Facts or Stories?

Posted on: April 24th, 2013 by Kathie England | Time for Success 1 Comment

What is the distinction between a fact and a story? What difference does it make?

Tony Schwartz in The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working explains how it makes a huge difference.

  • “A fact is something that can be objectively verified by any person.”
  • “A  story is something we create to make sense of the fact.”

When we create a story, we end up believing it and then reacting to it because we believe it is true. This interpretation can cause all kinds of problems. Believing our story causes us to act on our feelings rather than on what actually is. Schwartz suggests that we reintroduce the power of choice by pausing to examine whether we’re confusing the facts with the story. He explains that though we can’t change facts, we do have a choice about how to interpret them.

Seeing our choices begins with awareness – pausing to consider the possibility that we have created a story based on facts but remembering it’s a story, it’s an interpretation. It may even be what Jeffrey Schwartz (no relation to Tony as far as I know), calls a “deceptive brain message” in You Are Not Your Brain. It may be what Daniel Amen refers to as an ANT (automatic negative thought) in Healing ADD.

By pausing rather that reacting, we give ourselves the power of choice We give ourselves the opportunity to shift our perspective and respond more effectively. Viktor Frankl wrote: “Between the stimulus and the response lies the pause and in that pause is the power to choose.”

Where are you taking that pause?


One Response

  1. Gale Long says:

    Thanks Kathie for this posting. This distinction between my ‘stories’ and what i actually know to be true has recently been very clear to me regarding two stories I made up about incidents from decades ago. I’ve also become aware that one of the general stories that my brain tells me is to feel bad about many things that happen to me, regardless of how happy the facts are. It reminds me of the work of Chris Argyris around what he called the Ladder of Inference. It’s good to get that learning out and keep in more accessible.

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