Confronting stories of despair

“Don’t confuse me with the facts, I’ve already made up my mind.”  Everyone who has worked on climate change, trying to nudge, to persuade and to inform has run up against that refrain in some form or another many times. Puzzled progressive scratch their heads. “Wasn’t there supposed to have been something called the Enlightenment? Weren’t facts and reason supposed to have won the day?”  But our facts bounce off like shells on strong armour. Our discoveries are dismissed as Fake News. And our reason is labelled conspiracy.  At least they think we’re clever.

As the sea levels rise and humanity divides itself into ever more hostile warring tribes, our side needs to cut through even more urgently.  Why don’t people understand? Why do they love the siren songs from the other side?  Such questions are no longer academic.

One man thinks he has some of the answer. Paul Hannam is a successful academic, businessman, best-selling author and psychologist. He specialises in teams and leadership. He sees the telling and reification of stories as essential to the way that humans see both themselves and the world. For Paul a story is like a deep psychological paradigm by which we perceive, interpret and act on the data which impinges on us at all times. And you won’t change anything unless you change that story.

Paul’s starting point is something called the Groundhog Day Theory. It means that many people have a single experience, which is always played out again and again in every new situation. For some it is always 1940, and Spitfires fill the skies.  For others, some long ago childhood sin which must be repeatedly redeemed, in a cycle of guilt and agony.  For most of us, Paul thinks it was implanted in the post war years. We were, it was said, to live in an exciting plastic future of ever more bright and shiny things. New homes. New cars. New improved cigarettes. Everything was going to be bigger. And there had to be more of it than anyone else had, because otherwise, well, you were just a loser. Your car, Mr Bond?

It was better than what had gone before, for some people. But it couldn’t last. However, Paul thinks better of us than we do ourselves. He thinks we are citizens, not consumers. And he also believes in the power of redemption, that we can change our own stories, and break free from the psychological chains which hold us. What’s more he can tell us how to do it.

Anyone concerned about the environment, extinction and pollution must surely know that we face some well financed and unscrupulous enemies, well able to tell stories of their own. As we move out into the world with our roadshows, events and messages, mere facts will not be enough. Every message we send must be tailored to our audience. To every different one, the message must nevertheless be the same: hope. And by that we have the story of purpose and meaning which the other side are now clearly

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seen to lack.

​Paul’s talk​ at the Horsham Climate Cafe on Saturday 3rd October entitled ‘A New Story if humans want to survive and evolve as a species​’ can be heard here.  Do listen and read his new book Significance​ ​which ​explains many of his ideas, and provides further matter to exercise the grey cells of interested readers. ​Try and rewrite your story and encourage family, friends, neighbours and colleagues to follow suit. ​​Then book your FREE Eventbrite ticket here to join us when Paul returns​ to ​the​ Horsham Climate ​Café on ​Saturday ​2nd January 2021 at ​2 until 3.30pm for a session entitled ‘New ​Year New Story​’​.

Paul Hannam’s books


Do you want to refocus your life on what matters most to you?

In Significance, Sunday Times bestselling author, personal development and leadership expert, Paul Hannam, explains how to refocus your life on what matters most, and respond to our turbulent times with an exciting and inspiring mindset that will help you thrive in the New Normal.

In 2020 the world changed and so did we. We began to re-evaluate and re-order our priorities in response to Coronavirus, lockdowns and the “new normal”. The pandemic has been a portal into a new world of possibilities, a time to focus on areas of your life that you had neglected or even to reinvent yourself.

This is a blueprint for reinventing yourself, and learning how to lead a significant life in the new era where kindness, simplicity and collaboration are more appreciated than self-interest, consumerism and individualism. This is a handbook of life skills for flourishing in the new normal and redefining your ideas of success, happiness and fulfilment. The contrast between a significant and insignificant life has never been clearer. Are you ready to choose?

The Wisdom of Groundhog Day

Paul Hannam has developed a programme based on the hidden, underlying roadmap to freedom found in the film Groundhog Day. Using research-based techniques, you will learn how to take control of your day, remove the blinkers and actually see and experience the real world around you, which will in turn enable you to let go of the past and achieve new levels of success. You will learn how to focus on and appreciate the things that truly matter: time, security, mental health and authentic happiness, and discover a life of joy and fulfilment – rather than just going through the motions.

The story of the film Groundhog Day is used here as a parable for change. This book is aimed at anyone who is sleepwalking through life, is trapped by routine and needs a major wake-up call. No more cruising on autopilot – make every day amazing.

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