You and I do not just have a story, we are our stories. Our stories shape, limit, and define our way of being, the way we think, and the way we interact with others (Masterful Coaching by Hargrove).

Often times our stories keep us from reaching for our “impossible future”.  Enter coaching!  In coaching (well, when done masterfully), we help people surface, question and redefine their stories when their current story is called into  question by others or breaks down in some way.

At the moment, I am reading Robert Hargrove’s book Masterful Coaching and I have to say I am really digging it. Now I don’t expect you non coaches to rush out and get a copy but I am going to share a little part of it here to see if there is anything you can relate to.

Image by Raiiya, Photobucket

Hargrove divides people’s stories into “rut stories” and “river stories”. River stories are stories of personal growth and transformation.  Rut stories are the opposite.

They fit into  five+ categories: 


The “I Need Other People’s Approval” Story- people may not broadcast this story aloud  but they often construct a whole series of pretenses and defences in order to look good or gain approval. The consequence: the intention to look good often displaces the intention to be good.

 The “Artful Victim” Story- likely the most common…it involves people skillfully using defensive reasoning to create an open-and-shut case as to how other people or circumstances are doing them in. The consequence: they often get stuck in this story, forfeiting all their power to other people or the situation, and then being unable to create what they want.

The “I’m Affraid to Lose What I Have” Storythis one is told by people who put off their visions, dreams and aspirations in order to seek or keep their security. They complain about their lives not being satisfying but create lots of reasons for standing still. These people are generally non players in the workplace though they may look like they are playing along. The consequence: spending a whole lifetime getting reading for everything to fall into place until to realize that, like sour milk, they are past their expiration date.
 The “Tranquilizing” Story- sometimes when people do not achieve a result, are incompetent at a task, or do something that gets them into trouble, they come up with reasons and excuses. The purpose is to tranquilize them and make them feel better about themselves. The consequence: people do not highlight their own incompetence (which limits their learning), errors are covered up (which can lead to more errors) and reality is distorted (which leads to individual and collective illusions).
The “Why Bother?” Story- People who tell this story say they cannot create what they want because their possibilities and choices are limited: “I don’t have time”, “I don’t have authority”, “It’s not in the budget”.  Often times the story is a cover up for them wanting to stay in their comfort zone or for not wanting to take responsibility. There is often an underlying attitude of resignation.  The consequence: people get stuck in this story and lose the ability to see the possibilities and options that they actually have.

Now, in case you think I am on my high horse here, I assure you that I have stories I tell myself (and others) in most, if not all, of the categories above.  Those who know me well could say better but if I had to pick I would say my primary rut story is likely in the “I need other people’s approval ” story. Damn.

What’s your primary rut story?  What are the consequences in your life? What would be possible if you turned it into a river story? How can a coach help you?

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