The Ways That Stories Shape Our Lives

The power of choosing your story

We are constantly writing stories. Stories are how we relate to each other, to our culture within groups, to our communities. Some neuroscientists, especially those studying mirror neurons, now recognize that the human brain is in fact wired for storytelling. In ancient times, stories were how history and culture were passed down through the generations. When hunters came back to the village with the catch, the community would sit around the fire and hear, and often see re-enacted, the story of the hunt. To some degree, that practice still happens today through television. The average american watches 4.5 hours of television a day, according to a 2016 Nielson study. Add to that reading, live theatre and movies. It is also a daily practice. We tell stories about our commute, about our kids, about our workload, about how the meeting went.

Am I safe?

We also write stories about people around us. When we walk into a room, we are assessing the situation, whether consciously or unconsciously. Parts of our brain, our reptilian and limbic brains, are taking stock of what our senses are noticing, determining whether we’re safe, or not. We write stories based on those perceptions and decisions. “Uh oh, Jim’s clearly having a bad day”, we may say to ourselves. We are noticing Jim’s physical posture and facial expression – that scowl he seems to wear when he’s not happy, how he slouches and shakes his head. “Mary is clearly tense – I wonder if she’s going to report some bad news”. “Akheem is really focused and on point today – he’s really stepping up and learning to pull his weight more”.

We are telling stories too, through our presence – how we present ourselves to the world. Our face, voice, body, how we occupy space in the room all tell a story about who we are, how we’re feeling in any given moment. Others are paying attention, writing stories about who you are, what you think and feel, and determining if they feel safe with you, if they trust you. Maybe that impact maps with your intention. Maybe not. How do you know?

What do we mean by Choose Your Story?

It’s less an admonition, more a statement of fact. Every day we choose the story of how we are going to approach the day. Often times those stories are unconscious. We don’t even think about them. Things are the way they are. And yet, we do have a choice. Since we are telling stories through our appearance, behavior and presence, and writing stories about others based on what we perceive and already believe about them, we can in fact choose what stories we write, what we tell. You can indeed choose our story and hence have the impact on others that you intend.

open book of family story and sky background

Why Choose Your Story?

Van Ness & Co guides you through simple, painless processes to become more aware, more conscious of the stories you are telling about yourself and writing about your friends and colleagues. The result is you can make more informed choices, improve working relationships, create more effective teams and more easily attain and exceed your goals.

Focusing on stories allows you to integrate the key drivers of success

  • LIVE YOUR VALUES – The story we hold about who we are is informed by our values. If you truly want to live your values, you have to understand your story, and the stories of those with whom you work. You also have to clarify the degree to which your individual personal values are aligned with the current and aspirational organizational values.


  • DEVELOP YOUR LEADERS – Becoming aware of how you present yourself as a leader, and the stories you write about those around you, helps you clarify your leadership message and more clearly articulate your strategic goals. It will help you drive results because you will be able to more fully engage everyone at work; Those to whom you report, those who report to you either directly or indirectly, and your customers whether internal or external. Not surprisingly, storytelling is a great way to do that.

  • NURTURE YOUR CULTURE – Stories ultimately determine culture. It is often the untold stories, the underground stories and the unconscious stories that undermine an organization by eroding culture. Our expert facilitation provides a safe environment for underground stories to be surfaced and released. This process allows for existing passion and energy to be properly directed and channeled toward achieving organizational objectives.

Van Ness & Co works with you to choose your story at these levels: