Personal Success Story Workshop – What’s your definition of success?

I just completed a blog post on why acting is more effective than thinking when it comes to achieving success. I realised that the very same information is as relevant to the Personal Success Workshop of the past week end as to the story class about which I was writing. So I am posting it again from the perspective of the definition of success. Or perhaps you rather just want to go straight to the notes for the Personal Success Story workshop.

When I asked participants in the Personal Success Story to form a continuum showing to what degree they are ready for transformation, most of them placed themselves close to the side that indicates they are sick of being where they are and in dire need of change.

Transformation becomes our definition of success as we embark on the success story together. Success very rarely have anything to do with external changes, but always refer to an internal shift or transformation that then has a direct effect on the outer world of the hero. The lonely Shrek in the first movie makes friends and finds true love not because someone outside of him started to care for him, but because he started to care for them. He chose to go after Fiona while still believing that she thinks he is an unlovable ogre.

There comes a point in everyone’s story, fictional or real, where a shift in perspective is crucial for successful transformation. In real life people look for this shift by reading books, attending seminars, talking to their friends and mentors, going to church and googling for info on the net. Yet all the info and talk and thinking in the world do not bring them to the point of making that internal behavioural shift – that moment that causes them never to be the same again – the moment that embodies their definition of success.

Then that same person goes on holiday, or has to deal with the death of a loved one, or a wedding, or they play a game of soccer with friends or they go for a hike in nature, or they create a piece of art, or join a dance class or just have a great meal with friends and suddenly old things have a new colour.

All these are examples of experiences that bring change: experiential learning. If transformation is your definition of success, these are the kinds of experiences you seek. Typically they have the following 4 aspects in common:

  1. A change of scenery/setting
  2. Involvement of the body i.e. movement
  3. Emotional connection i.e. a heart response and
  4. The presence of others – including the presence of nature or the creative muse

I went to my kinesiologist 2 months ago with a most debilitating pain in my back. She says to me: you think and struggle too much in your head and do not move enough in your body. She prescribed a half hour of walking twice a week so that my mental struggles can come into perspective and move from my head into my body.

Although these shifts can happen to anyone at any time, there is a particular moment in a story designed for it. A place in the story where it is most likely to occur because of all the story stages that preceded it. This moment is typically two thirds into the story just before act three. Some writers refer to it as the pause before the climax that calm before the storm. It is the moment when the hero seems to have lost and the journey seems to be a failure, then something happens that allows him/her to see the bigger picture and the greater good.

This is the moment where Shrek in the first movie realises it is no longer about getting his swamp back, but it is now about getting his love back. It is where Brave Heart realises it is no longer just about his family, but about is entire tribe.

I saw shifts occur in all the Personal Success Story workshop except for the one who was on the furthest end of the continuum regarding his need for change. This participant also happens to be Burgert, who is my business partner, and whose definition of success for this workshop would not have been personal success, but the successful completion of the workshop in creating transformation for our participants.

Congratulations to all of you who were brave enough to come to this very experiential workshop and allowed the processes to impact your lives. I trust that the experience will reveal its layers of truth for you ongoing over the next few months so that you can achieve the change that matches your definition of success.

Click her for the Personal Success Story Notes

Petro Janse van Vuuren


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