The Art of Strengths Coaching

P is for The Positive Approach To Pursuing Your Purpose During Your Time On The Planet

There are many ways to live life. One approach is to choose to have a positive attitude. You can then pursue your purpose, principles and picture of success. It is to keep following this approach during your time on the planet.

People who take this approach are often positive realists. They have a positive attitude but are also good at reading reality. They are good at seeing patterns and anticipating what may happen. They then build on what they can control and manage what they can’t.

Such people develop a sense of purpose. Sometimes it means following a spiritual faith, a vocation or serving something greater than themselves. Sometimes it means focusing on short-term goals. Sometimes it means working towards their life goals.

They believe in following their principles and expressing these in their daily lives and work. They may choose to do this by, for example, encouraging people, doing satisfying work or helping to build a better world.

Such people sometimes translate their purpose and principles into achieving specific aims. They focus on the real results they want to achieve. They then translate these into working towards a clear picture of success.

Looking back, can you think of a situation when you chose to take some of these steps? You may have chosen to overcome a setback, pursue a stimulating project, tackle a challenge or do another activity that gave you satisfaction.

What did you do then to have a positive attitude? What did you to focus on the specific purpose, follow your principles and achieve your picture of success?

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 pursued a specific purpose, followed your principles and worked to achieve a picture of success.  

Describe the specific things you did to take these steps. 

Describe the specific things that happened as a result.

Imagine that you want to maintain a sense of purpose and pursue this in future. Let’s explore how you can take some of these steps in your own way. 

Choosing To Have
A Positive Attitude

People make choices every day. They can choose to be positive or negative, to be creators or complainers, to take responsibility or avoid responsibility. The choices they make have consequences, both for themselves and other people.

Alice Herz-Sommer was somebody who chose to be positive. A pianist and survivor of Nazi concentration camps, she continued to enjoy life well past the age of 100.

Alice’s view of life reached a wider audience after an interview she gave to the BBC became popular on the web. Here are some things she said in the interview.

Life is beautiful

I have lived through many wars and have lost everything many times – including my husband, my mother and my beloved son.

Yet, life is beautiful, and I have so much to learn and enjoy. I have no space nor time for pessimism and hate.

And life is beautiful, love is beautiful, nature and music are beautiful. Everything we experience is a gift, a present we should cherish and pass on to those we love.

Life brings pain and beauty, said Alice, but she focused on gratitude, love, kindness, nature, music and the joyful things in life. She said the secret of happiness is:

To focus on what is really important in life.

Caroline Stoessinger gave an insight to Alice’s approach in her book A Century of Wisdom: Lessons from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer. She provided a series of quotes in which Alice explained her philosophy. These included the following.

Gratitude is essential for happiness. Only when we are old do we realise the beauty of life.  

When I play Bach, I am in the sky. My world is music. Music is a dream. It takes you to paradise. 

I am richer than the world’s richest people, because I am a musician. Music saved my life. Music is God.

Every day is a miracle. No matter how bad my circumstances, I have the freedom to choose my attitude to life, even to find joy.  

Evil is not new. It is up to us how we deal with both good and bad. No one can take this power away from us.

My optimism has helped me through my darkest days. The more I read, think and speak with people, the more I realise just how happy I am.

When I die I can have a good feeling. I have done my best. I believe I lived my life the right way.

Here is a video in which Alice talks about her life and philosophy.

I learned a similar lesson about choosing to be positive during my early twenties when I was caring for older people in hospital. Jacko, as he wished to be called, was one of the people I looked after. He had lost the use of his lower body but he loved his food and continued to enjoy each day.

Part of my duties involved dragging small pieces of faeces from his bottom. Jacko asked me to count each piece during the process and he took great delight in reaching a certain number. Procedure over, he then looked forward to the food he was going to enjoy that day. He taught me about the joy of being alive each day.

Choosing To
Develop A Purpose

People love to have a sense of purpose. They love to do something they believe in and work towards achieving a stimulating goal.

Sometimes this can involve pursuing a short-term purpose, such as completing a satisfying task. Sometimes it can involve doing something each day towards achieving their life goals.

Some people seem to know their purpose at an early age, whilst for others it is a lifetime quest. Here are some of the approaches that people take towards developing a sense of purpose. We will then explore some of these approaches.

One view is that finding a sense of purpose can happen in a Eureka Moment. Another view is that it is more likely to develop over time. Let’s explore several approaches you can take towards making this happen.

Clarifying the things that
give you positive energy

One approach is to focus on doing things that give you positive energy. This can lead to exploring many themes and sometimes result in developing a compelling purpose.

Energy is life. Bearing this in mind, what are the things that give you positive energy? Here are some of the answers that people give when doing this exercise.

The things that give
me positive energy are:

Encouraging people … Spending time with our children … Cooking for friends … Caring for animals … Showing kindness … Nurturing gardens … Building boats … Teaching wellbeing.  

Helping people to find satisfying work … Fixing certain kinds of problems … Making things better … Working on new ways to treat cancer … Mediating disputes … Leading pioneering companies.

If you wish, try tacking the exercise on this theme. This invites you to explore the following themes.

Describe the things that give you positive energy in your personal and professional life.

Describe the specific things you can do to do more of these things in the future.

Clarifying the positive things
you want to give to people
during your time on the planet

Another approach is to explore the positive things you want to give to people during your time on the planet. Different people mention different themes when doing this exercise. Here are some of the answers they give.

I want: 

To give my family a loving home … To give people encouragement … To give my students hope … To give people nourishing food … To show people how they can take care of their health … To show people how to make use of their talents.

To give people tools they can use to build great organisations … To give people models they can use to build successful and sustainable systems … To pass on knowledge that helps both present and future generations.

Some people experience an interesting realisation when answering this question. They realise that the things they want to give to others may mirror the things they have been given in life. Some build on what they have written and translate this into a clear purpose.

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

Describe the positive things you want to give to people during your time on the planet. 

Describe the specific steps you can take to give these things to people.  

Describe the specific benefits of giving these things to people.

Clarifying something you really
believe in and serving
something greater than yourself

People often gain strength by doing something they really believe in. This often involves choosing to 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.

Different people choose to different things to serve. Here are some examples.

A spiritual follower may serve their faith … A nurse may help people to regain their health … A medical scientist may aim to find a breakthrough cure … A counsellor may help people to manage problems successfully.

A singer may serve the songs they sing … An architect may aim to make beautiful buildings … An environmentalist may make TV films that encourage people to appreciate the beauty of the Earth.

An educator may help students to shape their futures … A social entrepreneur may improve the quality of people’s lives … A mediator may find positive solutions to conflicts … A trusted advisor may pass on knowledge that helps other people to succeed.

A person who serves something greater than themselves is more able to withstand outside pressures. They keep focusing on what they really value in life. When in doubt, they go back to their inner compass and ask:

What do I believe in? How can I keep following these beliefs – even during difficult times? How can I take steps to translate these beliefs into action?

Such people also gain strength from recognising their tradition. Many people have followed this path in the past and others will follow it in the future.

Bearing this in mind, they realise they are not alone. They are part of something greater than themselves. Being aware of this tradition can help people to feel humbler yet stronger. It can encourage them to keep following this path in their own way.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Is there something that you really believe in doing? You may want to follow a particular faith, pursue your vocation or do a specific project. How can you translate this into action?

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

Describe the specific thing you really believe in doing. 

Describe the specific things you can do to do what you believe in. 

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

Clarifying your
positive goals

People often get a sense of purpose by choosing to work towards specific goals. Here are some of the aims that people mention when exploring this theme.

My positive goals are:

To appreciate life and maintain a sense of gratitude … To provide a happy childhood for our children … To help our teenage children to find and do work they love … To do satisfying work that helps other people.

To build a pioneering company … To keep stretching myself and achieve peak performance … To pass on knowledge that helps people to shape their future lives … To do work that helps to build a better world.

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

Start by brainstorming ideas and then whittle these down to the top three positive goals you want to focus on in life. If appropriate, write these in headline terms and then add examples that bring these to life.

Move on to describing the benefits of achieving these goals – both for other people and yourself. It can be useful to keep focusing on the benefits, especially when you need to motivate yourself. Here is the exercise.

Clarifying
your purpose

Imagine that you have done some of the earlier exercises. It can then be useful to focus on clarifying your purpose.

Many people’s primary purpose, of course, is simply to get access to the basics of life. They spend their days focusing on how to get food and be healthy.

Many other people have access to these basics. Some then simply want to accumulate money, but some want to go further. They want to give to others and pursue a satisfying purpose.

Here are some of the ways that individuals describe their sense of purpose. They may, however, express these in different ways.

I want to be kind in my daily life and work … I want to help people to build on their strengths and achieve their picture of success … I want to show people the power of slow thinking … I want to spread positive news across the planet.

I want to enable people to shape their futures … I want to create enriching environments in which people can grow … I want to create beautiful things that bring people joy and give them positive memories for life.

I want to help people to see what they have in common and find peaceful solutions to conflicts … I want to ensure that as many people as possible have access to clean water … I want to develop pioneering technology that provides people with cheap renewable energy.

Viktor Frankl, the author of Man’s Search For Meaning, spent much of his life helping people to find their meaning in life. Below is a video from 1972 in which he explores this theme. He said:

Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfilment.

Some people may have a number of overlapping purposes. This is important to bear in mind if a person starts agonising about trying to find the one big thing they should focus on in their life.

Seth Godin underlined another key point. He said that it could sometimes be more fruitful to focus on what we care about rather than being too concerned with our calling. Here is a short piece he wrote on this topic.

Seth Godin

In search of your calling

I don’t think we have a calling. I do think it’s possible to have a caring.

A calling implies that there’s just one thing for you, just one thing you’re supposed to do. 

What we most need in our lives, though, is something worth doing, worth it because we care.

There are plenty of forces pushing us to not care. Bosses, systems, bureaucracies and the fear of mattering.

None of them are worth sacrificing something as important as caring.

As we have seen, there are many ways to begin developing your purpose. We will soon move on to the exercise that invites you to take this step.

Before doing this, it can be useful to revisit several of the earlier exercises. These have invited you:

To clarify the things that give you positive energy. 

To clarify the positive things you want to give to people during your time on the planet.

To clarify the things you really believe in and to serve something greater than yourself.

To clarify your positive goals.

There are, of course, many other themes you can explore to develop  a sense of purpose.

Looking at the answers that you have given, can you see any recurring theme or themes? Bearing these in mind, what may be one of the things you feel really compelled to do in your life? Can you summarise this in a one-liner?

Different people give different answers to this question. The answer I give, for example, is:

I want to be a positive encourager and help to build a positive planet.

Some individuals answer by describing the philosophy they want to follow in their personal and professional life. Some describe a personal strength they want to use to serve others. Some describe a specific passion they want to pursue.

As mentioned earlier, there are some things to bear in mind when describing your purpose. It is important:

To focus on something you feel really compelled to do. 

To begin clarifying your purpose by writing a one-liner that begins with the words ‘I want to …’ 

To recognise that it may take a lifetime to get the wording right, but this one-liner can give a pointer to your purpose.

Here is the exercise on defining a purpose. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific thing you really want to do. 

Describe the specific things you want to do to translate this purpose into action.

We will revisit this second part – translating the theme into action – later in the article. For the moment, however, it can be useful to begin thinking about the specific things you can do to follow your purpose. Here is the exercise.

Choosing To Follow
Your Principles

Imagine that you have begun to clarify your purpose. You may want to encourage other people, create beauty, help people find satisfying work, pass on a positive legacy or pursue another activity.

How you can you translate this into action? One approach is to clarify the principles you want to follow in your daily life and work. The Dalai Lama says, for example:

My religion is kindness.

He therefore tries to express kindness in his daily life when communicating with people, giving television interviews and doing other activities. He keeps focusing on the core drivers in his life.

Many individuals take this approach. They clarify their purpose and the principles they want to follow to translate this into action. They aim to express these principles in personal and professional situations.

Such individuals then return to their centre. They relax, re-centre and refocus. This enables them to keep drawing strength from the central beliefs in their life. They then explore how they can follow their principles in the next situation.

A person who takes this approach is more likely to be centred. They keep returning to their inner compass. They then focus on how they can follow their chosen principles in the different situations they encounter in life.

Looking at my own life, for example, there are several principles I aim to follow in situations. These are:

To be a positive encourager.

To help people to build on their strengths and achieve their picture of success. 

To help to build a positive planet.

I try to follow these principles when meeting people, mentoring, running super team workshops and writing. The aim is to provide practical tools that people can use to achieve their picture of success.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Imagine that you have done some work on clarifying your purpose. What are the principles you want to follow to translate this purpose into action?

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

Describe your purpose – the specific thing you want to focus on doing. 

Describe the principles you want to follow to translate this purpose into action.

Describe the specific things you can do to translate these principles into action.

Clarifying Your
Picture Of Success

Imagine you are clear on your purpose and the principles you want to follow. What are the goals you want to achieve by taking these steps? What is your picture of success? Let’s look at the path that one person took to pursue his aims.

Richard St. Barbe Baker chose to dedicate his life to showing people the value of planting trees. This epiphany came about at a young age.

Writing in his book My Life My Trees, he describes how in 1894, at the age of five, he had an unforgettable experience that charted his future path.

After much coaxing, his nurse allowed him to explore the woods by himself. He continues:

No explorer of space probing the secrets of other planets could have felt more exultation that I did at that moment.

Soon I was completely isolated in the luxuriant, tangled growth of ferns which were well above my head. In my infant mind I seemed to have entered a fairyland of my dreams.  

I wandered on as in a dream, all sense of time and space lost. I became intoxicated with the beauty all around me, immersed in the joyousness and exultation of feeling part of it all.

I had entered the temple of the wood. I sank to the ground in a state of ecstasy; everything was intensely vivid – the call of a distant cuckoo seemed just for me. The overpowering beauty of it all entered my very being.

At that moment my heart brimmed over with a sense of unspeakable thankfulness which has followed me through the years since that woodland re-birth. 

I was in love with life: I was indeed born again, although I could not have explained what had happened to me then. 

Richard was a changed person. Returning from his walk in the woods, he found the commonplace things in life had a new beauty.

The bread he ate tasted crustier and more delicious. The grumpy old gardener looked like a favourite uncle. His parents gave him even more affection than they had done the previous day.

At least, that was how it seemed. Twenty-six years later he translated this passion into his life’s work.

He visited Kenya in 1920. Enlisting the backing of chiefs and elders, he started a programme that led to planting over one million trees. He then co-founded The Men of Trees and was invited to speak around the world.

After helping President Roosevelt to establish the Civil Conservation Corp, he instigated the Save The Redwoods campaign in California. He also started the Green Front action group, returning to Africa to develop re-forestation work in the Sahara. During his life Richard is believed to have personally planted many millions of trees.

He focused on a crystal clear vision. He wanted to save the Californian Redwoods. After crossing America and seeing the trees for the first time in 1931, he wrote:

It was here that I came upon superb trees representing the supreme achievement of tree growth in the world today. Here it seemed that my search for the beautiful had ended.  

This, I decided must be known as the ‘Grove of Understanding’. It was here that I visualised international plays and youth gatherings. What better setting could there be in which to plan the better world of tomorrow?

Richard then set three goals that he worked towards during the rest of his life. These were the following.

To save the trees for posterity.  

To provide a magnificent backdrop where young people could meet and marvel at the beauty of the Redwoods and the planet.  

To inspire young people to work together to hand over this legacy to future generations.

Here is the first part of an interview with Richard. This was filmed in 1981.

Some people, like Richard, have a grand vision. Many people, however, set shorter-term goals. They then translate these into a clear picture of success.

Imagine that you have begun to develop a sense of purpose and the principles you want to follow. It can be useful to look ahead and translate these into specific goals.

You may want to keep building a loving family, help students to take charge of shaping their futures or enable people to find satisfying careers. You may want to write a book, make films, build a pioneering company or deliver a stimulating project.

Looking ahead, what are the real results you want to achieve? What will be the benefits – both for yourself and other people?

Describe your purpose – the specific thing you really want to do.

Describe the specific results you want to achieve by pursuing your purpose and following your chosen principles.

Describe the specific benefits of achieving these results.

Super Teams Often Pursue
Their Purpose, Principles
And Picture Of Success

Great teams also focus on their aims. There are many models for building such teams and the following section looks at one approach.

Super teams create a positive environment in which motivated people can achieve peak performance. They believe that people work best if they have context and can see the big picture. Bearing this in mind, they make sure that everybody understands the team’s purpose, principles and picture of success.

Such teams then give people the chance to reflect and decide if they want to contribute. If so, they encourage people to build on their strengths and clarify their best contributions.

Super teams are made up of people who choose to have a positive attitude and be professional. They also want to perform superb work and do their best to help the team to succeed.

Such teams make clear contracts with people about the results they will deliver towards achieving the goals. They also give people the support they need to deliver the goods.

Super teams then manage by outcomes rather than by tasks. They encourage people to co-ordinate their strengths, perform superb work and find solutions to challenges. People then do whatever is required to achieve the picture of success.

Imagine that you lead a team. The following sections provide a framework that you can use to clarify and communicate the team’s purpose, principles and picture of success. People can then make clear contracts about their best contributions towards achieving the goals.

This is an approach that I have used hundreds of times with teams in organisations. There we have used the framework of focusing on the 3 Ps – Profits, Products and People. But you may use another framework for clarifying your team’s aims.

As mentioned earlier, there are many ways to live life. Some people choose to have a positive attitude. They then focus on their purpose, principles and picture of success.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a situation when you may want to take this approach? You may want to do this when encouraging a person, managing a transition, tackling a challenge or doing another project.

Looking at the situation, what can you do then to have a positive attitude? How can you clarify the purpose – the specific thing you really want to do? How can you follow your chosen principles? How can you do your best to achieve your picture of success?

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 pursue a specific purpose, follow your principles and work to achieve a picture of success. 

Describe the specific things you can do then to take these steps.

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

W is for The Wholistic Approach To Wellbeing, Work And Wealth

There are many ways to look at work. One approach is to take a wholistic view. It is to focus on getting the right blend between wellbeing, work and wealth. Different people may face different challenges to get the right blend.

Some people may do stimulating work in pioneering companies but, at the same time, neglect their health. They may work long hours in the hope that one day they will sell the business and get a pot of gold. This wealth will then give them the chance to take care of their wellbeing.

Some people may work in organisations that put pressure on them to work long hours in relatively boring jobs. They may also be heavily supervised in ways that stifle their autonomy or do not allow them to play to their strengths. This can affect their health.

Each person will find their own way to manage these challenges. One key point to remember, however, is that it is often about finding the right blend. This is different from the old idea of life-work balance.

Great workers, for example, may absorb themselves deeply in their work for long periods of time. They do not necessarily do a 9-5 shift. They love to do rewarding work, but also recognise the need to recharge.

Such people may aim to enjoy both quality of life and quality of work. This calls for finding ways to blend their wellbeing, work and wealth. Let’s explore how it may be possible to make this happen.

Wellbeing

The most obvious approach to wellbeing is to make sure that everybody has the basic materials for life. They will then be able to shape their own health, hope and happiness.

People who have these basic materials are then more likely to explore other aspects of their wellbeing. Imagine that you want to do this in your own way.

How do you rate your present state of health? There are several aspects to consider. These include your physical, psychological and philosophical health. We all want to care for our wellbeing, but sometimes we get wake-up calls.

We may carry a cold for months, feel emotionally exhausted, lose a sense of purpose or experience a crisis. It may then be time to reassess our lives and work. Let’s explore how to maintain the various aspects of your health. 

Physical Health 

On a scale 0 – 10, how do you rate your physical health? Nowadays many people take more responsibility for their bodies. They exercise, eat better food and go for yearly check-ups.

How do you maintain your health? Do you ever get warning signs? One person explained this in the following way.

“My wake-up call came three years ago when climbing several flights of stairs.

“After the second flight I suddenly felt out of breath. This was something I had not been aware of before, probably because I normally took lifts.

“My professional life consisted of flying twice a week, eating unhealthy snacks and doing little exercise. There were two options.

“I could carry on with the same schedule, which would mean getter fatter. Or I could take care of my body. I chose the latter. 

“This called for developing a sustainable lifestyle rather than doing a crash programme. So I began running on weekends and slowly increased the exercise. 

“During the day I grazed on regular healthy snack. These replaced eating heavy meals at lunch and the evening. 

“Finally, I changed job. The flying had become a chore, with trips to the airport increasingly exhausting. Now I feel much better and have more energy.”

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to rate your physical health on a scale 0-10. It then invites you to describe the specific things you can to do maintain or improve the rating.

Physical Health

The rating I would give myself regarding
my physical health is: ___ / 10

The specific things I can do to
maintain or improve the rating are:

* 

*

*

Psychological Health

On a scale 0 – 10, how do you rate your psychological health? Do you have a positive attitude? Do you have encouraging people around you? Do you have fulfilling work?

The key for many people is feeling in control. Being able to shape their future plays a key part in determining their psychological health. One person explained this in the following way.

“A great breakthrough for me came when learning about the concept of controlling the controllables.

“Whatever is happening around me, I need to focus on what I can control, even if it is simply choosing my attitude’ 

“This has given me a different perspective on life.”

During the past fifty years there has been lots of research on the characteristics of people who are happy. Such people often have a sense of gratitude. They also have a positive attitude and develop a sense of purpose. Here are some of the findings from these studies.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to rate your psychological health on a scale 0-10. It then invites you to describe the specific things you can to do maintain or improve the rating.

Psychological Health 

The rating I would give myself regarding
my psychological health is: ___ / 10

The specific things I can do to
maintain or improve the rating are:

* 

* 

*

Philosophical Health

On a scale 0 – 10, how do you rate your philosophical health? Do you find ways to develop a sense of purpose? Do you feel true to yourself? Do you have clear life goals? Do you do something each day to work towards your picture of success?

Everybody wants to enjoy a sense of meaning. Sometimes this comes encouraging their children, doing satisfying work or making a positive contribution each day. Sometimes it comes from serving something greater than themselves – be it following a faith, a calling, a tradition or whatever.

People like to see a connection between the actions they take each day and pursuing their overall life goals. Looking at your own life, how can you continue to make this link?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to rate your philosophical health on a scale 0-10. It then invites you to describe the specific things you can to do maintain or improve the rating.

Philosophical Health

The rating I would give myself regarding
my philosophical health is: ___ / 10

The specific things I can do to
maintain or improve the rating are:

* 

* 

*

There are many things people can do to maintain their physical, psychological and philosophical health. Their sense of wellbeing is often affected by what they do at work, however, so let’s explore this theme.

Work

There are many views on how to do work that maintains your wellbeing. People who do satisfying work sometimes focus on fun, freedom and fulfilment. Those who hate their jobs feel imprisoned and frustrated. Let’s explore these themes in your work.

Fun

Looking back on your life, can you think of a time when you did work that was fun? Certainly there may have been some tough times, but overall you really enjoyed the work. What made it fun?

You may have been following your vocation, doing things you loved, spending time with positive people or whatever. You may have been doing work that involved your heart, head and hands.

Sometimes it can be challenging to find or create such work. One person expressed this in the following way.

“I’d like to do work I enjoy, but it is so difficult.”

Perhaps so, but try doing work you hate. That is more difficult. What the person may mean is:

“I would like to do work I enjoy, but it is hard to find somebody to pay me for doing it.”

Great workers often begin their professional journey by doing work they love. Later they develop the savvy to get paid for using their strengths to help customers or employers to achieve success.

Some people feel stuck in roles they do not enjoy but then decide to move on. They make a serious plan to find more satisfying work and earn a salary. One person explained this in the following way.

“I decided to go back to my specialism rather than do general management. It took six months to make the shift.

“I began by leading more specialist projects within the business. Eventually this led to me giving up my director title and leading projects in different countries across EMEA.  

“I feel happy focusing on what I do best. General management was just an endurance test. Now I have much more fun in my work.”

Let’s assume that, for the time being, you want to focus on your present work. If you wish, try tackling the following exercise. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the extent to which you have a sense of fun in your work. Rate this on a scale 0 – 10. Bear in mind that anything below 7/10 is a danger signal.

Describe the specific things you can do to maintain or improve the rating.

Fun 

The extent to which I have a
sense of fun in my work is: ___ / 10 

The specific things I can do to
maintain or improve the rating are:

* 

* 

*

Freedom

People want to feel in control of shaping their destiny. Daniel Pink highlighted this theme in his book Drive. Here is an introduction to his findings regarding what motivates people to do good work.

Autonomy – this is the desire to direct our own lives; 

Mastery – this is the urge to get better and better at something that matters;  

Purpose – this is the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

You can discover more about Daniel Pink’s approach via the following link.

Daniel Pink

Great organisations recognise these themes. They therefore focus on managing by outcomes rather than by tasks. They also expect people to be more self-managing, however, and deliver high professional standards.

Daniel’s work provides many pointers to how we can enable people to take charge of their working lives and deliver the goods. Here are some quotes from the book.

“Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives.”

“The science shows that the secret to high performance isn’t our biological drive or our reward-and-punishment drive, but our third drive – our deep-seated desire to direct our own lives, to extend and expand our abilities, and to live a life of purpose.”

Many fulfilled people seem to have a freelance mentality. They may or may not be freelancers, but they feel in charge of shaping their futures. The specialist mentioned earlier expressed this in the following way.

“I now feel more in control of my professional life. I still work for the same company. But I now feel more in control of my diary and contribution to the business.”

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

Describe the extent to which you have a sense of freedom in your work. Rate this on a scale 0 – 10.

Describe the specific things you can do to maintain or improve the rating.

Freedom 

The extent to which I have a sense
of freedom in my work is: ___ / 10

The specific things I can do to
maintain or improve the rating are:

*

* 

*

Fulfilment

Looking at your present work, imagine that you would like to shape it into something fulfilling. Bear in mind, however, that it can take time to craft your perfect role.

As mentioned earlier, there may come a point where you want to move on to find another role. Before doing that, however, you may want to explore some of the following themes regarding your work.

The Fulfilling Parts

What are the fulfilling parts of my work? What are the specific projects, tasks and other activities that I find satisfying?  

Who are the kinds of customers and colleagues with whom I enjoy working? How can I use my strengths to help these people to achieve success?

How can I craft a role around my strengths? How can I get my first three customers – internal or external – and help them to succeed?

How can I produce some tangible successes – financial or otherwise – that show my employers the benefits of doing this work? How can I keep producing successes and develop my perfect role?

The Frustrating Parts 

What are the frustrating parts of my work? How can I manage these parts more successfully? What percentage of my time do I spend on: a) The fulfilling parts; b) The frustrating parts? 

What percentage of my time am I prepared to spend on the frustrating parts? At what point will I decide it is vital for me to focus on the fulfilling aspects of my work? What may be the trigger that gets me to look elsewhere to find another role?

How can I be proactive? How can I explore the potential future roles rather than be reactive? How can I do my best to find or create a fulfilling role in the future?

Creative people recognise that stimulating opportunities are not always advertised. They often create such roles by being savvy and showing the tangible benefits. This calls for developing win-wins for both for themselves and their employers.

People who take this step are more likely to enjoy a sense of fun, freedom and fulfilment in their work. This can make a positive contribution to their wellbeing.

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

Describe the extent to which you have a sense of fulfilment in your work. Rate this on a scale 0 – 10.

Describe the specific things you can do to maintain or improve the rating.

Fulfilment 

The extent to which I have a sense
of fulfilment in my work is: ___ / 10 

The specific things I can do to
maintain or improve the rating are:

* 

* 

*

Wealth

There are many views about what constitutes wealth. As mentioned earlier, it is vital to ensure that people have the basic materials for life. This basic wealth helps them to be more able to shape their futures.

Some people may be driven to make lots of money. They may want to feel secure, provide for their children and achieve a particular view of success. Some people find this approach works; other find that there is a heavy price to pay when aiming for a pot of gold.

Some people recognise that finance is vital but they also have a wider view of wealth. Paul Hwoschinsky explored this approach in his 1990 book True Wealth. This inspired many other people to write books on the topic.

Paul invited people to focus on non-financial forms of wealth. These could include their health, life-experiences, relationships, enjoyable activities, strengths and resilience. They could also include their imagination, creativity, vision, connection with nature, knowledge, perspective and other assets.

Different people describe different things when focusing on what they believe to be real wealth. Here are some of the things they say.

Real Wealth For Me Is:

Being with our children … Sharing memories with my partner … Walking with our dogs … Working in the garden … Listening to music … Enjoying the food we cook … Appreciating beauty.

Doing work I love … Encouraging people … Seeing people develop … Being creative … Finding solutions to challenges … Feeling contented … Being alive after a serious illness … Seeing every day as a bonus.

Looking at your own life, what do you consider to be your wealth? You may have certain financial assets such as some money, a house and material possessions.

What other kinds of wealth do you enjoy? How can you appreciate and build on these things? What kinds of wealth would you like to have in the future? How can get these things whilst also caring for your wellbeing and doing rewarding work?

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

Real Wealth

The specific kinds of wealth that
I have in my life and work are:

* 

* 

*

The specific things I can do to appreciate
and build on these kinds of wealth are:

* 

*

*

The specific kinds of wealth I might like to add in
the future without hurting my wellbeing or work are:

* 

* 

* 

People who appreciate their wealth are often generous. They have an abundance philosophy and want to help others to grow. They also believe in finding win-win solutions.

People who don’t appreciate their wealth may be grumpy. They sometimes have a scarcity philosophy and want to stop others developing. They may start fights that result in collateral damage.

Tom Rath is a generous person who has made an enormous contribution to helping people to improve their wellbeing. He led the Gallup Organization’s work on strengths and employee engagement. Whilst there he wrote books such as StrengthsFinder 2.0, Strengths Based Leadership and Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements.

Moving on, Tom explored how people could take care of their health and make their best contribution. This led to him producing books such as Eat Move Sleep, Are You Fully Charged? and Life’s Great Question. 

Tom has been interested in wellbeing since discovering he had a genetic cancer condition that posed huge health challenges. Learning from his own experiences and studies, he turned his attention to health in modern societies.

This led to him writing Eat Move Sleep which has enabled many people to improve their lifestyles. Below are excerpts from a Question and Answer session in which Tom described why he wrote the book.   

After writing business books for more than a decade, I realised that improving health is the biggest business challenge of our generation. 

Nothing breaks household finances, corporate balance sheets, or national economies faster than poor health.

But the much larger reason why I decided to focus all of my time and energy on this topic is because I was tired of seeing people that I care about suffer unnecessarily and die early.

We are literally killing ourselves, sapping our energy, and destroying our wellbeing as a result of lousy decisions we make about our health each day.

The vast majority of human disease and illness is preventable. There are hundreds of specific, proven actions we can take to increase our odds of living longer and stronger.

What matters most are the small decisions we make each day, ones that give us more energy in the moment and also prevent illness in the future.

These three elements – eating, moving, and sleeping – build on one another. Eating right makes it easier to be active. Being active makes it easier to sleep. Sleeping well helps you to avoid bad foods, and so on.  

Building on these themes, Tom explored how people could manage their energy. He then wrote Are You Fully Charged? This provided many practical tips that people could use to improve the quality of their lives and work.

Moving on, Tom focused on how people could make their best contributions during their time on the planet. This led to him writing Life’s Great Question.

Here are some excerpts from a description of the book. You can discover more about Tom’s work via the following link.

Tom Rath

Life’s Great Question: What are the most
meaningful contributions you can make?

Life is about what you do that improves the world around you. It is about what you create that improves lives.

It is about investing in the development of other people. And it is about efforts that will continue to grow when you are gone.

Yet our current means for summarising life’s work, from resumes to salaries, are devoid of what matters most.  

This is why the work we do is often bad for our wellbeing, when it should be making us happier and healthier.

We need a whole new way to think about and describe the contributions we make through our life’s work.

It is about doing things that are meaningful that serve the world while improving your wellbeing.

There are many ways to rewarding work. One approach is to take a wholistic view. It is to get the right blend between wellbeing, work and wealth. This can provide a platform for encouraging people and making your best contribution to the planet.

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

Describe the specific things you can do to get the right blend between your wellbeing, work and wealth.  

Describe the specific benefits – for both yourself and other people – of doing these things.

D is for The Delight, Discipline And Delivery Approach  

There are many ways to do fine work. One approach is to clarify what would delight your key stakeholders. These may be your loved ones, friends, customers, colleagues or other people.

Bearing in mind Read more

W is for The Win-Win Approach

There are many ways to try to solve differences. One approach is for people to aim to – as far as possible – get win-win solutions. These are more likely to achieve long term Read more

P is for The Positive Solutions Approach rather than The Paralysed By Problems Approach  

Different people take different approaches to tackling challenges. The approach they take can have consequences for both themselves and other people.

Some people focus on positive solutions. They are often aware of challenges but Read more

P is for The Positive Encourager’s Way

There are many ways to live life. This article explores the positive encourager’s way. It looks at how we can encourage people during our time on the planet.

Different people support others in different Read more

P is for People Who Have Perspective

There are many ways to live life. Some people aim to be positive, follow their principles and maintain a sense of perspective

Such people often take time to reflect and focus on what is Read more

T is for Top Performances

There are many ways to do fine work. One approach is to focus on a specific activity where you may have the ability to deliver top performances. It is then to develop the temperament, Read more

S is for The Strengths Approach To Focusing On People’s Strengths, Successful Style And Success

There are many ways to help people. The strengths approach provides practical tools they can use to build on their strengths and follow their successful style to achieve success.

This is an approach that Read more

C is for Co-ordination Being Crucial

Great organisations recognise that co-ordination is crucial. Why? Getting creative people to combine their talents can be a challenging task at the best of times. Co-ordinators ensure that people channel their efforts towards achieving Read more