The Art of Strengths Coaching

F is for Fighting Spirit, Flow And Fulfilment

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There are many ways to do fine work. One approach is to demonstrate fighting spirit and then flow on the way towards finding fulfilment.

Great workers often have a burning desire to achieve a specific goal. They balance this drive with the ability to stay calm and follow their chosen rhythm. They do fine work and sometimes, as a by-product, find fulfilment.

Different people demonstrate fighting spirit in different ways. They may fight for something or against something. They may aim to protect human values, serve a cause, follow their vocation, make full use of their talents or whatever.

Looking at your own life, can you think of a time when you followed some of these steps in your own way? You may have taken these steps when doing something you believed in, playing in a sport, performing creative work, helping another person, pursuing a mission or whatever.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the past when you chose to demonstrate fighting spirit and flow on the way towards achieving fulfilment.   

Describe the specific things you did to follow some of these steps in your own way.

Describe the specific things that happened as result of taking these steps.

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Fighting Spirit

There are many definitions for this quality. Here we are talking about people:

Who have the burning desire to do something.

Who translate this into action and do superb work.  

Who keep doing their best and overcome setbacks on the way towards achieving their picture of success.

Different people demonstrate this quality in different ways. Anita Roddick, for example, showed it when starting The Body Shop. She may have appeared to be an idealist, but she was remarkably savvy.

Anita learned the can do attitude from her Italian parents. They ran an American-style Diner cafe in Littlehampton, Sussex, during the 1950s.

Opening at 5.00 am to cater for the fishermen’s breakfast, they kept serving throughout the day until the last customer was satisfied. Anita served in the cafe from an early age and felt what it was like to handle money.

Gilly Mckay and Alison Cork take up the story in their book The Body Shop. Anita’s apprenticeship proved invaluable when starting the first shop in Brighton in 1976. Here are some extracts from their book. She said:

When I opened the doors, I was not thinking about changing the world. I simply had to take £1000 in the first week to feed the baby and pay the bills.

Anita had learned to provide good service that attracted and retained customers. Believing that retail is theatre, she tried to create a good atmosphere in the shop. She describes this in the following way.

With £4000 borrowed from the bank I could only afford to spend £700 on products. But the 20 products we formulated looked pretty pathetic all standing on one shelf. So to make the shop look busy and full I produced them in five sizes of bottles.

I couldn’t afford fancy packaging so I bought the cheapest bottles available and the labels were handwritten.  

We painted the ceiling of our tiny shop green to cover the damp patches and put garden fencing on the walls to stop rain splashing the products.

The first day we opened was a Saturday and we took £100. The other retailers in the street were laying odds of 10-1 against our surviving six months, but we were on our way.

Looking to the future, can you think of a specific situation in which you may want to demonstrate fighting spirit? How can you do this in your own way? How can you translate your burning desire to do something into action? Let’s move on to the next step.

Flow

Great workers who demonstrate fighting spirit are often passionate about what they are doing. But they may then need to make an interesting switch. They may need to channel their passion into being calm and going into the flow mode to achieve peak performance.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi pioneered much of the work in this field. He wrote the book Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. He says that flow experiences are those where you become completely absorbed in an activity and time goes away.

flow

You start by choosing to do something stimulating and stretching. This could be writing, skiing, solving a problem, tackling a challenge or whatever. You may then go through the following stages.

You concentrate fully on what you are doing, set clear goals and believe you have a chance of achieving success.

You have a sense of control over your actions, do the work and get immediate feedback.

You experience a deep and effortless involvement that removes the frustrations of everyday life.

You find your concern for self disappears, but paradoxically your sense of self emerges stronger.

You find the experience is so enjoyable that your sense of time disappears.

You do your best, keep developing and perhaps achieve your picture of success.

Great workers often create a framework they can follow to reach their goals. They then follow a rhythm that enables them to flow, focus and do fine work.

Such workers also aim to flow, rather than freeze, when tackling a challenge. They may be preparing to give a keynote speech, run in a sprint final, sing at an audition or whatever.

Looking ahead to the challenge, they explore how they can do their best and clarify their picture of success. They then take some of the following steps.

They recall the principles they have followed to flow in similar situations.

They rehearse how they can follow these principles – plus maybe add other skills – to flow in the future situation.

They rehearse how they can manage any potential setbacks in the situation.

They relax, re-centre and go through their own rituals before clicking into gear when going into the situation. 

They continue to be fully present, give their best and flow, focus and finish.

Mihaly says that teams can also go into a state of flow. Here is how he describes one example.

Surgeons say that during a difficult operation they have the sensation that the entire operating team is a single organism, moved by the same purpose.

They describe it as a ‘ballet’ in which the individual is subordinated to the group performance, and all involved share in a feeling of harmony and power.

Great teams are made up of people who have their equivalent of fighting spirit. They then create a framework that enables people to flow. They pursue strategies that enable people: a) To play to their strengths; b) To perform superb work; c) To achieve success.

Looking to the future, can you think of a specific situation in which you may want to flow? How can you flow, focus and do fine work? Let’s move on to the next step.

Fulfilment

Different people get fulfilment in different ways. They may gain it from helping other people, making full use of their talents or reaching a specific goal. Some people gain it from doing their best during their lives.

There are many exercises on this latter theme. One of these is called My Positive Contribution. This invites a person to describe the positive things they want to give to people during their time on the planet. Here is the exercise.

My Positive Contribution  

The positive things I want to give to
people during my time on the planet are:

1) I want to … 

2) I want to …

3) I want to …

A person can focus on the positive legacy they want to leave. They can then aim to do something towards achieving these goals each day. Taking these steps can help them to gain a sense of fulfilment.

People want a sense of meaning in their lives and work. Viktor Frankl highlighted this in his classic book Man’s Search For Meaning. Here is an old video of him talking about this to a class in 1972.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a situation in which you want to focus on fighting spirit, flow and fulfilment? You may want to follow your vocation, pursue a mission, do a specific project, work towards a life goal or whatever.

How can you demonstrate fighting spirit on the way towards achieving this aim? How can you follow your chosen rhythm and flow? How can you gain a sense of fulfilment? What will be the benefits to you and other people?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the future when you may want to demonstrate fighting spirit and flow on the way towards achieving fulfilment.  

Describe the specific things you can do then to follow some of these steps in your own way.  

Describe the specific things that may happen as result of taking these steps.

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    T is for Succeeding Twice When Tackling A Challenge  

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    There are many ways to define success. One approach is: a) To succeed by being true to yourself when tackling a challenge; b) To tackle the challenge successfully. You will then have succeeded twice.

    It is also possible to fail twice. One leader expressed this in the following way.

    It is important to do what you believe in when running an organisation. Some people fail to follow their values and also fail to build a good organisation. They have then failed twice.

    Bronnie Ware highlighted the importance of people being true to themselves in her book The Top Five Regrets Of The Dying. She spent many years working in palliative care. You can discover more on her website via the following link.

    http://bronnieware.com/

    Many of the people she met found peace towards the end of their lives. The top regret some of them mentioned, however, was:

    I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

    Looking at your own life, can you think of a situation when you were true to yourself and tackled a challenge successfully? You may have chosen to behave in a certain way when following your values, taking a tough decision, leading a project or whatever.

    If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

    Describe a specific situation when you were true to yourself and also tackled a challenge successfully.

    Describe the specific things you did to follow your values and tackle the challenge successfully.

    Describe the specific things that happened as a result of taking these steps.

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    Many people feel fulfilled when taking this route, but sometimes things do not always work out. A person can follow certain combinations when tackling a challenge. Let’s explore each of these options.

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    Being true to yourself
    and succeeding

    This sounds the ideal and some would say it is quite idealistic. Many people have followed this path, however, to follow their values and also tackle a challenge successfully.

    Rosa Parks chose to stay where she was sitting, for example, rather than move to the back of the bus. This sparked a boycott that eventually led to the desegregation of bus passengers in Alabama. Many years later she would say:

    I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.

    John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach, chose to follow certain principles when working with athletes. He never mentioned winning but his teams won more titles than any other in College basketball history. His view of success was:

    Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.

    During his early career he began developing what later became known as his famous Pyramid of Success. This consisted of guiding principles that athletes could follow both on and off the court.

    The base of the pyramid consists of phrases such as Industriousness; Friendship: Loyalty; Cooperation; Enthusiasm. Behind each of these words is an explanation. The word Industriousness, for example, is explained in detail. This includes the phrases:

    In plain language, I mean you have to work – and work hard. There is no substitute for hard work. None. Worthwhile things come only from real work.

    There are several levels to the Pyramid of Success. It culminates in the principle of Competitive Greatness. This is explained as:

    Perform at your best when your best is required. Your best is required each day.

    You can discover more via the Coach Wooden website. Here is a link to the Pyramid of Success.

    http://www.coachwooden.com/pyramid-of-success

    Being true to yourself
    and not succeeding

    There may be times when you follow your values and yet do not tackle the challenge successfully. This can lead to a period of reflection and asking fundamental questions. One approach is to focus on the following themes.

    Continuous Improvement

    The specific things I did will
    when tackling the challenge were: 

    * 

    *

    *

    The specific things I could
    have done better and how were: 

    *

    *

    *

    The specific things I can do to keep building on I
    did well and keep improving in the other areas are:

    * 

    * 

    *

    Not being true to yourself
    and not succeeding

    This is the nightmare scenario. One leader described how he had taken this route in a previous position.

    Early in my career I led a motivated project team that delivered great results. This led to many of the team being promoted.  

    The Managing Director asked me to repeat the good work by turning around a failing department. Several managers had tried to improve the department, but with little success.

    My instincts told me that we needed to bring in positive people who would add zest and energy, but there was a limited budget. Bearing this in mind, I tried to motivate the present staff.

    The team members were polite rather than aggressive, but they refused to do what was required to thrive in a changing world. Many were customer shy.

    They needed to spend more time face-to-face with customers, for example, and help them solve their business issues. They preferred to stay in the office, however, and do everything from their desks.  

    I spent six months trying to convince people about the need to change, but it didn’t work. Eventually the department was integrated into another part of the business and I found a job elsewhere.

    The lesson I learned was that you have to get the right people in place as quickly as possible. You then have a fighting chance of achieving success.  

    Nowadays I set things up to succeed. When applying for a role, I gather information and clarify the picture of success.  

    Bearing in mind what I can control, I rate the chances of success. If it is 7+/10, then I look at what can be done to improve the rating. I then decide if I want to go for the role.  

    Meeting the prospective bosses, I try to show that I understand the world from their point of view and the results they want delivered. The next steps are:

    To reassure them that I can deliver the results.  

    To explain how I will get some quick successes and keep them informed about the progress towards achieving the goals. 

    To explain the resources required to deliver the results.  

    I have learned it is important to reassure prospective bosses, but clear contracting is crucial. It is vital to set things up to succeed, otherwise it is easy to become a victim.  

    Not being true to
    yourself and succeeding

    This is an interesting combination. Some people know how to play the game and succeed, for example, but feel uneasy inside.

    A person may take this route to pass an exam, make a sale, win an argument or whatever. They know what is required and know they are good at it. At the same time, however, they may feel empty inside.

    Some people start off on this route with the best of intentions. They may aim to get a job with a good income, rise through the corporate ladder or gain recognition from authorities. For some individuals, however, they reach a point where they say:

    I am successful, but I am not happy. I want to do things that have more meaning in life.

    Not everybody who takes this route feels concerned, of course, but some do. The key lies in how they want to measure their lives.

    This is a theme that was highlighted by Clayton Christensen in the book he co-wrote with James Allworth and Karen Dillon called How Will You Measure Your Life? Looking at his own life, Clayton asked the following questions.

    Is there something that I can leave the world that is something bigger than me? Something that will help other people become better people? How will I measure whether I am achieving that goal?

    Below is a video in which he describes how such questions led to him writing an article for the Harvard Business Review. This then led to producing the book.

    Here is an excerpt from the website dedicated to this theme. You can discover more via the following link.

    http://www.measureyourlife.com/ 

    As you may know, in the middle of 2010, I wrote a piece for the Harvard Business Review entitled How Will You Measure Your Life?

    The article was the result of a conversation I have with my students at the conclusion of the semester.

    On that day, we use the thinking we’ve shared in the course for a powerful purpose – to ensure they are successful not just in their careers, but in their lives as well.

    I believe it’s my single most important class of the year.

    The reaction to that article was beyond my wildest expectations – it has consistently been among the most read articles on HBR’s website and inspired comments from readers all around the world.

    Many of the people who were moved by it asked me to expand my thoughts into a full-length book.

    Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a situation where you may be able to succeed twice? This could be in your personal or professional life.

    What may be the challenge? How can you follow your values in this situation? How can you also do your best to tackle the challenge successfully?

    If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

    Describe a specific situation in the future when you may aim to be true to yourself and also tackle a challenge successfully.  

    Describe the specific things you can do then to follow your values and tackle the challenge successfully.

    Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of taking these steps.

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