This blog comes from inspirational storyteller and “Education for the Soul” Conference keynote speaker, Kevin Graal.
Once upon a time the legendary wise fool Nasrudin was resting on a river bank, when somebody shouted to him from the opposite side: “Hey! How do I get across?”
Nasrudin shouted back: “You ARE across!”
Educational theories and statutory frameworks come and go. But one thing doesn’t change: school leaders and teachers are achieving miracles on a daily basis. They know what to do. They understand what needs to be done. They ARE across – despite the obstacles and external pressures put on them.
Once upon a time the nail said to the hammer:“Hey! Don’t hit me so hard.”
The hammer replied: “Hard? If only you knew how hard the carpenter is holding ME!”
Storytelling has an immense value in its own right – not just as a means of developing language skills or improving literacy. If we think of stories as merely a means to an end, we undervalue their true power and significance.
And just because a story isn’t true doesn’t mean it lacks truth. I never ever say, ‘Well it’s JUST a story.’ It’s MORE than a story!
The stories we tell each other have the power to change our lives.
But what about the stories we sometimes tell to ourselves? Like the one about not having this or that skill; about not being up to the task ahead; about being good at this but not at that; about being this or that kind of person – stories that can leave us feeling anxious and overwhelmed.
As the Swedish proverb puts it:
“Worry gives a small thing a big shadow.”
Sometimes we tell the same life story for so long that we don’t even think of it as a story any more. Sometimes we’re not aware of our thought patterns and external problems can become internalised.
But if we see ourselves as separate from our problems, we feel more empowered to change our thoughts and behaviour, and ‘re-author’ our life story. This is the approach of a relatively new form of counselling called Narrative Therapy which takes as its starting point the following principle:
“The problem is the problem. The person is not the problem.”
But even the most ancient storytelling traditions are underpinned by the same notion: that stories enable us to visit alternative worlds and explore multiple versions of ourselves which can reflect more truly who we are, what we’re capable of and what our purpose is.
“That the birds of worry and care fly over your head – this you cannot change. But that they build nests in your hair – this you can prevent.”
Some years ago I faced a worrying health issue. When I found myself experiencing an anxious thought about my future, I learnt through cognitive behavioural therapy to ask myself the following 3 simple questions:
1. Is this true?
2. Is this helpful?
3. How else can I think about this?
I began to pay more attention to the language I used about myself. I began to tell a different story.
Once upon a time, a wise elder said to her grandchild: “There’s a battle going inside me – inside you too. It’s a battle between two wolves. One is bad. It is anger, envy, greed, self-pity, guilt, resentment, pride and falsehood. The other wolf is good. It is joy, hope, kindness, generosity, empathy, humility, compassion and truth.”
“Which wolf will win the battle?” asked the child.
The wise elder replied, “The wolf you feed.”
Join us in October’s for Kevin’s Closing Keynote
How can leaders guide the way, if the way is shrouded in doubt? How can leaders inspire belief in others, if they themselves begin to disbelieve?
Drawing on a deep well of funny and philosophical tales from around the world, Kevin Graal’s closing key-note at our “Education for the Soul” conference will lift your spirit, recharge your optimism and send you away with a renewed sense of purpose.
The talk will form a key part of the conference, that has been designed to provide a space where school leaders can explore themes such as authenticity, well-being, values and resilience.
With the help of expert keynotes, panel discussions, workshops and talks, we will explore how individuals can:
– Challenge the many damaging expectations and narratives that surround school leadership and help leaders mitigate their often-corrosive impact
– Develop stronger self-awareness and a deeper understanding of their own emotions and those of others
– Nurture a deeper self-acceptance of themselves, both their strengths and their limitations
– Strengthen individuals’ confidence and belief in their own leadership approach, so that they can lead in ways that are aligned to who they are and what they stand for
– Build the courage to stay true to their values, vision and purpose
It is our hope that those who attend will leave feeling truly inspired to embrace their unique authenticity and be equipped with the tools for bolstering their values, building their resilience and embracing their strengths and gifts.