Combining Data and Stories

A powerful formula for change

Tuesdays have been tough for me. And my watch isn’t shy about letting me know.

My daily fitness goals are 30 minutes of exercise, burning 620 calories, and standing for at least a few minutes during 12 hours of the day.

While I admit to a random slip up other days of the week, Tuesdays are the one day each week I consistently struggle to hit my goals. And I have the data to support it.

I typically go to the gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. With all of the burpees, push-ups and weights, I have no problem of closing my exercise rings on my watch on those days.

But, Tuesdays. Ugh. I knew that I needed to do something different and break the cycle, but the data alone wasn’t motivating enough for me to change my habits.

After the 4th of July I wasn’t feeling quite as healthy, probably because of all of the BBQ and frosty beverages I was consuming. I stepped on the scale in mid-July and noticed I was above my normal range for weight. I wanted to stay healthy so I could remain active with my kids. I was also reminded to live a longer life, I need to keep my cholesterol down. 

Now I had my “why” and a story in my head of my desire to eat better and workout more. My first target for change: Tuesdays.

I put a plan in place and was able to hit my goals three of the five Tuesdays in July. The difference was story. I created a narrative in my head about why I needed to change my habits. And by pairing the data I had collected with my story, change occurred.

Data isn’t enough

Pairing data with stories is something schools need to strongly consider when it comes to diversity, inclusion and student achievement work. We know the facts.  Despite a nationwide push to provide every student with an equitable education, data supports an opportunity gap between students of color and their white counterparts that has barely budged. There is often a divide between students and staff when it comes to relevancy and the way content is taught and learned.  As we’ve seen by the lack of real change on these issues, the data by itself is not enough. 

We like to think that we are logical beings who are in full control of our decisions. But the truth is, we are far more rationalizing than we are rational. Studies show that our behavior is largely influenced by emotion, and then we back those decisions up with logic. Therefore, a great story that moves your audience emotionally can also drive their behavior.

The most powerful form of communication

We need stories, especially from our students. We believe that stories are the most powerful form of communication. Stories help to move people emotionally, shift perspectives, and inspire action.

Our Voices of Tomorrow framework amplifies authentic student voice to help transform adult mindsets in schools. Story lets us to be a witness to their journey as a student. I’ve seen behavioral change happen when a safe space is created for teachers to listen – and I mean really listen – to students speaking their truth. Transformative change occurs with meaningful, facilitated discussions. Empathy and understanding come first, followed by policy change and budget decisions that reflect the unique needs of all students. 

Data and statistics don’t change your actions. Stories do.

And if you are able to pair data with stories, transformative change can take place.

Next up for me, Thursdays.

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