The Art of Strengths Coaching

S is for Sages

There are many ways to help people to develop. One approach is to learn from sages.

Different people are seen as sages in different fields. Whatever field they focus on, however, they often demonstrate some of the following qualities.

They aim to be sage-like

They are often humble and serve something greater than themselves. They may serve a spiritual faith, a set of values or a particular mission.

They aim to be kind. They try to see things in perspective, think before they speak and help other people.

They aim to share knowledge with people

Sages have an interesting relationship to wisdom. They recognise that considering themselves to be wise automatically disqualifies them from having this quality.

They like to draw on eternal wisdom, however, and also provide practical tools that work. They love sharing knowledge with people.

They aim to help people to succeed

They believe in the educational view that ‘the learner learns what the learner wants to learn’. Bearing this in mind, they often start by clarifying what a person wants to explore.

They then share knowledge in ways that a person can use in their life and work. Sages like to encourage and enable people to achieve their picture of success.

Looking back, can you recall a situation in which somebody demonstrated some of the characteristics of a sage? They may have been somebody you knew or somebody you have heard about. What did the person do to demonstrate these sage-like qualities?

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

Describe a person who you believe demonstrated some sage-like qualities in a specific situation.

Describe the specific things they did to demonstrate sage-like qualities in the situation.

There are several definitions for somebody who is seen as a sage. Here are some views.

A Sage Is:

A profoundly wise person … A person who has wisdom based on experience … A person who demonstrates prudence, calmness and good judgement.

Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism, also had a view on the role of the sage. Here he talks about how such a person is generous in thought and deed.

The sage does not hoard. The more he helps others, the more he benefits himself. The more he gives to others, the more he gets himself. The Way of Heaven does one good but never does one harm. The Way of the sage is to act but not to compete. 

Different people take different routes towards demonstrating these qualities. One view is that they sometimes go through the following stages.

The Sage’s Journey

The person starts off by being a student and studying an activity that they find fascinating. They may then become a worker who translates this fascination into their daily work.

At some point they may want to pass on knowledge to other people, so they become a teacher. Then comes the most dangerous phase. They may want to become a guru. Sometimes they move on, however, and become a sage.

The guru wants followers, but the sage wants to give things away. They want to enable people to use the knowledge in their own ways. Sages feel part of something greater than themselves. Bearing this in mind, they realise they will always be students.

It is then time to go around the circle again. They restart the journey and aim to help people along the way. As Jiddu Krishnamurti said:

“The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.”

Let’s explore some of the qualities that such people demonstrate.

They aim to be sage-like

They aim to be humble, kind and see things in perspective. As mentioned earlier, Sages often serve something greater than themselves. A person will aim to serve their loved ones and they may also choose:

To serve a spiritual faith, a set of values or a philosophy

To serve a purpose, a mission or a cause

To serve a vocation, a creative drive or a project

People often want to serve a cause even though they may be not around to see the fruits of their labours. Doing what they believe in helps them to feel alive and able to give to other people.

Rabindranath Tagore believed that we sometimes find ourselves through the act of service. The writer, philosopher and educator expressed this in the following way.

They aim to share
knowledge with people

Sages are like good educators. Whilst able to share knowledge, they want people to make up their own minds in their own way. Before sharing ideas, for example, they ask themselves some of the following questions.

They aim to help
people to succeed

Sages often start by clarifying what a person wants to explore or the goals they want to achieve. Different people have different aims in life.

Some people simply want to be loved, happy and find peace. Some want to become the best they can be. They want to build on their strengths, do satisfying work and achieve their picture of success.

Some may aim to regain a sense of control in their lives. They may want to overcome setbacks and refocus on their life goals. Some may want to find creative solutions to challenges.

Some may aim to do satisfying work that pays a salary. Some may aim to do pioneering work on their chosen field. Some may aim to build a superb organisation that enables its people to achieve peak performance.

Some may aim to use their talents to help other people. They may want to plant seeds of hope that encourage future generations. Some may want to help to build a positive planet.

Sages often focus on a person’s drive, development and delivery. They ask some of the following questions.

Drive

What is the person’s drive? What do they really want to do? What are the reasons they want to do these things? What will be the benefits of doing these things – both for themselves and for other people?

What are their specific goals? What are the real results they want to achieve? What is the picture of success? What will be happening that will show they have achieved their picture of success?

Development 

How do they want to develop? How can I help them to develop in these ways? How can I help them to build on their strengths? How can I help them to manage the consequences of any weaknesses? What is their successful style of working? How can I help them to follow this style in the future?  

When have they tackled similar challenges successfully in the past? What did they do right then? How can they follow similar principles – plus maybe add other skills – in the future? What are the key strategies they can follow to give themselves the greatest chance of success?

Delivery

What do they want to deliver? How can I help them to deliver these things? How can they follow the strategies most likely to achieve success? How can I help them to be effective and then deliver excellence?

How can I help them to encourage themselves on the journey? How can I help them to develop the habit of constant improvement? How can I help them to become the best they can be? How can I help them to achieve ongoing success?

Sages aim to share knowledge that helps other people to succeed. Sometimes they do this by using the second simplicity. What does this mean?

During the early years a person may see things in simple terms. They believe in love, peace, beauty and building a better world. But then comes complexity.

They go to work, enter university, write in long sentences, join big companies, incur debts and make compromises. They say: “Life is not that simple.”

But then comes another shift, perhaps triggered by a crisis that clarifies what is important in life. They move onto the second simplicity, which is a profound simplicity.

A person may return to their original philosophy, but experience has brought wisdom. The pains and pleasures of life bring an extra timbre to their voice. Speaking from the depths of their being, their words resonate more deeply.

Sages have wisdom in their bones. They make complicated things simple, but in a profound way. They pass on positive models and practical tools that people can use to achieve their pictures of success.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a situation in which you would like to demonstrate some of the sage-like qualities? This could be in your personal or professional life.

You may want to show these qualities as a friend, partner or colleague. You may want to show these in your role as a counsellor, nurse, manager, coach, leader, trusted advisor or whatever. You will, of course, demonstrate these qualities in your own way.

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

Describe a specific situation in which you would like to demonstrate sage-like qualities.

Describe the specific things you can do to demonstrate some of these qualities. 

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of you demonstrating these qualities.

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