The Art of Strengths Coaching

C is for The Caring Approach To Making A Contribution

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One approach to making a positive contribution is to start by clarifying the things you really care about. It is then to concentrate on doing these things. Here are some of the answers people have given to this question.

I care about:

Helping our children to be happy … Encouraging my daughter to use her talents … Helping my son to find work he enjoys … Looking after my partner as we get older … Doing my best … Encouraging other people … Creating beautiful things … Working for justice … Making films that inspire people to care for nature … Passing on knowledge to future generations.

If you wish, try completing the exercise below. This invites you to describe the many things you care about. You will probably fill several pages describing these things.

Although it can seem challenging, it can also be useful to rate the extent to which you care about these things. People sometimes find this helps them to clarify the important things they want to focus on in life. They then move these things to the top of their list.

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Later we will explore how you can concentrate on doing more of these things. Before then, however, let’s explore your successful pattern for doing things that make your soul sing.

The Caring Approach
In The Past

Looking back, when did you put your heart into doing something? You may have been teaching a class, inventing a product, designing a garden, writing a book or whatever. What did you do then to gain a sense of satisfaction?

Seth Godin, the marketer and blogger, wrote a piece about his early experiences learning the clarinet. Here are some extracts from the article. You can find the original via the following link.

When we care enough, we raise the bar

Starting at the age of nine, I played the clarinet for eight years. Actually, that’s not true. I took clarinet lessons for eight years when I was a kid, but I’m not sure I ever actually played it.

Eventually, I heard a symphony orchestra member play a clarinet solo. It began with a sustained middle C, and I am 100% certain that never once did I play a note that sounded even close to the way his sounded.

Practice is not the answer here. Practice, the 10,000 hours thing, practice alone doesn’t produce work that matters.

No, that only comes from caring. From caring enough to leap, to bleed for the art, to go out on the ledge, where it’s dangerous.

When we care enough, we raise the bar, not just for ourselves, but for our customer, our audience and our partners.

It’s obvious, then, why I don’t play the clarinet any more. I don’t care enough, can’t work hard enough, don’t have the guts to put that work into the world.

This is the best reason to stop playing, and it opens the door to go find an art you care enough to make matter instead. Find and make your own music.

As Jony Ive (Designer at Apple) said:

“We did it because we cared, because when you realize how well you can make something, falling short, whether seen or not, feels like failure.”

Seth also believes that it can be more fruitful to focus on what we care about, rather than being concerned with our calling. Here is a short piece he wrote on this topic.

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.

People feel strongly about lots of things. They can make their best contribution, however, by focusing on those aspects of these things that they can control.

Why? Because they care, they can feel frustrated. They see so much that needs to be done in the world. People are more likely to gain satisfaction, however, by concentrating on the parts where they can make a positive contribution.

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

Describe a specific time in the past when you concentrated on doing something you cared about and gained a sense of satisfaction.

Describe the specific things you did to concentrate on doing something about what you cared about.

Describe the specific benefits of concentrating on these things and doing what you cared about.

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The Caring Approach
In The Future

What are the things you would like to concentrate on doing in the future? You may aim to write a book, restore a lovely building, find your own way to plant seeds of hope or whatever.

Imagine that you want to make a contribution in a particular activity. As mentioned earlier, it can be useful to focus on the following principles. It can be useful:

To concentrate on something you really care about.

To concentrate on what you can control in this activity – rather worry about what you can’t control.

To concentrate on applying your strengths and doing you best to make a positive contribution

Ron Berger is somebody who has done this in his work. He cares deeply about education.

He wrote the following piece in his book The Ethic of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftsmanship with Students. You can discover more via the following link to a pdf about the book.

Ron Headshot

An Ethic of Excellence

I want a classroom full of craftsmen – students whose work is strong, accurate, and beautiful; students who are proud of what they do and respect themselves and others.

In my classroom I have students who come from homes full of books and students whose families own almost no books at all.

I have students for whom reading, writing, and math come easily, and students whose brains can’t follow a line of text without reversing words and letters.

I have students whose lives are generally easy, and students with physical disabilities and health or family problems that make life a struggle.

I want them all to be craftsmen. Some may take a little longer; some may need to use extra strategies and resources.

In the end, they need to be proud of their work, and their work needs to be worthy of pride.

Students need to do work they care about, says Ron. They can then learn how to improve their own work and get help from others. Below is an example of how this can be done in a short space of time.

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Let’s return to the things you want to put your heart into doing. Looking to the future, how can you continue to do these things? How can you concentrate on what you can control in these activities? How can you do your best to make a positive contribution?

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

Describe a specific thing you care about where you want to make a positive contribution.

Describe the specific things you can do to make a positive contribution in this activity.

Describes the specific benefits of doing these things and making a positive contribution.

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