The Art of Strengths Coaching

B is for Building Beautiful Things That Boost People

There are many ways to do fine work. One approach is to build on your strengths and build beautiful things that boost people. Different people choose different ways to take this path.

A teacher may create an inspiring classroom where children can learn and grow. A writer may produce success stories that show how people are taking practical steps to care for the planet. A nurse may show compassion in a hospice where people spend their final days.

A sports coach may create an environment where athletes are encouraged to become the best they can be. A psychologist may provide a framework that shows how people can increase their happiness. A leader may create a work place where people can do satisfying work.

Christopher Alexander, who wrote The Timeless Way of Building, said that great design helps us to feel alive. Human beings are natural designers. They love to create beauty and their own version of paradise. Here is an excerpt from his book in which he describes one approach to design.

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.

Looking back, can you think of a situation when you built on your strengths and aimed to create something beautiful that boosted people? This could have been in your personal or professional life.

You may have done it by showing kindness, cooking a meal, nurturing a garden or helping a person. You may have done it by playing music, renovating a house, leading a team or doing another activity.

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 aimed to build on your strengths and try to build something beautiful that boosted people.

Describe the specific things you did to take these steps.

Describe the specific things that happened as a result.

Piero Ferrucci is a psychotherapist who describes the importance of kindness and beauty. His books include The Power of Kindness and Beauty and the Soul. Here is an excerpt from his writing where he describes how many people show kindness in their daily lives and work.

However special it may sound it (kindness) is by no means exceptional. On the contrary, it comprises a great deal of human interactions. 

The fabric of our lives is made of care, solidarity, mutual service. These qualities are so embedded in our daily events that we may not even notice them.

Piero believes that kindness may be the main way to help both present and future generations. He explains that it can heal both people and the planet. 

Kindness is urgent in our relationship with our living environment. If we do not respect and love nature, do not treat her with loving kindness and the awe she deserves, we will end up intoxicated by our own poisons. 

It is up to us. It is a choice in the life of each of us – to take the way of selfishness and abuse, or the way of solidarity and kindness. In this exciting but dangerous moment of human history, kindness is not a luxury, it is a necessity. 

Being kind is taking a stand. By itself it may not help: Maybe our kindness will be ineffective … Never mind. We have affirmed a principle, a way of being.

My thesis is that true kindness is a strong, genuine, warm way of being … Kindness itself may seem lightweight, and yet it is a central factor in our lives. It has a surprising power to transform us, perhaps more than any other attitude or technique.

Beauty can help us to heal, feel alive and open our eyes, says Piero in Beauty and the Soul. It can help us to reconnect with our feelings, connect with other people and discover new dimensions.

Beauty is more than an extra, says Piero. It is a basic necessity of life. He describes this in the following way.

All of us, in one way or another, seek beauty. We know it brings happiness and wellbeing.

Some manage to see the inner beauty of people: generosity, intelligence, honesty. It is a beauty less evident, but deeper and more lasting.

Beauty, then, brings us back to the here and now. In the presence of beauty it is harder to be distracted. To follow the way of beauty means to live in a state of mindfulness that does not admit distraction or escape.

We are here with our whole being. This is our kairos, as it was called in ancient Greece: The moment of opportunity, the timeless instant when revelation comes.

Beauty is the perfect medicine, says Piero. Its side effects are positive, rather than negative. This is certainly true when it comes to people.

Moral beauty is alive and well. In fact both kinds of beauty exist – outer and inner. The former is more obvious, more likely to attract attention, more immediate, gratifying and short-term. 

The latter is subtler, deeper, usually needs more time to be perceived. And often it is not fully disclosed to the distracted eye. Physical beauty is a sprinter – it covers short distances faster. Beauty of the soul is a marathoner – it shows up over long distance.

Piero writes like a poet, but he supports this with facts. The book describes many studies showing the tangible benefits of beauty in schools, hospitals, work places and society.

Beauty nourishes the soul. But it may also be necessary for our survival as a species. You can discover more about Piero’s work via the following link.

Piero Ferrucci

Everybody can use their strengths to encourage people rather than depress them. Maya Angelou, for example, used her life experiences and talents to foster a belief in the human spirit. Believing in the power of love, here is one of her most famous quotes. 

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Maya acted as a positive model for people who had experienced setbacks. In the video below she describes some of the elements behind her poem Still I Rise. She then goes on to recite the poem which has inspired many people.

Paul Rogat Loeb has inspired many people with his books such as Soul Of The Citizen and The Impossible Will Take A Little While. Here is a description of the latter book. This is taken from his website, which you can find via the following link.

Paul Loeb

Loeb’s global anthology of political hopeThe Impossible Will Take a Little While: Perseverance and Hope in Troubled Times, creates a conversation among some of the most visionary and eloquent voices of our time.

These essays, poems, and stories, along with Loeb’s extended introductions, teach us how to keep on working for a more humane world, replenish the wellsprings of our commitment, and continue no matter how hard it sometimes seems.  

Loeb has included pieces that explore the historical, political, ecological and spiritual frameworks that help us to persist – with concrete examples of how people have faced despair and overcome it.  

The stories don’t sugar coat the obstacles. But they inspire hope by showing what keeps us keeping on – even when the odds seem overwhelming. They replenish the wellsprings of our commitment.

Paul underlines the message that what we focus on we become. Here are is what he says about the importance of spreading practical hope.

Hope is a way of looking at the world.

Even in a seemingly futile moment or losing cause, one person may unknowingly inspire another, and that person yet a third, who could go on and change the world, or at least a corner of it.  

Mandela called this process:

The multiplication of courage.

We live in a contradictory world. Dispiriting events coincide with progress for human dignity. But when change occurs, it’s because people persist, whatever the nature of their causes.  

“The world gets worse. It also gets better,” writes Rebecca Solnit in her wonderful essay Acts of Hope. Change comes, Solnit argues:

“Not by magic, but by the incremental effects of countless acts of courage, love, and commitment, the small drops that wear away stones and carve new landscapes, and sometimes by torrents of popular will that change the world suddenly.”

Maria Popova is another person who uses her strengths to boost people through her website called Brain Pickings. This aims to pass on knowledge that enables people to be creative and shape their future lives.

In one article Maria reflected on the lessons she had learned during her time writing the blog. These included the following tips for maintaining your own spirit during challenging times. You can discover more via the following link.

brainpickings

Be generous

Be generous with your time and your resources and with giving credit and, especially, with your words. It’s so much easier to be a critic than a celebrator. Always remember there is a human being on the other end of every exchange and behind every cultural artefact being critiqued.  

Build pockets of stillness into your life

Meditate. Go for walks. Ride your bike going nowhere in particular. There is a creative purpose to daydreaming and even boredom.  

The best ideas come to us when we stop actively trying to coax the muse into manifesting and let the fragments of experience float around our unconscious mind in order to click into new combinations.

Most important, sleep. Besides being the greatest creative aphrodisiac, sleep also affects our every waking moment, dictates our social rhythm and even mediates our negative moods.

Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time

This is borrowed from the wise and wonderful Debbie Millman, for it’s hard to better capture something so fundamental yet so impatiently overlooked in our culture of immediacy.  

The myth of the overnight success is just that — a myth — as well as a reminder that our present definition of success needs serious retuning.  

The flower doesn’t go from bud to blossom in one spritely burst and yet, as a culture, we’re disinterested in the tedium of the blossoming. But that’s where all the real magic unfolds in the making of one’s character and destiny.

Don’t be afraid to be an idealist

E.B. White, one of our last great idealists, was eternally right when he asserted half a century ago that the role of the writer is “to lift people up, not lower them down” – a role each of us is called to with increasing urgency, whatever cog we may be in the machinery of society.

Seek out what magnifies your spirit

Patti Smith, in discussing William Blake and her creative influences, talks about writers and artists who magnified her spirit – it’s a beautiful phrase and a beautiful notion.  

Who are the people, ideas, and books that magnify your spirit? Find them, hold on to them, and visit them often. Use them not only as a remedy once spiritual malaise has already infected your vitality but as a vaccine administered while you are healthy to protect your radiance.

There are many ways to plant seeds of hope. One approach is for a person to build on their strengths and build beautiful things that boost people.

Looking ahead, can you think of a situation when you may want to take these steps in your own way? This could be in your personal or professional life.

You may want to do it by encouraging a person, singing in a choir, passing on knowledge or doing another activity. You may want to do it in your work as a nurse, counsellor, scientist, crisis manager, leader or in another role.

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 build on your strengths and try to build something beautiful that boosts people.  

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

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result.

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