The Art of Strengths Coaching

B is for Choosing To Tackle Big Challenges Where You Can Be At Your Best

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Great workers choose to tackle big challenges where they can be at their best. They may take this step in their work as educators, athletes, mountain climbers or in some other role.

Such people actively seek out such opportunities. They put themselves in stimulating but challenging situations where they have a reasonable chance of success. They then aim to do their best and keep getting better.

Great athletes, for example, believe in the old saying that: ‘Iron sharpens Iron.’ They aim to improve by competing against top athletes at the highest possible level.

Looking back, can you recall putting yourself into a challenging situation where you aimed to do your best? You may have chosen to stand up to a bully to protect innocent people, manage a crisis, lead a pioneering team, communicate a difficult message to people or whatever.

What motivated you to tackle the challenge? How did you prepare ahead of time? What did you to perform at your best? What happened as a result of taking these steps?

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 tackle a big challenge where you could be at your best.  

Describe the specific things you did to be at your best when tackling the big challenge.

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

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Some people actively seek out challenges, whilst some wait for challenges to come along. Some people are proactive and continually aim to improve, whilst others wait for a crisis before they click into action.

People who do superb work go beyond being good at an activity. They have an obsessive desire to do certain activities and translate their strengths into action.

Great workers continually choose:

To build on their strengths

To do satisfying work

To achieve their picture of success.

They do this whether encouraging people, playing the guitar, fixing technical problems, designing gardens, building prototypes, finding solutions or pursuing certain kinds of activities.

Such workers demonstrate both creative strengths and character strengths. They go beyond just having ability. They demonstrate the attitude and application required to deliver achievement.

Lea Waters described this approach in an article she wrote for the Guardian on the theme of Finding Kids’ Strengths. Here is an extract. You can find the original via the following link.

Finding Children’s Strengths

Psychology researchers have been scientifically studying strengths for the past three decades and have categorised hundreds of different strengths into two broad categories:

Talent-based strengths (eg sporting prowess or being a wiz with technology);

Character-based strengths (eg capacity for kindness or being uncommonly brave).

Many of us unwittingly focus on talent, because this is easier to see than character, but character strengths are vital component of a life well lived and are important for overcoming adversity.

Character expands the arena of strengths. You may not have a son or daughter who makes the cut for a gifted program at school, but you’re sure to find aspects of their character that are virtuous and strong.

One key thing that these researchers tell us that a strength is something we perform well, perform often and get energised by.

(Lea is referring to The Strengths Book, written by Alex Linley, Janet Willars and Robert Biswas-Diener. See below.) 

For purposes of strength-based parenting then, we need to look out for the three elements of a strength in our kids:  

Performance (being good at something);

Energy (feeling good doing it);

High use (choosing to do it).

When you see your child do something well, do it with energy, and do it a lot, you’ll know you’ve unearthed a strength and this is when you can feel confident to help them “play to their strengths”. 

The Strengths Book

Imagine that you want to take these steps in your own way. You can choose to tackle the challenge and also be at your best with tackling it. Let’s explore these steps.

You can choose to
tackle a big challenge 

Looking to the future, can you think of a big challenge you would like to tackle? Consider one where you can aim to be at your best. Here are some answers that people give when answering this question.

The big challenge I want to tackle
where I aim to be at my best is to:

Work with children who have learning difficulties … Participate in a round-the-world yacht race … Make a film about how polar bears are surviving in Canada … Help military veterans to find satisfying work … Continue my mediation work with people who are experiencing conflict.

What would be your motivation to tackle the challenge? You may be seeking pleasure or avoiding pain. You may be feeling angry or want to achieve something special. You may also want to do something that helps other people.

Sometimes the motivation is inherent in the challenge. This was encapsulated in George Mallory’s famous answer when asked about why he wanted to climb Everest.

Because it’s there.

Mallory also explained that, on one level, climbing mountains could be seen as bringing little benefit to humanity. On another level, however, it embodied the essence of being human. He wrote:

What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money.

We eat and make money to be able to live. That is what life means and what life is for.

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Imagine you want to tackle a big challenge. What would be the benefits to you or other people?

On a scale 0-10, how motivated are you to reach the goal? Make sure it is at least 8/10. If so, it may be time to move on to the next step.

You can choose to be at your best
when tackling the big challenge 

There are various models for doing your best when tackling a big challenge. Many start by inviting you to answer the following questions.

What is your picture of success? What are the real results you want to achieve? What will be happening that will show you have achieved the picture of success?

What are the key strategies you can follow to give yourself the greatest chance of success? How can you build on your strengths – and compensate for any weaknesses – when following these strategies?

How can you do superb work? How can anticipate and find solutions to challenges? How can you do whatever is required to achieve the picture of success?

Let’s assume that you have answered these questions. It is then time to move on to being at your best when tackling the challenge. There are several models for making this happen. Let’s explore one of these approaches.

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Great workers prepare properly. They clarify the strategies they will pursue to reach the goal. They then make sure all the practical things are in place for pursuing these strategies.

Such workers also prepare psychologically. They rehearse how to pursue their chosen strategies and how to deal with any potential problems. They make sure they are mentally prepared to tackle the challenge.

Great workers then click into action. They follow their successful style and develop a working rhythm. Pursuing their chosen strategies, they keep doing the basics. They do the right things in the right way every day.

Such workers take time to re-centre. They may do deep breathing, go for a walk or develop other ways of seeing things in perspective. They relax, rehearse the next step and then go back into the arena.

Great workers keep doing the basics and, when appropriate, add the brilliance. They rise to the occasion by adding that touch of class. They do what is required to achieve the picture of success.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a big challenge you would like to tackle? This could be in your personal or professional life.

You may want to do something specific to encourage people, care for the planet, fight injustice, pass on knowledge, lead a team or pursue another activity. You may want to follow your vocation, serve a cause, test yourself or fulfil an ambition.

How can you be at your best when tackling this challenge? How can you prepare properly? How can you keep doing the basics? How can you, when appropriate, add the brilliance?

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

Describe the specific big challenge you may want to tackle where you can be at your best.

Describe the specific things you can do to be at your best when tackling the challenge.

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

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