“It will all work out in due season.” 

 I can hear my father saying it now, full of calm and grace, the message he stuck to no matter what was going on.  Dad would be 92 years old today, and his signature statement matters more than it ever has.  He must have talked about that “due season” a thousand times as I was growing up, always with equal measures of belief and equanimity, usually when the rest or us were stressing out, spiraling up or losing our cool over disasters imagined or real.

This one is very real—and Dad meant something you might not expect. He wasn’t promising that things would go exactly as we wanted them to, or that there wouldn’t be trouble along the way, or that everything would be normal again before we knew it.  For him, the trajectory of life just continued to unfold, carrying us toward the “due season” where things would simply be as they would be. He accepted that there would be good times and bad times, and he was willing to move with the inevitable cycles of life in positive and perseverant ways.  He was the highest-level embodiment of the Innocent story type who has ever graced my life.

My Dad came by his outlook honestly. Raised in India by missionary parents, his long view of life was shaped by very different experiences than his U.S.-raised contemporaries. While they lived through the Great Depression, he played soccer with Indian children on fields where human skulls lay scattered—sometimes serving as the balls. He witnessed famine, leprosy and endemic social injustice. As a teenager, he was thrown from a train wreck that killed everyone else in the car where he had been standing.

Despite it all, Dad returned to the U.S. with the attitude of an Eastern philosopher and an indomitable, values-driven spirit. He described India and his experiences there in wondrous ways. His tales of encounters with water buffalo and elephants and even tigers were awe-inspiring (to him and to us). And it was clear he had learned the most about life from the un-schooled Hindu caretakers of his earliest years—not the more traditionally educated academics who taught at the British-run boarding schools he attended as a boy.

Throughout his life, Dad adapted to what was going on around him with an unwavering attitude of optimism, acceptance and hope. He would have done the same when facing our current and collective global crisis. I know he would have counseled me to have faith in others; to notice what’s right, good and possible; and to take what values-inspired action I could to support my beliefs.  Right now, all professionals and leaders need to think about how we can use the power of our best and most motivated selves to adapt.

Getting Conscious About Your Adaptive Tendencies

 This is my fourth of a four-post blog series on the ways our core story types can empower or disempower us.  I’ve written a separate post on each of the organizing quadrants in Dr. Carol S. Pearson’s 12-archetype motivation model (which groups the 12 story-based types into quadrants that represent the most important tasks we must accomplish in professional settings, and the underlying human needs that fuel them).  This post is about the adapting quadrant—the work we must do when something in our environment calls on us to learn, grow and respond.  If ever there was a time for that, it’s now.

The three story types most associated with this quadrant (Innocent, Explorer and Sage) all do this in specific, distinctive and potentially beneficial ways.  When faced with a need to adapt, Innocents check in first with their belief systems and shape a values-based response.  Explorers wonder what they can find out that brings new guidance or approaches to bear.  Sages apply their critical thinking skills to assess what they know or apply what they can figure out.

All of these approaches and mindsets are valuable and good—as long as they’re expressed from an empowering level of the story type.  That’s most likely to happen as our focus widens outside of ourselves to take in the affinity groups and communities we relate to AND an expanded sense of connection with all other human beings. And that’s what the world sorely needs right now.

What the world could use a lot less of now is the disempowering versions of these story types.  Those can emerge in ways that harm us, the people we care about, and ultimately the entire world. Take a look at the chart below for what the empowering and disempowering levels of each story type look like:

 

ADAPTING/GROWING

EMPOWERING LEVELS Innocent Explorer Sage
Level 3:  We (expanded other; enterprise, humanity, global community) Idealist  

Trailblazer

 

Mastermind
Level 2:  Us (immediate other/affinity group; family, team/department, local  community)

 

Believer Navigator Expert
Level 1: Me (self, personality/persona, ego)

 

Optimist Seeker Thinker
DISEMPOWERING LEVELS Innocent Explorer Sage
 

Level 1: Me (self, personality/persona, ego)

 

Pollyanna Wanderer Overthinker
Level 2:  Us (immediate other/affinity group; family, team/department, local  community)

 

 

Denier

 

Lone Wolf Dogmatic
Level 3:  We (expanded other; enterprise, humanity, global community)

 

Absolutist Deserter Deceiver

Getting back to your empowering ground

Let’s take a look at what the empowering and disempowering versions of these stories actually look like:

  • An empowered Innocent can help us keep hope alive and unite around the common ground beliefs that all of us cherish. A disempowered Innocent can naively deny what’s actually going on or disavow any other belief or perspective.
  • An empowered Explorer can guide us through the messy terrain of alternative options, and land on unique and exciting solutions. A disempowered Explorer might resent restrictions on their individual freedoms and ignore what’s best for the collective good.
  • An empowered Sage can help explain what’s really going on and answer essential questions that lead to wiser decisions for moving forward. A disempowered Sage can get too attached to their own conclusions, and defend them to the point of deception.

To get back on empowering ground, as yourself some of these questions (or find a coach to help you or your team work through it; there are many virtual options for doing that right now):

  • Innocent story types: What’s going right, and how can we build on that?  What are we refusing to believe or accept that we need to reconsider?
  • Explorer story types: What alternatives are available to us right now that we could try? Are we ignoring what’s good for others in our response?
  • Sage story types: What do we know for sure about what’s going on, and what do we need to find out? Where are we drinking our own Kool-aid or defending our point of view too strongly?

It will all work in out, in due season.  Thank you, Dad—and wherever you are, please send some hope our way.

Cindy Atlee is a Creator type who loves to help clients understand and express who they really are in the world.  She’s the principal of The Storybranding Group and co-author of the Professional Strengths, Values & Story Survey (SVSS).  Cindy also trains coaches and consultants to work with the story typing framework; find out about her next training (virtual option available from April 15-17 here:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/story-type-narrative-intelligence-training-april-2020-tickets-90946707049.

 

 

 

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