The Art of Strengths Coaching

A is for Adventure, Application And Achievement    

There are many ways to live life. One approach is to see the things you do as an opportunity for adventure, application and achievement. Let’s consider some examples.

A nurse working in Accident & Emergency may see each day as an adventure. The daily work may be taxing yet also rewarding. One nurse explained this in the following way.

Every day is different in A&E. Some days are relatively quiet, but others are dramatic. We may get a rush of patients from road accidents, explosions or other events. We follow our mantra. This is:  

‘We aim to provide the best clinical care as quickly as possible. We also aim to allay the anxiety and distress that it is associated with accidents and emergencies. We aim to do this in the most caring way possible.’

The job is tiring. But it is wonderful to go home feeling you have done something meaningful and helped people.

Different people will express the themes of adventure, application and achievement in different ways. How they do this will depend on their profession.

An educator will look forward to passing on knowledge and helping the students to grow. A footballer will feel excited about playing in an important match and delivering high standards of performance. A designer will love creating things that are simple, satisfying and successful.

Looking back on your own life, can you think of a situation when you chose to see something as an adventure? What did you do then to apply yourself to the task? How did you get a sense of achievement?

You may have taken these steps when helping a person, writing an article, renovating a house or doing another activity. You may have done so when playing a sport, leading a team, building a prototype or tackling a challenge.

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 see it as an adventure, apply yourself and get a sense of achievement. 

Describe the specific things you did to take these steps. 

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

Robert Muller, an Assistant General Secretary of the United Nations, was somebody who reframed challenging situations as adventures. He adopted this approach even when his life was threatened.

One day during the Second World War he found himself trapped in an attic on the top floor of an hotel that also served as an office building. Several Nazis entered the reception area and asked people where they could find Robert.

How could he escape the hunters? Drawing on his positive attitude to life, Robert began thinking of creative solutions. He explained his approach in the following way.

I was a great fan of Hollywood films, so I decided to see the situation as taking part in a film. I was being hunted, so how could I find a way to escape?

David Gillies takes up the story in his biography about Robert called The Hatmaker’s Son. Here are excerpts from David’s book.

Robert took several deep breaths.

“I must overcome my fear and think rationally,” he decided. This was the moment of moments to be creative.

“What an opportunity, what a tremendous adventure – a 20-year old student trapped by Nazis in a fancy hotel. Won’t it be great if I slip through their fingers?” 

Robert took a few minutes to consider his options. The Nazis had some idea what he looked like, but they probably had an old photo. How could he take on a different persona?

They were also expecting to find a cowering student trying to hide in the milling crowds on each floor of the building. How could he be ingenious and do what the Nazis least expected?

Robert settled on his plan and began to put it into practice. This involved making his way down four floors from the attic and walking out onto the street.

Putting a thick file under his arm, he exuded an air of authority as he made his way from floor to floor. Nonchalantly smoking a cigarette, he passed various groups of people.

Reaching the ground floor he approached a group of Nazis who were quizzing the receptionist. She chose not to recognise him, even though she was being threatened.

Robert went up to the Nazis and asked what was happening. They replied they were looking for Louis Parizot (the name by which Robert was known in the building).

He responded by saying he had seen Parizot on the top floor. Just like in a film, the Nazis rushed up the stairs. Robert then made his way out onto the street and rode away on a bike.

Robert was sometimes asked where he had learned his positive approach to life. He described his philosophy in books such as Most Of All They Taught Me Happiness and A Planet Of Hope.

Robert was born in Belgium in 1923 and grew up in the Alsace-Lorraine region in France. He soon became aware of the artificial differences created by borders.

Interviewing his grandparents, he found they had been known as French, German, French, German and French again. All without leaving their village.

Looking back at family albums, he saw different generations of his family dressed in the soldier’s uniforms of different nations. He dreamed of creating a world where people lived in peace.

Robert was strongly influenced by his grandfather. Writing in Most Of All They Taught Me Happiness, he talks about how his grandfather taught him to count his blessings.

Here is an excerpt from his book. You can discover more via the following link.

http://www.robertmuller.org/happiness/

My grandfather was old, smiling, gentle, and in a constant state of love with me. He told me stories that were close to my world: the world of nature, animals, and legends.

Through his stories he transmitted to me the wisdom he had acquired in his life. I knew that he was telling the truth, for at his age he had no axe to grind and no interest in telling me lies. He sensed that I wanted basically to know the world as a beautiful place.

He knew that the world of the very young and of the very old is essentially the same, namely a world of miracles one is about to discover or to lose. We were much closer to the truth than middle-aged people. 

My grandfather taught me that every day in life I should be thankful for one of my blessings:

“You will never obtain everything in life, but you will always be blessed with so much.  

“Whatever your situation is, there will always be someone more unfortunate than you. Think of him and thank God for all the good things you have.  

“One day, remember how lucky you are to possess two eyes. There are many blind people in the world.  

“Think of them and be grateful for the wonderful world you can see: the flowers, the animals, the sunshine, the stars, the brooks, and the meadows. How terrible you would feel without eyesight. 

“Another day, when you eat, think of the hungry. A third day, when you play, think of the crippled. A fourth day, when you go to school, think of those who have no schools.

“When your mother kisses you, think of those who have no mother.  

“When you look at my grey hair, think of the beauty of youth. And many years hence, when you will be old, think how lucky you are to be still alive, to be blessed with one more day, to be wise, and to have a little grandson like you.” 

Today, whenever despair menaces me, the image of my grandfather comes back.  

I hasten to count my blessings, I concentrate on one of them, and almost forthwith my worry vanishes or takes on a more reasonable proportion.

Robert’s work is continued by his wife Barbara Gaughen Muller and many others around the world. They do this in the spirit outlined by Robert in his book A Planet of Hope. He wrote:

This is a good planet for humans: it provides endless room for human curiosity and for participation in the process of continued creation and evolution.

The greatest task confronting us is to determine what the right future should be. This planet must be managed so that each individual life can be a work of art.

Reframing nervousness as excitement

Simon Sinek has described another approach that focuses on adventure, application and achievement. He explains this in an interview he gave to the organisation called Capture Your Flag.

Simon explains how athletes sometimes reframe nervousness as excitement. They look forward to the possibility of performing and doing their best. He also describes how he has adopted this approach in his own life.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a situation when you may want to focus on adventure, application and achievement?

You may want to do this when helping other people, doing a creative project or tackling a difficult challenge. You may want to do it when playing a sport, giving a keynote speech, managing a transition or doing another activity.

Looking at the situation, what will be your goals? Bearing in mind what you can control, what are the real results you want to achieve? What is your picture of success?

How can you see the situation as an adventure? How can you prepare properly? How can you build on your strengths? How can you clarify the strategies you want to follow?

How can you be fully present and apply yourself in the situation? How can you keep doing the basics? How can you, if appropriate, add the brilliance? How can you do your best to achieve the 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 choose to see it as an adventure, apply yourself and aim get a sense of achievement.

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

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

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