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The Importance Of Storytelling In Our Lives

Our minds are built to appreciate meaning. So are stories.

In Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong, Eric Barker explores the importance of story in our lives:

Stories, stories, stories. They remind us how to behave and help us persist.

And they remind us "how" to behave through a unique collection of story points known as a storyform. The storyform carries the message or meaning, behind the narrative. Star Wars teaches us to trust in something outside of ourselves by setting the Main Character Solution and Overall Story Solution to Trust. Manchester by the Sea teaches us the tragedy of losing all sense of agency in our lives by setting the Main Character Problem to Desire.

These story points form the broadcast; the storyform works as the carrier wave.

UCLA film school professor Howard Suber describes movies as “sacred dramas for a secular society.” Just like with religious parables, we act like the heroes of the stories we tell. Studies show that when we relate to characters in fictional stories, we are more likely to overcome obstacles to achieve our goals.

We relate--to functional narratives--because they form an analogy to the minds problem-solving process. A working story is a working model of the mind at work. We relate when a story's structure mimics our structure.

So what is meaning? Meaning, for the human mind, comes in the form of the stories we tell ourselves about the world. This is why so many people believe in fate or say things were “meant to be.” Having a story about the meaning of life helps us to cope with hard times. Not only do we naturally see the world this way, but frankly we can’t not tell stories. If I asked you how your day was or how you met your spouse, what would you tell me? A story. What’s your résumé? A story. You even tell stories when you sleep: dreams. And research shows you have about two thousand daydreams every day, telling yourself little stories about this or that. For nearly every area of your life, like career or relationships, you have a story you tell yourself about it. But rarely are these consciously or deliberately constructed.

Understanding the mechanism behind our instinctual method for #storytelling paves the way towards telling better stories and improving the quality of our own lives.