Telling stories is a great way to connect with your audience, and for life coaches, business stories illustrate the struggles and successes we all share.
It doesn’t matter if you are on stage, teaching a class, writing an email to your list, recording a podcast or writing a blog post. Business storytelling could and should should play a big part of your content creation and marketing strategies. But how do you come up with those stories in the first place? Here are seven tips to help you keep the business story ideas flowing so you can find just the right one for just about any situation.
Share A Recent Encounter
Often the best story are happening to you and all around you. Think about a client who is successful in her achievements? Can you tell her story as an example to newbies? What is the best coaching conversation you ever had? Or which complement from a client meant the most to you? And why was that story most meaningful?
Recall A Conversation
Conversations offer great story ideas. Without going into too many details or sharing too much information about the person you were talking to, what was the underlying message of the conversation in your storytelling. Example: One parent, who called me, was frustrated her their three-year-old daughter was always singing, dancing, and seemed “overly” playful. The daughter was a total contrast to their eldest daughter, aged ten, who mom described as most like the parents. Parents and older daughter liked to read, study the stars, read science-type magazines. The younger child shared few, if any, interests with the parents and older sister. I shared with the parents how there are different temperaments, and because the older sister was an intellectual, didn’t mean that the second child would be of the same temperament. No, the younger child was the talkative, creative, dancing ballerina.. They got it, and I didn’t hear from them until ten years later. Now older daughter is thirteen and younger daughter is six. Mom called to share how the knowledge of temperaments changed their lives. They started offering the younger child outlets for her dancing body and creative brain, as they offered the older child classes and experiences in which her strengths could flower.
Dig Deep and Share A Childhood Memory
Childhood memories are another great source of story ideas. The memories that stick with us from way back when are often the ones that taught us a valuable lesson or had a significant impact on who we are today. Think back to what you remember from your childhood and how you can tie those memories into what you’re doing today.
Pay Attention To Your Surroundings
Stories are going on all around us. Pay attention to the situations and conversations people have around you. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how many story ideas you’ll get just by paying attention your surroundings. Example: I went to the hospital when I felt sharp pains crackle cross my chest. Heart attack? Not sure! Go to bed or go to the emergency room? Go to the hospital. Over five hours, I was admitted, assigned a bed, tested, and the doctor finally arrived in the early morning to tell me the news.
“You have a pulmonary embolism.”
“And that is….?”
“You have a blood clot in your lungs.”
Carry A Little Notebook
We’ve established that there are conversations around us from which we draw a story theme. as you observe those stories, which are memorable that would be a good fit with the content or product. Stick a little notebook and pen in your purse, briefcase or jacket. Keep it with you and jot down short notes about ideas, thoughts, conversations and situations that have storytelling potential.
Listen To Your Family and Friends
Pay attention to your loved ones. They are sharing stories with you on a regular basis. Listen to your kids when they come home from school. Sit down for an after-school snack, and ask them about their day. You’ll have an almost never-ending supply of storytelling material. Listen with rapt attention to feel their emotions and exemplify those feelings in your story, as they are genuine and believable. Keep looking for new ideas and keep telling those stories to grow your business, connect with you readers and make the sale.
Life Coaches and Certified Parenting Coaches deal often with two primary issues: time and energy. The classic secret to time management for an entrepreneur is to show the client how to manage their personal organization and not time. Whereas, managing your energy relates to Full-Wave-breathing, exercise, and movement.
Just as electrical equipment functions best when receiving a solid surge of electricity, so do you. In your case, the power you need is energy, which gives you stamina for the day and the ability to kick into high gear when necessary to deal with a problem. It’s not that you have to be perky all day or load up on four shot espresso coffees to get focused. Yet, you do need to know your energy is at its highest and lowest as the entrepreneur working from home.
When you understand how your personal energy patterns ebb and flow, you use that knowledge to support your time management strategy. Are you a night person, who works late but starts slow in the mornings? Are you an early bird who can get up before dawn, exercise, arrive early at your desk to get organized for the day? Then you are a lark!
Or are you a mid-day entrepreneur who starts slow, picks up speed then tapers off in the late afternoon? These patterns relate to your natural energy flow also called bio-rhythms. Some people chart these patterns weekly and monthly and use them to make their schedule, work, or travel commitments.
Or, you can observe yourself and note which hours are your prime working hours–the hours when you can be highly productive with the least effort or tiredness. Just make a simple chart of the day on graph paper or on a spreadsheet-based graph.
List your waking hours on the bottom and a high, medium, low rating along the side. Then make an “X” for your energy level at each hour of the day. As you connect the dots, you’ll notice a pattern of energy highs and lows. Do this for several days and see how consistent the pattern is.
Knowing your prime working hours (early bird, midday, evening) is extremely helpful in how you schedule the complicated tasks in your workday. If you have a choice in scheduling the time to make a presentation at a conference, and you are a midday person, ask for a time between 11 am to 3 pm.
Don’t say yes to the 8am presentation time. You will wake up sluggish and not be sharp even though you know the material. The same is true for dividing tasks. With a large project, divide the elements so that you plan to work on the creative writing or material calculations during the prime energy time of your workday. Your mind will be more alert and you will have the energy to focus on complicated work.
During your off-peak energy times, gather related materials or do some aspect of the project that is less detailed and does not require a high level of creative energy or decision-making. After using this approach for a few weeks, you’ll see what happened on those days when your time management plan seemed to derail even though you were motivated to do the work.
You simply scheduled the wrong task for your lower energy times and so your output was less than anticipated. As with electrical power, peak periods are more expensive. Peak periods in your workday, as an entrepreneur are more valuable, so allocate them wisely and use that high-energy surge to get the work done faster and better.
Stubborn children test your patience and parenting skills to the limit on a regular basis. Is this just part of raising children? All children go through at least two stages of being stubborn. Stage one is the “terrible twos,” when they learn to say “no” and then learn “yes.” The teen years is also when they say “no” as they practice making mature choices.
If a doctor has diagnosed your child as having ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder), you will encounter similar issues. Differences between the two diagnoses relate to the frequency and the severity due to the cause of the defiant behavior.
To understand the child’s problems and being able to develop suitable plans and consequences are the first steps for parents. Whether your child experiences the stubborn stages, dealing with ODD, or has another major issue, address the problem early. In fact, at the first sign of rebellious behavior, teach and modeling acceptable ways to react and respond.
Next is an example of a conversation between a stepmother, whose 12-year-old stepson came to live with his dad, the new stepmom, and and younger sister.
- Stepmother: Can I help you get settled into your room?
- Stepson: You’re not my mother, and you never will be.
- Stepmother: You are right. I am not your mother, I am your dad’s wife, your stepmother. I asked if I could help you get settled.
- Stepson: You’re a liar. You don’t want to help. By the way, I do my own laundry and I cook my own food.
- Stepmother: All right, let’s back this conversation to the beginning. If you are going to live here, we have some rules about respect. We show respect in our action and words. You don’t get to call me a liar, and I don’t get to call you a liar. Can you live with that rule?
This stepmom felt that this boy was begging for some attention, for some rules. He wanted to know if he was welcome in their home. Several weeks passed before the stepson settled into accepting that he was in a new home with people who would love him, but also not let him fall into his defensive anger.
Strategies To Help You Handle Stubbornness
The first approach is asking why a child behaves the way he or she does? Understand that you, as the parent, can best understand explosive behavior as a form of developmental delay. Dr. Ross Green, the author of The Explosive Child, suggests that the following questions will help parents see more clearly the crux of the problem.
- This child acts this way because…
- How come what works for other kids isn’t working for this child?
- What can I do instead?
- Build a sound basis. Parents start teaching expected life skills at the earliest ages.
- Clarify perceptions through answers to the more common questions.
- Focus on the present: What is happening right now?
- What is the BIG major issue?
- Distinguish between needs and wants.Which needs or wants can be prioritized?
- List your options.
- Hold yourself accountable.
- The problem is…use your best descriptions.
- Brainstorm. Write down your best ideas that might help solve the problem.
- Consider the pros and cons of each possible solution.
- Which of the possible solutions seems likely to work?
- Plan out the solution step-by-step: What? When? How?
Refuse to bargain: Kids use bargaining to make several points: get out of chores, make a break or cut a deal. Children learn to accept the consequences of their choices and behaviors.
Reinforce the positive: Reward their positive behaviors. Point out when your child completes a job and has done it well. Support and praise a thoughtful decision. The power of positively deserved praise cannot be under-rated.
My ideal client is between 35 and 65. She may be married or divorced with one or two children. She is middle class, educated, and lives in a middle-to-upper class neighborhood.
She has always been financially independent. She owns her own business or would like to have a part time business of her own. She is discerning with money, though will rarely spend it on herself unless it’s for a practical reason.
She makes lists and likes to be able to cross everything off her list, even though there is often more there than she can achieve. She compares her achievements to others as a way of gauging her worth. She often is overcritical of herself and lacks compassion for herself, though finds it for others.
She grew up in an environment where she had to take on responsibilities too early, which forced her to put aside her creative, spontaneous side and lose touch with her own needs and intuition. As a result, she is an over-responsible, independent, strong adult. She is dependable and tries to be there for others, whether it is in her best interest or not. She is overly loyal and often takes care of others because she feels like she should because nice people do that.
She follows the rules. She lives a lot in her own head and is afraid of making the wrong decision. She is a thinker and analyzer. As a result, she has lost touch with her own feelings and needs.
She has difficulty setting boundaries with others until circumstances become extreme. When she does set a boundary, she feels guilty and often softens the boundary or changes it to suit the other person. She says “yes” when she doesn’t want to, then feels resentful. She doesn’t have a good sense of self-worth and therefore has difficulty honoring herself.
She’s unaware of her own values and using them as a way of navigating life or making decisions. She makes decisions out of fear or guilt. Only when she feels she’s been pushed too far will she get angry and lash out or finally give herself what she wants.
She is a busy person who experiences free floating anxiety in quiet moments. She tries to get out of these feelings through staying busy, eating, or distracting herself with Internet activities. She is afraid to feel “negative” feelings for fear they will lead to something bad or shut her down completely. She is knowledgeable about positive thinking and feels guilty or fearful if she isn’t thinking constructively.
She has a spiritual reference (God, the Universe, Spirit, Higher Self) and may engage in a spiritual practice. She has trouble with meditation because her mind is constantly busy. She loves self-help books, psychology, and spirituality (especially relationship books, Law of Attraction, and codependency). She loves to read or learn about these things so she can fix her problems. When an issue arises, a book or self-help source soothes her. She feels in control of the problem.
She is afraid to let go of control. She has difficulty relaxing and will often need to eat, drink, or distract herself with Internet use to relax.
She is constantly thinking about the future and the next moment. She’d like to have more fun or nurturing activities, but can’t give herself permission or justify them. She often feels overwhelmed and drained. Her feelings seem to vacillate between anxious and depressed.
She can be found working on her computer either from home or at coffee shops, running errands, and taking care of the people in her life. She enjoys bookstores and self-growth classes. She has a creative side, though it is undeveloped and not given priority. She has a worldly cause she believes in that she may or may not be aware of yet. She enjoys people and has friends, but doesn’t make relationships a priority – this can be because of lack of time or lack of energy.
She has difficulty trusting or being intimate with men. She often attracts untrustworthy or needy men. (Or this could describe her relationship to a husband.)
Her greatest desire is to learn to love herself. She realizes she doesn’t treat herself well and wants to change. Yet she feels caught in shame or guilt when taking steps toward this.
She is tired of feeling anxious and depressed. She wants to feel better about herself and her relationships, but does not know how, despite the self-help books.
She is attracted to my sense of self-acceptance, non-judgment, safety, optimism, and trust in myself and a Higher Power for my safety and future.
She is ready to work with me because she sees my story and wants the balance and security I’ve achieved within myself. She feels seen and safe.
I offer her a place to begin to get to know her own feelings and emotions without fear. I show her how to feel her feelings in a way that will allow, heal them, and lead her to hear her own Inner Voice. She feels encouraged to listen to and take action toward her own needs and self-care. She experiences more self-love, self-compassion, and self-trust.
She feels more settled in her body and is able to feel good about herself and her decisions. When she makes a mistake, she sees the growth and good without shame. Though life may present her challenges, she feels more confident in herself and in life to take care of her. She is able to be with others in a way that allows her to be real and unafraid. She is able to lovingly set boundaries. Her relationship with herself and others are healthier because she is different inside. She now honors herself and is able to present with others in a way that honors them.
New ideas and desires arise in her as a result. She is more in touch with her body, needs, and emotions. She knows more of what she needs and where her limits are. She knows herself and how to take care of herself under stress. She has the resources, tools, and knowledge to handle her life. She can hear own Inner Voice and feels empowered to take risks towards what she desires.
Traditionally, many school-aged children love school and look forward to start of a new school year. But for other children, it’s also a time of great stress. In fact, stress—those overwhelming feelings of doubt about ourselves or our ability to handle things—is as common in children as adults. The greatest challenge to parents today is teaching children to manage stress effectively. Children may react to excess stress with behavior that seems immature, inappropriate, or even disturbing. One child exhibits anxiety and tears the night before going back to school. Another child speaks of new teacher and asks her parents questions while trying to imagine the teacher’s personality. Another child enjoys shopping for school clothes and looks forward to seeing new friends. Stress can be terrifying to children who lack the emotional maturity or experience to understand and deal with it. The challenge for parents, teachers, and other caretakers include how to recognize signs of stress in children of different ages, how to know when stress threatens to overwhelm a child, and what to do about it. In Nurture Your Child’s Gift, I offer excellent suggestions to help parents cope with their children’s stress. A stressed-out condition can result from a specific cause or from life in general. Here are some examples:
- At 17, Jen was a high school senior expecting to graduate with honors in the Spring. Just before Christmas, however, Jen’s father lost his job and the family had to move into the basement of a cousin’s house. Jen soon developed a severe allergy, then asthma. The illness cost her so much time from school that she required home-schooling to make up the difference.
- Mark was only two when his parents divorced. Confused, Mark wandered the house, calling plaintively for his father, but weekends with Dad made him cry. Most weekends, Mark developed upset stomachs that were so bad he’d miss preschool on Mondays.
Toddlers need to feel safe and comfortable. Stress for preschool children can arise from a new face at home or at day care, the disappearance of a familiar face, visiting lots of new places at once, or abrupt changes in the family’s structure, relationships or daily routine. During the grade-school years, children become concerned with pleasing people like teachers, parents, guardians and coaches. School life—even a change in assigned seating or having to take a test—brings higher levels of stress every year. And when it comes to peers, even the threat of diminished acceptance is terrifying. Sleep-overs, birthday parties, sporting events and music competitions can trigger stressful reactions. Through middle school and beyond, the pressures kids feel from parents, teachers, peers, society at large, and from within increases. Children have to learn adapt to these pressures. Because they have grown in their intelligence, curiosity and knowledge of community, demands for their attention, time, energy and effort can often feel like a tug of war. As in the cases of Mark and Jen, it is not unusual for life-altering events to express themselves in illness. At the University of Missouri, for instance, researcher Mark Flinn found that a child’s risk of upper-respiratory infection increases by 200 percent for the seven days following a high-stress event. And parents like Miranda’s might confuse what they believe are normal behavior with an expression of anxiety. Children often display their tensions in small acts that have aggressive undertones.
How You Can Help
- There are many ways parents can help their children deal with stress and stressful situations.
- Don’t try to fix everything for the child, and avoid offering advice. Sometimes just listening so that your child feels truly heard may be enough to relieve the stress.
- As you listen, ask questions that encourage your child to think a situation through. “What’s the next step?” or “How would you handle that?” are good questions. Ask a lot of “what-if” questions, too.
- Help children listen to themselves. Nurture Your Child’s Gift suggests quiet-time techniques for children to listen to nature sounds like rain or waves upon the beach, to their own heartbeat, or to recordings of whales, dolphins or birds.
- Encourage children to spend time listening to their thoughts. When they feel free to speak their own thoughts aloud about a situation, things suddenly become clear.
- Nurture Your Child’s Gift details a diaphragmatic breathing exercise for kids and parents. Shallow breathing is associated with the production of cortisol, the stress hormone. Deeper, effective breathing produces feelings of relaxation and calm.
- Use soothing and rhythmic music, even simple drumming, to help your child relieve muscle tension. It works!
- Don’t overlook exercise for releasing stress and tension. It works for your child just as it does for you. Have children walk the dog, get on the treadmill or stretch through easy yoga movements for children. Any movement they enjoy will help ease stress away.
- Parents can do much to alleviate stress in their children’s lives. Effectively dealing with your own stress is the first step. Showing your kids how to release their stress comes next.
Copyright © Caron B. Goode.