Retail Observer

May 2020

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Page 43 of 67

RETAILOBSERVER.COM MAY 2020 44 L ooking back, it feels almost impossible – the coronavirus didn't even exist as recently as Halloween of last year. It materialized in Asia in November, like a self-replicating evil extraterrestrial, bent on destruction. Since then, it's exploded across the globe. All we can do is self-isolate and pray for the best. Meanwhile, we watch our economy falter and our businesses teeter. And we wonder: What's the meaning of it all? There may be no more important question in your life today. Because whether you're aware of it or not, the stories you tell will influence your decisions and behavior in critically important ways. CONFRONTING THE OTHERWORLDLY The hard truth is that SARS-CoV2 (which causes Covid-19) is just a virus. Scientists debate whether it's even a living thing. Like a magnet, it's activated in response to physical conditions. It has no motive and no intent. As human beings, we cannot accept this. We are unable deal with chaos or to bear the prospect that we're suffering for no good reason. We demand a story. There's plenty of research to demonstrate that people naturally invent stories to make sense of the inexplicable. In my storytelling workshops, I'll often play a short video in which black geometric shapes move around on a white screen. I then ask the participants to describe what they saw. Most describe dramas about everything from hostage rescues to love triangles. All of these interpretations are literally wrong. Yet they seem perfectly reasonable. It's hard to watch the video without feeling that you're witnessing some kind of drama – it's our storytelling brain at work. THE NARRATIVE IMPERATIVE The strange truth is that our minds are wired to impose human- centric narratives. We're irresistibly tempted to interpret the most inhuman phenomena in human terms. We need villains and heroes, winners and losers, cause and effect. We assign human motives, failings and virtues to inanimate things, especially if they threaten us. It's been this way since Genesis. God created the heavens and the earth because He loved us. When war, famine, pestilence and disease cursed us, we invoked the Horsemen of the Apocalypse to explain our dread. In short, we build myths to help us understand our lives. This isn't a bad thing. In his brilliant book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari proposes that the big fictions people create and invest their lives in, including such immaterial concepts as currency, law, and religion, are central to our evolution. When people all believe the same stories, the trust and cooperation that result can literally change the world. The risk is that we are often unaware of the personal narratives we're inventing to make sense of our lives – or how, once they're told, we stand behind them as if they were eternal truths. YOUR STORY Now is the time to take stock of our own story. Here's a simple guide . • First, practice mindfulness. Calm yourself enough to simply witness the narratives that are unfolding naturally in your consciousness, without judgment. Fear, anger, anxiety, heartbreak and outrage are natural. Welcome every thread, because each contains important information about what's truly happening to you. • Consider who you are and who you want to be. Most people have a code, a set of rules and standards that define their highest values. A time of crisis calls us to choose a path, either consciously or not. What will your path be? • A good exercise is to imagine looking back at yourself five years from now. What is the story you want to be told about how you responded? Were you courageous? Were you compassionate? Did you face loss and sacrifice with grace? Write these stories down. Then live them. There's a unique power in articulating a vision – a fiction, if you will – for the story of how you responded to one of the greatest global challenges in your lifetime. Revisit the story and revise it often. And remember to be kind to yourself when you feel that you fell short. You are, after all, only human. NOW MORE THAN EVER, YOUR NARRATIVE MATTERS Mario Juarez Business Mindset RO Mario Juarez is an organizational consultant, coach, and motivational speaker. He focuses on helping organizations and individuals achieve better business results through strategic storytelling. An award-winning former journalist, Mario led a series of innovative communications initiatives at Microsoft before founding his company, StoryCo, which serves clients across a range of industries.

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