neurobiology.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, leadership consultant and author Kendra Read delve into the connection between Storytelling and resilience-building. She writes, "In challenging times, stories help us make sense of our experiences and form new conclusions based upon that understanding. They enable us to find ourselves in the story and try on different paths forward. Storytelling is also a social technology that helps create greater understanding through shared experience, helps people collaborate on possible actions, and ultimately assists with creating resilience together."The article details some of the science involved: "Storytelling evokes a strong neurological response. Neuroeconomist Paul Zak's research indicates that our brains produce the stress hormone cortisol during tense moments in a story, which allows us to focus. The fun, interesting parts of a story "release oxytocin, the feel-good chemical that promotes connection and empathy. Other neurological research tells us that a happy ending to a story triggers the limbic system – our brain's reward center – to release dopamine, making us feel more optimistic."Storytelling has been utilized across all norms for generations and still provides powerful lessons today on how humans collectively confront challenges and become resilient together; this proves incredibly tangible within corporate contexts where teams find ways to connect through adversity and surmount tasks together by developing trust with one another through connectivity!

Storytelling will help shape new Mental models.

Mental models are the stories in our heads — they shape how we think and what we feel; they guide us in making decisions, tackling problems, and collaborating with others. When our mental models are biased, inaccurate, or incomplete, they can lead to incorrect assumptions that can prevent us from taking action or making progress.At their core, mental models are structured collections of learned facts and ideas we use to make sense of the world (Stories). They provide a map of understanding of our environment and the relationships between people, processes, and data resources. Mental models come from many sources — accumulated experience and past knowledge; observed behavior; direct instruction; stories told by others; information from books or other media sources; exploratory creative thinking—and together develop into a personal model used to interpret situations.Understanding existing mental models will help leaders identify what's held sacred (when tensions occur) and speak a language that resonates with followers - leading individuals away from traditional authoritarian management styles towards an ecosystem in which powerful connections between complex variables become clearer. Through this process, businesses develop improved decision-making capability, leading to increased resilience for teams (and companies) during disruption or uncertain times.

Building new mental models is the basis for developing resilience, which involves deliberately forming new ideas and stories beyond the limited visibility of pre-existing beliefs. Storytelling is an effective technique as it provides an imaginative way to capture diverse experiences within a meaningful narrative structure, which can help shape new mental models that are more useful for adapting to change.