The Art of Strengths Coaching

C is for Doing Creative Work That Has Charm

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There are many ways to do fine work. One approach is to do creative work that has the ability to fascinate or charm people in a positive way.

Different people do this in different ways. They may make films, design buildings, run workshops, write books or do other work that evokes positive feelings.

Sometimes this involves having the courage to do creative work that shows another way of looking at the world. The pioneering messages are given in an attractive way, however, that people find uplifting.

David Attenborough did it when making films about wildlife. Frank Lloyd Wright did it when designing houses. Virginia Satir did it when creating a pioneering model of family therapy. Martha Graham did it with her contribution to dance. The Beatles did it when launching a revolution in music. Victoria Wood did it with her work in comedy. Muhammad Ali did it in the world of boxing.

Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland, did it in her work with The Elders. Richard Feynman did it when introducing people to the world of physics. Johan Cruyff did it when playing soccer. David Cooperrider and Diana Whitney did it when creating the positive model for organisational development called Appreciative Inquiry. Alexander Calder did it when creating joyful works in art.

Such people are true to themselves. They follow their convictions and have steely resolve. They also recognise, however, that it is important to evoke feelings of warmth and wonder.

On the other hand, some people in public life seem to have lost their ability to communicate in ways that provide hope. They evoke feelings of indifference or antipathy. They seem to have little charm.

Despots aim to use manipulative charm, of course, and create a culture of hate. They aim to mesmerise their audiences by blaming scapegoats and whipping up hysteria. This can be dangerous and can lead to committing acts that hurt other people.

Let’s return to the theme of charm that has positive effects. Looking at your own experience, can you think of a person or a piece of work that you believe evokes such feelings?

This could be in any field. You may admire a person or piece of work that involves compassion, art, sports, films, design or other activity.

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

Describe a person or a piece of work that you believe has some of the qualities associated with charm.

Describe the specific qualities that the person or piece of work has that are associated with charm.  

Describe the specific benefits that result from the person or piece of work having these qualities.

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Let’s explore three steps that some people take to do work that has charm. 

Courage

Courage comes in different forms. Sometimes this means having courage in your convictions and doing work that comes from your heart.

Looking back, when did you do work that involved the heart, head and hands? This may have been in your personal or professional life.

Your heart believed in what you were doing and your head had a clear strategy for making it happen. You then used your ‘hands’ in the broadest sense – such as your whole being – to create something you believed in.

Sometimes it means having moral courage. It means speaking up for the values you believe in or standing up to despots. It does not mean giving in to bullies – and seeing innocent people being hurt – for your own gain or for getting elected.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the French author and pilot, displayed several different kinds of courage. During the Second World War he returned from a safe haven in North America to fly for the Free French Airforce in the Mediterranean and North Africa.

He is best known for his fable The Little Prince. Many people have also been inspired by his other books, such as Flight to Arras, Night Flight and Wind, Sand and Stars. Antoine wrote:

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.

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He found his freedom in the skies. It gave him another point of view. Returning to earth, he wrote books about flying and about life.

Antoine believed that human beings could achieve great things, but sometimes they were restricted by the surroundings that killed their creative spirit. Writing in Wind, Sand and Stars, he describes taking a train journey when he pondered on the possibilities within each human being.

I sat down face to face with one couple. Between the man and the woman a child had hollowed himself out a place and fallen asleep.  

He turned in his slumber, and in the dim lamplight I saw his face. What an adorable face!  

I bent over the smooth brow, over those mildly pouting lips, and I said to myself: This is a musician’s face.

This is the child Mozart. This is a life full of beautiful promise. Little princes in legends are not different from this.  

Protected, sheltered, cultivated, what could not this child become.  

When by mutation a new rose is born in a garden, all the gardeners rejoice. They isolate the rose, tend it, foster it.  

But there is no gardener for men. This little Mozart will be shaped like the rest by the common stamping machine … This little Mozart is condemned. 

What torments me tonight is the gardener’s point of view … It is the sight, a little bit in all these men, of Mozart murdered.

Antoine believed in translated his beliefs into action. Sometimes this called for summing up courage that was not always present. He believed it was more rewarding to be true to himself, however, rather than shirking away from his duty.

At one point he wrote the following prayer that spurred him to action.

Lord, I’m not praying for miracles and visions, I’m only asking for strength for my days. Teach me the art of small steps.

Make me clever and resourceful, so that I can find important discoveries and experiences among the diversity of days. 

Help me use my time better. Present me with the sense to be able to judge whether something is important or not.

I pray for the power of discipline and moderation, not only to run throughout my life, but also to live my days reasonably, and observe unexpected pleasures and heights. 

Save me from the naive belief that everything in life has to go smoothly. 

Give me the sober recognition that difficulties, failures, fiascos, and setbacks are given to us by life itself to make us grow and mature. 

Send me the right person at the right moment, who will have enough courage and love to utter the truth!

I know that many problems solve themselves, so please teach me patience.

You know how much we need friendship. Make me worthy of this nicest, hardest, riskiest and most fragile gift of life.

Give me enough imagination to be able to share with someone a little bit of warmth, in the right place, at the right time, with words or with silence. 

Spare me the fear of missing out on life. 

Do not give me the things I desire, but the things I need. 

Teach me the art of small steps!

Creativity 

There are many views about creativity. Sometimes it can involve finding creative solutions to challenges. It can mean seeing patterns and making creative breakthroughs. It can involve building on your strengths and producing something special.

Sometimes it can mean combining ideas from different fields and making breakthroughs. It can involve building prototypes that deliver success. It can lead to creating your idea of paradise. It can mean creating a paradigm that provides a new view of the world.

Creativity often involves elements of design. Christopher Alexander, the pioneering architect, said that we can sometimes recognise great design by the fact that it helps us to feel alive. He wrote in The Timeless Way of Building:

Each one of us has, somewhere in his heart, the dream to make a living world, a universe.

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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. He described how this is embodied in his own field of architecture.

There is one timeless way of building. It is a thousand years old, and the same today as it has ever been. 

The great traditional buildings of the past, the villages and tents and temples in which man feels at home, have always been made by people who were very close to the centre of this way.

If you have a feeling-vision of the things – a painting, a building, a garden, a piece of a neighbourhood – as long as you’re very firmly anchored in your knowledge of that thing, and you can see it with your eyes closed, you can keep correcting your actions. 

It’s not a question of holding onto every little detail, but of holding onto the feeling.

There are many ways to do creative work. One approach is to learn from elements of design.

Great design is simple, but in a profound way. It is satisfying on several levels. It looks good, feels good and is user friendly. It is successful. It does the job properly and helps people to achieve success. People can follow similar principles to do creative work.

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Charm

Creativity calls for doing a lot of inner work. It calls for getting inspiration, incubating the ideas and creating the piece of work.

The next step may mean doing the outer work of sharing it with other people. Different people do this in different ways. Some have the ability communicate in a way that connects with people and has charm.

Mary Robinson is committed to giving people hope. Sharing such ideas can sometimes hit roadblocks, but it is still important to present people with a positive vision.

Mary explains this approach in the video below that was produced by the Uongozi Institute. This is the Institute of African Leadership for Sustainable Development. You can discover more about that organisation via the following link.

http://www.uongozi.or.tz/

Mark Evans is a TV presenter who creates films that engage people and capture their interest. The topics he covers range from working with alligators, to fixing cars to searching for the Yeti.

Whatever the theme, Mark generates enthusiasm. He combines endless curiosity with the actual findings from science. You can discover more about his work via the following link.

http://www.markevans.co.uk/

Mark Evans

There are many ways to connect with people in a positive way. You will have your own approach to sharing creative work that embodies the qualities associated with charm.

Looking to the future, can you think of a situation when you may want to take some of these steps? You may want to write a blog, nurture a garden, renovate a house, run workshops, share positive ideas with people or whatever. How can you make this happen and inspire people in your own way?

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

Describe a specific piece of creative work you would like to do that would embody some of the qualities associated with charm.

Describe the specific qualities are associated with charm that you would like the work to embody.

Describe the specific things you can do to ensure the piece of work embodies these qualities.

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