What's Your Comeback Story?

And how can it help you take on
your next challenge?

When I was beginning the process of getting divorced, my Mom gave me some advice that I have shared with many others. I was still living with my husband, looking for lawyers and rental houses, and trying to figure out how I might have to raise two little boys and provide for my family. I told her I really couldn’t imagine how it would work out. It sounded so hard. I was scared.

Then Mom said, “Baby, you don’t get it. It’s going to be so much easier.”

She was right. Being on my own was so much simpler, lighter, and free-er. Once I stopped trying to make something work that just wouldn’t work, I had energy available to take care of myself, my business, and my kids. Contrary to my fears, my ex and I were able to work collaboratively to make sure everyone was taken care of financially and otherwise. 

It was also easier because my mom was there. She moved in with me for almost six months, seeing me through the roughest of the transition. Packing and unpacking. Going to support groups with me. House hunting. Providing cooking, cleaning, bedtime snuggles for the boys. A year later I was in a house I loved; I'd regained muscles I hadn't seen since high school; my kids were potty-trained and sleeping in their own beds; I had the best year of my business to date; and I finally learned how to do this thing called a “weekend” that I’d heard so much about.

I like to share this advice and tell this story to other people in the midst of relationship upheaval, because it offers hope when they may not be able to see a way through. (I know my story isn't universal, because many stories of divorce don’t have endings as happy or quick.) I also like to tell people this story because it means I get to tell it to myself. To tell myself a story of overcoming adversity. Telling yourself stories of past resiliency is one of the proven ways to have a growth mindset and steel yourself against burnout.

From Tara Parker Pope's piece on How to Build Resilience in Midlife, "Study after study has shown that we can benefit from reframing the personal narrative that shapes our view of the world and ourselves. In expressive writing studies, college students taught to reframe their college struggles as a growth opportunity got better grades and were less likely to drop out....'It’s about learning to recognize the explanatory story you tend to use in your life,' Dr. Southwick said. 'Observe what you are saying to yourself and question it. It’s not easy. It takes practice.'"

Anyone can have this kind of story for themselves. It doesn’t have to be overcoming a major life obstacle; it could be as simple as recovering from an injury or a bad grade. As long as it is a story of a setback and how you overcame it, it’s a tool you can use when you feel overwhelmed, frustrated, sad, or ready to give up. Which, for many of us in 2018, can be a lot of the time.

If you don’t have a story already, here’s a tool you can use called the Story Spine:

Once upon a time...
And every day...
Until one day...
And because of that...
And because of that...
And because of that...
Until finally...
And ever since that day...
The moral of the story is...

I used this recently in a virtual training I was leading called Thriving Through Change. Here's my tale of business resiliency using the story spine:

Once upon a time my improv school was losing its space.
And every day I was planning to wind my business down.
Until one day I told my friend I was calling it quits, and she said no, we had to find a way.
And because of that I reached out to another theater space in town that I thought was a long shot.
And because of that they asked me to become a tenant there.
And because of that my business grew at this new, prestigious space. 
Until, finally I had my best year of business ever.
And ever since that day, my improv school is called Merlin Works at the ZACH.
The moral of the story is: sometimes, you have to risk everything to really grow.

I invited my attendees to write their own comeback stories using the story spine. Soon, this online class—with glitchy technology and lackluster participation—came alive! People were sharing stories about failing a class and coming back to complete their degree; having a crush on someone for years and finally working up the nerve to ask them out; coming back from an injury to complete a race. I was overwhelmed by the stories they shared and the strength of their journeys.

I’d love to hear your Resilience Story Spine about what you’ve overcome. Write a few and keep one in your pocket to have with you when you need it the most. Because the faster and stronger we recover from setbacks, the more we succeed over a lifetime. The mistakes and challenges will come. What shapes us long term is how we respond. And with this little story in your corner, you might respond a little better and a little faster. It might be so much easier than you think. 

Shana Merlin 

Founder, Merlin Works

Classes begin August 12th!

($25 Early Bird Discount expires July 29)
There's still time to register! 

Get ready to try new and fun things with your friends -- old and new!  It’s too much fun to miss!

Improv 101 @ ZACH North
Instructor: Kevin Miller 
Time: Wednesdays 8-10pm
Dates: August 15 - October 10 (no class August 29) 
Location: ZACH North, 12129 Ranch Rd 620 N. #310, Austin, TX 78750

Improv 101
Instructor: Shana Merlin
Time: Thursdays 8-10pm
Dates: August 16 - October 11 (no class August 30)
Location: ZACH Theater, 1510 Toomey Rd., Austin, TX 78704

Improv Singing 101
Instructors: Dave Ronn & Tyler Lane
Time: Wednesdays 8-10pm
Dates: August 15 - October 10 (no class August 29)
Location: ZACH Theater, 1510 Toomey Rd., Austin, TX 78704

Improv at ZACH Second Sunday
Comedy Showcase

Sunday, August 12, 2018

8pm Show featuring:

  • Special guest Small Town Papers!
  • Merlin Works Improv students!
  • Merlin Works instructor troupe -- The Known Wizards.
  • On ZACH’s 130-seat Whisenhunt Stage (1510 Toomey Road)
  • Metered parking on site at ZACH

Austin Improv Soccer

Sundays at 10am

We play a casual pickup game of soccer every Sunday at 41st and Red River. Open to anyone (improviser and friends). Bring light and dark shirt, water, and cleats if you have them!

This group has been going for about 8 years. Join our Facebook Group to stay posted. 

Join The Merlin Works Student
and Alumni Facebook Group

Be a part of the conversation: Hear about auditions, upcoming events, and other opportunities when you are a member of the Merlin Works Student and Alumni Facebook Group. Find a troupe, get a buddy to go see a show with, or discuss your improv goals. Join now and start posting! 
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