I have long been a proponent of the power of story.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved stories and used them in my capacity as a teacher, a public speaker, and now as a writer. I believe stories create the bond that draws us together as families, as communities—as the whole human race.
In fact, I’ve made a series of videos dedicated to the power of story and how it can enrich our lives and help us achieve our goals and desires.
Brain science behind the power of story
In my early days of writing, I stumbled upon a book by Lisa Cron, titled Wired for Story.
As I read the book, I was fascinated to see scientific and statistical data to back up up what I’ve always believed—that story wields great power in our lives and that we can learn to harness that power.
Dave Farland, author and mentor to many of today’s great storytellers—Brandon Sanderson, James Dashner, Stephenie Meyer, Brandon Mull, to name a few—formed a theory about the power of story.
He says a well-presented story will raise questions in our mind, triggering a release of chemicals including dopamine that prompt us to keep progressing along the story path. At the climax, we get a burst of serotonin as a reward for our efforts.
As Lisa pointed out, our brains really are hard-wired for story.
Lisa takes the stage
In her Ted Talk, The Common Thread of Our Humanity, Lisa Cron takes the stage to give us an intriguing vision of the power of story.
Her talk is seventeen minutes long and worth the time. Especially if you adjust the playback and listen at 1.5 speed like I did 😊
But in case you can’t find the time, I distilled a couple of the highlights for you.
Story is a survival tool
Lisa explains that story feels good for the same reason food tastes good—because we need it to survive.
She goes on to say that story has been more important to our evolution than opposable thumbs. Thumbs allow us to hang on—story tells us what to hang on to.
She said, “We don’t turn to story to escape reality, we turn to story to navigate reality.”
Story is a learning mechanism
Story transmits dry facts in a form we can assimilate and use to help us make decisions. Lisa explains:
“The brain doesn’t learn by thinking about things objectively. The brain learns by feeling about things subjectively. And story is the language of experience, whether yours, someone else’s, or that of a fictional character.”
We learn better and retain best when we ingest information in story form.
Harnessing the power of story
Lisa concludes by saying that the power of story gives us both a sword and a shield. We are shaped by story, and can be drawn in a positive direction, or a negative one by its influence.
Therefore, it is important to recognize the power of story and understand how to use it to better navigate our own lives.
Lisa gives us three ways.
First, learn to sense when you’re in the sway of a good story and weigh what the story taught you against what you believe to be true.
Next, master the tools of storytelling and use it to bond with others more effectively.
And finally, never underestimate the power of story. All stories are a call to action.
Which leads us to Lisa’s final words:
The power of story is yours. Use it wisely.
How about you? Have you recognized the power of story in your own life? Tell us about it in the comments.