On Transitions and Restoration Stories

There are many reasons to appreciate George Monbiot. He thinks in public, out loud, learning and altering his positions appropriately. He is a captivating storyteller, a delightful and insightful writer, and his interests and the way he bridges them are fascinating and timely.

For this post, I’ll focus on his TEDSummit 2019 talk, “The new political story that could change everything.” It’s about altruism, cooperation, the commons, and the politics of belonging. But it’s also about the power of story. If you or someone you love is experiencing a major life transition, I urge you to watch this powerful talk, which at no point mentions major life transitions.

“A string of facts and figures . . .  have no power to displace a persuasive story. The only thing that can replace a story is a story. You cannot take away someone’s story without giving them a new one. . .. When we have no story that explains the present and describes the future, hope evaporates.”

The Primacy of Story in Our Lives

Here we are, at the end of 2019. If I were to ask you to tell me about your life from 2015 until today, it’s unlikely that you’d list a bunch of stats, unless you’re a baseball fan, as those people seem to think in stats. Instead, you would tell me a story about the various ways your life twisted and turned, nudging or shocking you into evolving into the person you are today. That is, after all, what life does—it’s what it is. Life is a series of things that happen to us and because of us that we adapt to, either well or not-so-well. With intention or haphazardly and without much thought. In “survival mode,” perhaps.

As creatures of narrative, we are constantly telling ourselves and those around us who we are through story. And when something dramatic changes in our lives, either by our design or not, that changes who we are. In the service of that, our narrative must change accordingly. Here’s where something like what Monbiot calls a Restoration Story comes into play. We need a specific type of narrative structure that explains the present and describes the future. This allows us to maintain hope, to be okay with what has happened, and to eventually move forward during times of upheaval.

The Transition Story is a Restoration Story

When you experience a major life transition such as divorce, the loss of a partner, retirement, or even a windfall, you need a transition story. You need help making sense of the event by crafting a story that places it in your life in a way that explains what it is, what it feels like, and why it is or is becoming important to your personal evolution and direction. It’s like a Restoration Story in that it gives the event its meaning.

We at the Financial Transitionist Institute use a four-stage model to describe transitions.

Professionals trained in Financial Transitions Planning help their clients move from what was to what will be. That’s what they are doing when they work with clients; those are the plot points. However, when someone’s life changes, their story changes. And you cannot take away someone’s story without giving them a new one.

Get Help With Crafting Your Transition Story

At the Financial Transitionist Institute, we do far more than track stages. We train financial advisors to help their clients craft their new stories–the stories of their transitions. Our process frequently invites clients to reflect and to explore how their major life event is being integrated into their story. Furthermore, we know that mindset, relationship to stress, and whether there are past stories that are still being tightly gripped, all play parts in personal narratives. Because of that, we train advisors to listen deeply for all of these crucial storying elements. Some of them might benefit from a gentle suggestion of revision.

Financial services professionals ideally have all of the facts and figures; they have expertise in the financial picture. But Certified Financial Transitionists® have also been trained to help you create meaning—to help you with the stories of your life.

Find your Certified Financial Transitionist® here.