The Art of Strengths Coaching

A is for Aiming To Be An Altruist, Artist, Architect, Artisan Or Achiever  

There are many ways to do fine work. You may choose to follow the way of being an altruist, artist, architect, artisan or an achiever. Sometimes you may also combine elements of each role.

Different people follow these routes in different ways. One approach is to build on your strengths and do satisfying work that helps other people to achieve success. Let’s consider the different ways that you can follow each of these routes.

The Altruist’s Way

Some people do fine work by following the altruist’s way. The normal view of altruism is to focus on helping others rather than being concerned with yourself. Here is one definition of this approach.

Altruism

Being unselfish and being devoted to the welfare of others. The opposite of egoism.

From the French altruisme – popularised 1830 by the French philosopher Auguste Comte.

Some people also see altruism as serving something greater than themselves. They may pursue a spiritual faith, a vocation or a mission. They aim to serve the cause rather than focus on themselves.

Psychology Today gives the following description of altruism. You can discover more via the following link.

Psychology Today Altruism

What Is Altruism?

Altruism is acting out of concern for another’s well-being. Often, people behave altruistically when they see others in desperate circumstances and feel empathy  and a desire to help. 

Altruism doesn’t always come easily, since by definition, it requires people to disregard their own concerns to help others.

“Reciprocal altruism” is a term used by evolutionary biologists and psychologists to characterize the decision to help with an expectation that one will receive some benefit or payoff to oneself.  

Even when people don’t expect recognition or reward for a good deed, they often feel energized and happy afterwards, a sensation sometimes called the ‘helper’s high.’ 

Cooperative behaviour allowed our ancestors to survive under harsh conditions, and it still serves a necessary purpose in a highly complex society.  

Humans aren’t the only animals who behave altruistically, though: Many species benefit when individual organisms disregard personal costs and act in service of the larger group.

There are many fine books that describe the altruist’s way. These include those written by Samuel Oliner and Pearl Oliner. You can discover more via the following link.

https://altruism.humboldt.edu/

The Altruistic Personality chronicles the activities of people who protected Jews during the Holocaust. Somewhere up to 500,000 non-Jews risked their own lives to rescue the victims of Nazi persecution.

These were ordinary people, say Pearl and Samuel. They were farmers, teachers, entrepreneurs, factory workers, rich and poor, parents and single people, Protestants and Catholic.

Different people helped the Jews in different ways. Some offered them shelter, some helped them escape from prison and some smuggled them out of the country.

The Rescuers committed themselves to helping Jews, knowing that capture would mean death for their families. Why?

Many rescuers said simply, “It was the right thing to do.” Individuals also said things like the following.

I was always filled with love for everyone, for every creature, for things. I am fused into every object. For me everything is alive. 

I sensed I had in front of me human beings that were hunted down like wild animals. This aroused a feeling of brotherhood and a desire to help. 

We had to help these people in order to save them, not because they were Jews, but because they were persecuted human beings who needed help.

Samuel wrote another book on this theme called Do Unto Others. In it he focuses on heroic, moral and philanthropic individuals who have translated these values into action.

In addition to well-known names, he describes the activities of hidden heroines and heroes in many countries. Here is the Introduction from the page on Amazon.

A passing motorist stops to help the passengers of a car that has crashed into an embankment. A hospice volunteer begins her shift in hospital ward caring for people with AIDS.  

A Vietnam chopper pilot stops the brutal execution of innocent civilians at Mylai by American soldiers. A firefighter responds to a routine call.  

All of these people are considered heroes, but what motivates such brave and altruistic acts, whether by trained professionals or just ordinary people?

In Do Unto Others, Holocaust survivor and sociologist Samuel Oliner explores what gives an individual a sense of social responsibility, what leads to the development of care and compassion, and what it means to put the welfare of others ahead of one’s own.  

Weaving together moving personal testimony and years of observation, Oliner makes sense of the factors that elicit altruistic behavior – exceptional acts by ordinary people in ordinary times.

Samuel discovered that many such people had learned optimism and concern for others from their parents. These qualities had also been reinforced by teachers, peer groups and communities they encountered.  

Later in life they were sometimes confronted by challenging circumstances. They then chose to translate their moral code into action.

Effective Altruism

The organisation called Effective Altruism focuses on how people can channel their desire to help others in effective ways. Here is an excerpt from their website. You can discover more via the following link.

https://www.effectivealtruism.org/

Effective altruism is about answering one simple question: how can we use our resources to help others the most?

Rather than just doing what feels right, we use evidence and careful analysis to find the very best causes to work on.

But it’s no use answering the question unless you act on it. Effective altruism is about following through. It’s about being generous with your time and your money to do the most good you can.

Most of us want to make a difference. We see suffering, injustice and death, and are moved to do something about them. But working out what that ‘something’ is, let alone actually doing it, is a difficult problem. It would be easy to be disheartened by the challenge. 

Effective altruism is a response to this challenge. It is a research field which uses high-quality evidence and careful reasoning to work out how to help others as much as possible.  

It is also a community of people taking these answers seriously, by focusing their efforts on the most promising solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.

Looking at your own life, when do you follow some elements of the altruist’s way? This could be in your personal or professional life.

You may do this by being kind, generous or helping other people. You may do so when serving something greater than yourself – such as a philosophy, a vocation or a particular cause.

Imagine that you want to do more of these things in the future. How can you translate these into action? What may be the benefits of doing these things?

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

Describe the specific things you can do to follow some elements of the altruist’s way. 

Describe the specific benefits of doing these things.

The Artist’s Way 

Some people do fine work by following the artist’s way. They see or experience things in a certain way and then translate this into creating a piece of art.

There are, of course, many forms of art. Here are some dictionary definitions of being an artist.

An Artist 

A person who paints, draws or makes sculptures. An artist may also be an actor, musician, dancer, film maker, designer or other performer.

A person who uses their imagination and skill to perform great work in a specific field. Such a person may be described as: “They are an artist at what they do.”

Different people have different strengths and so may express their artistic vision in different ways. They may do this by writing, painting, designing, building or using another media.

Some people use their experiences in a positive way and do work that encourages or inspires people. They may aim to create an article, book, film, TV programme or another product that offers a positive vision.

Some people use their experiences to share what they believe to be the essence or truth about something. They may want to convey a message, provoke a reaction or show another dimension. Their work will evoke different feelings in different people.

David Attenborough is somebody who has translated his caring for the planet into making television series. These have included Zoo Quest, Life On Earth and Blue Planet.

His work has inspired many people to appreciate life and our dependence on nature. Whilst continuing to follow the artist’s way, he has also been an activist in urging people to care for the planet. Here is a selection of his most memorable moments on television.

Looking at your own life, when do you follow some elements of the artist’s way? You may do this through writing, painting, singing, making music or pursuing another creative activity.

Imagine that you want to do more of these things in the future. How can you translate these into action? What may be the benefits of doing these things?

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

Describe the specific things you can do to follow some elements of the artist’s way. 

Describe the specific benefits of doing these things.

The Architect’s Way 

Some people do fine work by following the architect’s way. They love to shape, design and build things. They sometimes want to leave a positive legacy.

The original definition of an architect was a person who designed and constructed buildings. There are, however, other kinds of architects. These can include a person being the architect – the shaper – of an idea, a movement or a culture.

Great sports teams, for example, aim to have strong performers they call cultural architects. Such people are powerful influencers. They act as positive models and demonstrate high professional standards.

Different people act as architects in different ways. They may shape the environment in a family, school, team or organisation. The way they behave can have a profound influence on the people who live, learn or work within the culture.

Human beings love to design things. They love to create their version of paradise. Christopher Alexander, who wrote The Timeless Way of Building, said that great design helps us to feel alive. He explained his approach in the following way.

Architects nurse this desire at the centre of their lives, says Christopher. One day, somewhere, somehow, they want to create a building that is wonderful, a place where people can walk and dream for centuries.

Every person has some version of this dream, maintains Christopher. Some wish to create a house, a garden or a fountain. Others wish to create a relationship, a painting or a book.

There are many approaches to following the architect’s way. One approach is to design things that are simple, satisfying and successful. You can apply this approach to creating many different things.

Great design is simple – but in a profound way. It is satisfying on many levels – such as being user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing. It is also successful. Great design does what it sets out to do. It works.

Looking at your own life, when do you follow some elements of the architect’s way? You may do so when aiming to shape, design or build something in your personal or professional life.

Imagine that you want to do more of these things in the future. How can you translate these into action? What may be the benefits of doing these things?

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

Describe the specific things you can do to follow some elements of the architect’s way.

Describe the specific benefits of doing these things.

The Artisan’s Way 

Some people do fine work by following elements of the artisan’s way. They put their heart and soul into doing skilled work and delivering high standards.

Such people follow certain principles but also enjoying building on these to make creative breakthroughs. They prefer to work on a relatively small scale rather than do mass production. Here is one view of such a person.

An Artisan

An artisan (from French: artisan, Italian: artigiano) is a skilled craft worker who makes things on a small scale.

They make or create things by hand that may be functional or strictly decorative. These include food, furniture, sculptures, clothing and other items.

You will follow this path in your own way. One approach is when you do work that involves the heart, head and hands. (Here I am using the term ‘hands’ to denote using your whole being to do good work rather than just referring to your hands.)

Heart

Your heart wants to do the specific activity. You get positive energy even when thinking about doing the piece of creative work. You feel alive and it makes your soul sing.

Head

You keep thinking about how to do the piece of work. You keep exploring until you have a clear picture in your head about the strategies you will follow and how the product will look – the final picture of success.

Hands

You use your ‘hands’ – your whole being – to do the actual work. You build on your strengths and pursue practical strategies to do superb work. You keep going until the product matches your picture of success.

Looking at your own life, when do you follow some elements of the artisan’s way? You may do this when cooking, gardening, writing, painting, mentoring people or doing another activity.

Imagine that you want to do more of these things in the future. How can you translate these into action? What may be the benefits of doing these things?

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

Describe the specific things you can do to follow some elements of the artisan’s way.

Describe the specific benefits of doing these things.

The Achiever’s Way 

Some people do fine work by following the achiever’s way. They focus on doing a specific activity where they stand a good chance of delivering success. They then demonstrate the attitude and ability required to achieve the picture of success.

Imagine you want to follow this path in your own way. One approach is to go through the following steps.

Clarifying The
Picture Of Success

Start by focusing on specific activity you want to pursue. You may want to write an article, nurture a garden, encourage a person, run a workshop, build a business or do a particular project.

Choose an activity where – providing you do your best – you stand a good chance of achieving success. It can be useful to choose one that plays to your strengths and also gives you positive energy.

You can translate this activity into doing a specific project or piece of work. Looking at what you want to do, it can then be useful to clarify the real results you want to achieve.

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

Describe the specific thing – the activity, project or piece of work – you want to do.

Describe the real results you want to achieve.

Describe the benefits of achieving these results.

Attitude

Imagine that you have clarified the picture of success. Bearing this in mind, it can you be useful to explore the following questions.

What is it attitude I will need to demonstrate to deliver the desired results? How can I maintain a positive attitude? How can I encourage myself on the journey?

How can I continue to take responsibility? How can I control the controllables? How can I build on what I can control and manage what I can’t control?

How can I get some early successes? How can I anticipate and manage any challenges? How can I manage any setbacks? How can I build on any successes?

How can I manage my energy properly? How can I make the most use of my prime times – the times when I have most energy? How can I build in times for rest, reflection and refocusing?

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

Describe the rating you would give yourself in terms of having the attitude required to deliver the desired results. Do this on a scale 0-10.  

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

Ability

Attitude is a good starting point, but you will also need the right ability to deliver the desired results. This calls for having certain strengths, strategic thinking and skills.

You will, of course, need different qualities when working as a counsellor, chef, doctor, athlete, scientist, crisis manager, leader or in another role. Bearing in mind the pictures of success, it can therefore be useful to explore the following themes.

What are the results I want to achieve? What are the abilities I need to deliver these results? What are the strengths, strategic thinking and other skills I will need to demonstrate? 

Which of the required strengths do I have already? How can I use these strengths to achieve the goals? What other strengths may I need to develop or add in other ways – such as co-operating with other people – to deliver the results?

Which of the required strategic qualities do I have already? How can I use these to achieve the goals? What other strategic qualities may I need to develop or add in other ways – such as co-operating with other people – to deliver the results?  

Which of the required skills do I have already? How can I use these to achieve the goals? What other skills may I need to develop or add in other ways – such as co-operating with other people – to deliver the results?

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

Describe the rating you would give yourself in terms of having the ability required to deliver the desired results. Do this on a scale 0-10.

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

Achievement

Imagine that you are pursing your chosen activity. You will aim to build on your strengths, follow certain strategies and do superb work.

It will be important to demonstrate certain qualities on the way towards reaching the goals. Bearing this in mind, you may want to explore the following themes.

How can I apply myself properly when doing the work? How can I click into action and get some early successes? How can I keep following my chosen rhythm and do superb work?

How can I keep doing the basics? How can I maintain good habits? How can I keep doing the right things in the right way every day? How can I, when appropriate, add the brilliance.

How can I keep doing reality checks? How can I build on what is going well? How can I tackle areas for improvement? How can embody the ethic of constant improvement? 

How can I buy time to think when faced by challenges? How can I make good decisions? How can I then follow my chosen route and get the desired concrete results? 

How can I be a good finisher? How can I do what is necessary to deliver the goods? How can I, if appropriate, achieve the goal by adding that touch of class?

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

Describe the rating you would give yourself in terms of demonstrating the application and other qualities required to deliver the desired results. Do this on a scale 0-10.

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

As mentioned at the beginning, there are many ways to do fine work. You may choose to follow the way of being an altruist, artist, architect, artisan or an achiever. Sometimes you may also combine elements of each role.

Looking at your own life, when do you follow some elements of the achiever’s way? You may do this when pursuing a specific activity, doing a creative project or a performing a piece of work.

Imagine that you want to do more of these things in the future. How can you translate these into action? What may be the benefits of doing these things?

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

Describe the specific things you can do to follow some elements of the achiever’s way. 

Describe the specific benefits of doing these things.

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