The Starfish Story

Group size:  Any

Purpose:  To increase awareness of the meaning and benefit of one’s purpose in a change process.

Props Needed

  1. The Starfish story – can either be copied as a handout or projected on a screen.

Activity Preparation

  1. Prep time needed: 5 minutes
  2. The activity can be accomplished in any setting; individual or group setting.

Time needed

  • Directions: Facilitator will read the Starfish story, or have a group member read the story.
  • Activity: 10 – 20 minutes, with discussion.
  • Debrief: 10 minutes; may be more with larger group size.


  • The activity can be accomplished in any setting: individual or group setting.
  • Participants may be seated in a classroom or gathered around in a circle

Activity Directions:

  • Have participants find a seat – they may be seated in classroom style or round circle group.
  • If you are projecting the story on to a screen, have participants face the projected image or story.
  • Explain the purpose of the activity
  • Read Facilitator’s Script and The Starfish story

Facilitator script: “Today’s activity is designed to explore the meaning and benefit of one’s purpose in a change process.  When we think about recovery and wellness, sometimes the process may seem overwhelming. Sometimes we may feel like we are getting nowhere. One may think an easy solution is to give up when there are so many perceived obstacles in your recovery and wellness journey. Let’s take time to listen closely to The Starfish Story. “

The Starfish Story:  (based on the story by Loren Eiseley)

A young boy was picking up objects off the beach and tossing them out into the sea. An old man approached him and saw that the objects were starfish. “Why in the world are you throwing starfish in the water?” he asked. “If the starfish are still on the beach when the tide goes out and the sun rises, they will die” the boy replied. “That is ridiculous. There are thousands of miles of beach and millions of starfish. You can’t really believe that what you’re doing could possible make a difference!” The young boy reached down to carefully pick up another starfish, and remarked as he tossed it out into the waves, “It makes a difference to this one.”


You see the boy knew that we can make a difference to every person we come in contact with. The choice is ours as to what type of impact we have on a person. We can do things that hurt them or we can do things to help them. Today we have the opportunity to help those we come in contact with.



  • What was your experience as you listened to the story?
  • What thoughts were you aware of?
  • What are some of the challenges one faces that may seem overwhelming?
  • What might be getting in your way when you look at the bigger picture?
  • How does perseverance help in accomplishing our goal(s)?
  • What are two small steps you will focus on to strengthen you recovery and wellness?

Recovery / Wellness Metaphor: Participants have an opportunity to look at how they are impacting the people they come in contact with. We may have spent time hurting others but today as a result of living in recovery we can learn to help others and make a big difference in their lives.

Role of Facilitator: Take time to debrief the story with participants, helping them explore their perceptions that may keep them off track from their recovery. Gradually move to small steps, easily achievable, to help group participants see success in one small step at a time.

Variations: this can be accomplished in individual sessions or given as homework.

Reference: The Starfish story is adapted from “The Star Thrower”, authored by Loren Eiseley (1907-1977),  published in The Unexpected Universe (1969).