THE BLOG
04/08/2014 05:39 pm ET Updated Jun 08, 2014

Life-Changing Story Tools

Are you interested in changing the story of your life? Is your life reflecting the story that you want it to reflect? You've heard of the phrase "Art imitates life." Now, I want you to think about "Life imitates art." Understanding these three story tools will help you to change the story of your life:

  1. Trigger Incident
  2. Dilemma
  3. Pursuit

These are the three main tools that I work with screenwriters on in crafting strong stories on the page, and these same three tools can lead you to major success in life. When I applied the principles of story in fiction in my own life, it led me toward living the type of life that I want my story to reflect.

1. Trigger Incident

In fiction, the trigger incident is what begins every story. Think about the movie, Captain Phillips. In this brilliant story, the trigger incident is when Captain Richard Phillips must deal with the hijacking of his container ship by Somali pirates. The hijacking turns his world and the world of his crew upside down.

Your trigger incident is when something happens that turns your world upside down and your reality shifts. Some strong examples of trigger moments are divorce, loss of a job, death of a loved one, moving, or any other type of moment that leads you to start over, to begin anew. Many people fall victim to these moments. They get stuck in their story of loss and they become immobilized. This is because we often view loss as the end. If we can shift our life perspective in to seeing loss as the beginning of our new story and the trigger that moves us into a new chapter, we can create change.

In my life, the trigger incident that started my new story was when I lost my job as a studio executive in mid-pursuit of my initial goal after spending 15 years with two sister companies. It was a devastating loss.

2. Dilemma

The trigger incident leads you into a dilemma. A dilemma is a problem offering two possibilities, neither of which is practically acceptable. Still, you are forced to make a choice.

In the movie Frozen, Elsa faces a choice to stay hidden or to risk revealing her true self to the world. Anna has to choose whether to simply lose her sister or take the risk to try to save her and the kingdom.

In my story, the dilemma that I faced was: Should I go back into corporate culture and continue to climb the ladder in service of someone else's vision, or strike out on my own and trust that everything I've learned has value?

3. Pursuit

The trigger and dilemma lead you in to a pursuit. As the hero of your own story, when you resolve that dilemma and make a choice, you set your goal. Your story is now about your pursuit of that goal.

Choosing your goal is incredibly important -- it sets the tone for your whole story. Your goal gives you and your story a focus, whether it's to save a kingdom or to harness the power of technology to create a better world.

In Captain Phillips, the goal is clear. Captain Phillips wants to save his crew and himself from the Somali pirates so that he can return to his family. Since the goal is clear, you know what to root for in the story.

Recently, I taught a seminar about selling and telling your story in business. I asked the question, "How many people know what you want?" A very low number of people raised their hands. This surprised me. It made me recognize that through utilizing the story tool sequence and taking the time to really focus on what you want as a result of your trigger incident and dilemma, you can learn to define your pursuits and achieve your goals.

The pursuit that stemmed from my trigger and dilemma was the beginning of my own business. The goal for my business is to work with writers from the studio executive perspective on the development of story, and to help those storytellers achieve their dreams. To define my goal even more deeply, I want to break through isolation and create community through the telling of story.

I learned to utilize the story tools I'd focused on for many years in fiction and apply them to my life. By doing this, I was able to change the story of my life and take a negative life turn, the loss of my job, and transform it in to a positive new beginning, my own business.

By following these three essential principles of story in fiction and applying them to your life, you can change your story and change your life in the process. If you want to learn more about how to do this, you can check out my book, Change Your Story, Change Your Life: A Path To Success.