Positive Lives Blog

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The Story Listening Trance


Can Listening to Stories Alter Your Consciousness?

According to Brian W. Sturm, Assistant Professor at the University of Carolina, listening to stories can alter your state of consciousness from that of “normal” waking consciousness to an entranced state.  Researchers are calling this state of mind the “Storylistening Trance”.

But first let’s begin with a story! Are you sitting comfortably?

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Story Harvesting

What a rich word "harvesting" is! In itself a metaphor for richness, for yielding abundance, and of the notion of "in due season". Harvesting is both seasonal and opportune, not to be put off, and it is hard work! Team work, in fact.

So why Story Harvesting? Recently I ran a workshop for a Gurteen Knowledge Cafe and gave a presentation at an Adult Community Learning conference on Storytelling in Organisations. A question which I am always asked is "Where do you find your stories?".

More to the point, where do you find your stories? Whether you are harvesting stories within an organisation or, perhaps working with a coach, harvesting your own stories ... where do you look? What's the process?

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A Beginning, A Muddle and An End

When did you last listen to a Story?

I ask this of adults who come to my workshops, Story Cafes and training sessions.  Many adults cannot remember listening to a story - told in the traditional oral way, storyteller to storylistener - although they will say "I read a book" or "I saw a film".

Yet, if they pause and recollect, they can bring to mind stories that were told to them 10, 20, 30 years ago. Such is the power of story to impart learning, values and knowledge.

Stories have a familiar pattern - a beginning which establishes Context, a middle (or muddle) that reveals the Conflict, and an ending which brings Resolution.  Stories are our original way of learning about the world and passing on knowledge and values. They may also be used for spiritual and personal transformation (Sufi and Jewish Teaching Tales, for example).

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Under the Spell

I've come to believe that all my past failure and frustration were actually laying the foundation for the understandings that have created the new level of living I now enjoy.  Tony Robbins

All that is necessary to break the spell of inertia and frustration is to act as if it were impossible to fail. Dorothea Brande

Frustration – we’ve all felt it. When nothing goes right, when every plan fails. When do I get my Lucky Break? When can I stop banging my head on that very inert and unmovable brick wall? In that frame of mind, you might find yourself saying, "Typical, that's the Story of my life."

Have you found that when you are out and about networking there are two topics of conversation? One is that everything is just marvellous, wonderful, splendid (the new British “Mustn’t Grumble” with an American flavour!). And the second is how frustrating it is right now for businesses to make any headway.

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Spiderman's Tears

Last Saturday was exceptionally hot. On my way home from town, I saw a little blond haired boy being dragged up the hill by his long-suffering mother.  He was red-faced and bawling. And dressed from head to foot in a Spiderman outfit.

“Why can’t you just stop crying?” sighed his mother.

Of course, I am always thinking of the Back Story. Did our little hero wake up early, eager to save the world, confident in his magic powers? Did he get taken to a kiddies’ party, bounding in to the room looking for adventure? Did he find out somebody else was in charge, marshalling him to the games, getting him to calm down? Did he find out that he couldn’t actually fly or transform himself?

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The Metaphor of Me

The Metaphor of Me

"Learning to read the language of symbols has a positive effect on your self-image and energy."  Caroline Myss

I’ve just been reading a book on Mindfulness. One sentence really struck me.

“Who is the creator of all your self images?”

This got me thinking like this ... If I am the creator of my self-image, then perhaps I am “authoring” myself, writing my own life story with myself as heroine, villain, warrior, orphan or whatever. Perhaps if I become more aware of my Metaphor of Me, I can also choose to be the narrator of a better life story?

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The Architecture of Story

Why Our Brains Are Hard-wired for Story

“By the grace of their limbic brains, mammals find such exultant metaphor irresistible.”A General Theory of Love.

Once upon a time, you loved to listen to  stories. Remember settling down with your mum or dad, or favourite relative, or maybe sitting in the story-corner at primary school ? The hush descending in the room. That wonderful exhilarating feeling of your imagination being fired.

As adults, we still respond in the same way to a well-told tale, whether via the movies, a gifted leader, or in the traditional way told by a story-teller. Stories inspire and connect us. But why? Is there anything science can tell us about our brains and why we are so hard-wired for story?

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Who did you meet last week?

I’ve been keeping unusual company – unusual but somehow strangely familiar.  It all started with a trip to London last week, meeting up with my colleagues from my diploma course in Coaching Supervision.  This was our final training workshop, so goodbyes were said, with good wishes and cards exchanged. I was really touched to be given a wonderful book as a farewell gift -  “Who Am I?” by Katie Altham.

That evening, whilst the underground rumbled beneath my hotel and crowds drank and  chatted outside the pubs in the summer sun, twelve characters entered my hotel bedroom. The Sage, the Mentor, Artemis, Persephone, the Wanderer, the Storyteller and more – my archetypes.

Katie Altham says that our archetypes define and express our story of who we are, in Light (fully expressed) and Shadow (self-rejecting). “Ultimately, we choose the story (interpretation) we tell about our lives.”

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Up Front & Personal

I really do have some fabulously rewarding work – coaching our leaders of tomorrow in Social Care.

Last time I met up with my young clients, they all asked the same questions. How do I write my Personal Statement? What do I say in Interview?


I recently signed up for an exciting webinar from Michael Margolis called The New About Me.  (Apparently, the About Me page on your website is the most visited page, #1.)

I jotted down a few bullet points and here they are. Thanks to Michael for his  insights and great generosity in sharing his expertise.


How to Use Your Personal Story to Win the Business or Job

You are the narrator of your life story, in everything you do and say. Make it work for you.  Your story is your most powerful USP. Tell people a story they can identify with as their own. Then the need to persuade, convince or sell to them disappears.



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Ten Women Meet a Tiger

The Tale of the Shaman, the Woman & the Tiger was one of the rich and inspiring tales told in The Story Cafe in May. A Story of Hope & Courage.

If you were at The Story Cafe in May, share your insights from this traditional Story here.

Meet your Cafe friends at The Story Cafe Facebook.

See you on 26 June for more transformational tales!

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Meeting the Tiger

On Sunday 15 June, ten women met a tiger in Chester. A tiger and a shaman – and a courageous woman. Had the Circus come to town? Or maybe an animal had escaped from Chester Zoo? You’d be forgiven if you thought so. In fact, 15 June was the launch of The Story Café. The Tale of the Tiger, the Woman and the Shaman was one of the rich traditional stories told in the Café that afternoon.

The Story Café has been a dream of mine for many years – a way to bring people together in an enjoyable way, to listen and reflect, learn and share – and transform our ideas. A new approach to personal development using stories.

I first came upon traditional teaching stories in 1971. Wandering about a Cambridge bookshop, I picked up The Exploits of the Incomparable Mulla Nasrudin by Idries Shah. I loved stories, like any child, from fairy tales, folk tales of Robin Hood, or Tolkien’s heroic saga The Lord of the Rings. But these stories were different – funny, fascinating, transformational. Shah’s stories showed me the therapeutic function of surprising anecdotes, and how these tales could reveal fresh perspectives. The seed for the Story Café was sown! Fast forward to 2011 and The Story Café is finally and successfully launched.

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The Power of Stories™ for Small to Medium Organisations

The Seven Secrets of Organisational Health


How to Motivate Your Team & Grow Your Bottom Line Through Internal Storytelling Techniques


Your organisation will grow its financial bottom line, as well as staff and customer satisfaction when you incorporate storytelling into your organisation's internal communications.

As a leader of a small to medium organisation, it is likely that individual staff and teams focus their attention on those who receive the services of your organisation. However, does your group also remember to talk to each other about your work? Storytelling is not just for the outside customers, it is also for our members and our team – our internal customers.

Stories can inspire and motivate your staff, improve staff and customer retention and grow job satisfaction. You will also see an increase in networking “fans”. In turn, an organisation that is celebrating its stories generates much greater satisfaction among clients.

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Not Just For Kids

Golbourne might be considered an unlikely place for extraordinary connection to happen between human beings. And yet that is what happened last Tuesday.

I had been invited to present a workshop to the local Association for Coaching group.  Truth be told, I was a little nervous. I imagined the room full of high-flying professional coaches, armed with psychotherapy qualifications and executive coaching backgrounds.  Would they think that Storytelling was just for kids?

I opened the workshop with “What does Story mean to you?”. Such interesting answers came thick and fast! The range of human emotion was there – “power through fun”, “joyful isolation”, “connection”, “fantasy”, “a time to reflect”.  Interestingly, one person said “boredom” because he had missed out on “proper tales for boys” as a child, and hadn’t had his imagination captured.  

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The Seven Secrets of Organisational Health

The Power of Stories™ 

for Social Enterprise & Voluntary Sector Organisations


The Seven Secrets of Organisational Health


How to Motivate Your Team & Grow Your Bottom Line Through Internal Storytelling Techniques


Your organisation will grow its financial bottom line, as well as staff and volunteer satisfaction when you incorporate storytelling into your organisation's internal communications.

As a leader of a social enterprise or voluntary sector organisation, it is likely that individual staff and volunteers focus their attention on those who receive the services of your organisation. However, does your group also remember to talk to each other about your work? Storytelling is not just for the outside customers, it is also for our members and our team – our internal customers.


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Hands Across the Ocean

I am feeling very inspired by Connection.  And am having a "Hands Across the Ocean" moment - as we put the finishing preparations in place for "Walking the Stories".  http://positivelives.co.uk/iwd

Did you know that women across the world, from USA to UK, from Asia to Africa, are talking about our little celebration of International Women's Day in Chester?

Brigitte is my lovely contact in Ghana, and the inspiration for Walking the Stories. She wrote to her fellow alumni of the Vital Voices programme about our event. She says:

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Will You Walk With Us?

Walking the Stories - Sun 6 March

The birds are twittering like mad, and there’s a real promise of Spring in the air.

So fingers crossed for lovely weather on Sunday 6 March – when we will be celebrating International Women’s Day here in Chester, with walking, stories and, of course, cake!

For more information and bookings: http://positivelives.co.uk/iwd

We’re looking forward to meeting all you lovely ladies who are walking with us on 6 March.

News of this event has spread around the world – from the UK to West Africa and to the USA. I’ve been contacted by women from around the world who are organising similar IWD events. So it is a really International Women’s Day!

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The Women's Code - Green Violet White

With International Women's Day nearly here (officially 8 March), I've been carrying out a Straw Poll.

Who knows the Code?  Can you decipher the colour code of Green Violet White?

Here's a clue - Suffragettes wore banners in green, violet and white.

I am amazed that nobody I have asked knows how to decipher the Code.

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It's the Perfect Time ...

Happy New Year! We must all have said this at least a hundred times by now. However sincerely meant we know that "if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’re going to get what you’ve always got!"

What do you want to be different about 2011?

It’s the Perfect Time to …

Be Clear, Focused, Motivated and Creative.  But how?

Positive Lives is offering two coaching packages and a FREE coaching taster starting on 31 January.

Now that the Christmas decorations are packed away, and you’ve drunk all the bubbly, you might be feeling a bit dispirited.  It’s still a long way to go till we see those light mornings and summer evenings. 

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Power of Stories comes to Chester!

Delighted to receive such excellent feedback from attendees of the Getting British Business Online networking event in Chester, hosted by Positive Lives.

Thanks also to Luan Ramsay, Conference Manager at Regus, Chester. Great continental breakfast, Luan. Loved those little pots of fruit!

And a big thanks to Isabelle Farquhar from Singulier Ltd for her presentation on using online tools to enhance your business - as well as her invitation for private businesses to tap into the new market of social enterprises.

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Cheap packaging for handmade chocolates

I met Amy Fox of TwizzleBird at the Big Business Breakfast Event (part of Global Entrepreneurship Week) that I hosted.

She sent me a great piece of feedback on my Power of Stories presentation:

"I was inspired by your talk on the power of storytelling and soft skills being the new hard skills."


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