The Art of Strengths Coaching

C is for Showing Character During Challenges

Lightening 2

People sometimes welcome challenges. They look forward to testing themselves when playing a key soccer match, delivering a keynote speech or tackling a particular kind of crisis.

Great workers, for example, want to show character. So they seek challenges where they can express their core beliefs. They then focus on clarity, creativity and concrete results. Sometimes they reach the goals by adding that touch of class.

Let’s explore where this might happen for you.

Clarifying when you
have shown character

Looking back on your life, can you think of a time when you showed character? You may have been helping another person, tackling an illness, dealing with a crisis or whatever.

People often perform better when they take the emotion out of such situations. One person said:

“This is what I did when faced with a difficult illness. After the initial shock, I treated it has a project.

“This seemed a good way to use my energy and explore the possible ways forward. I did not want to get into the idea of ‘battling it’.

“I saw it has an opportunity to grow, appreciate life and help other people.”

Such perspective may seem odd, but it is a theme repeated by many people who appear to show courage. They often say things like:

“It was the obvious thing to do.”

A similar theme was highlighted by Samuel and Pearl Oliner in their book The Altruistic Personality. In it they described the actions of non-Jews who risked their own lives to rescue the victims of Nazi persecution.

They 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; some smuggled them out of the country.


The rescuers showed that people can do wonderful things, even in the midst of catastrophe. Why did they do it? Here are some of the things that people said:

“It was the right thing to do … My mother influenced me mostly by love. She was a warm woman, and we admired her for her wit, her wisdom, and her intelligence.

“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.”

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

Describe a specific time when you have shown character tackling a challenge.

Describe the specific things you did right then – the principles you followed – to show character.

Slides Character.001

Slides Character.002

Clarifying how you
can show character

Looking to the future, can you think of any situations where you want to show character? How can you do this in your own way?

People sometimes show certain characteristics when faced by a challenge. They embody the following themes.


They follow their purpose and principles. They realise they have been given the chance to follow these principles. Maybe the realisation comes as a shock. Such as:

“Oh, this is happening to me. It isn’t a game. I am now called upon to show what I really stand for.”

Sometimes they are presented with a big challenge that involves helping other people. They may say:

“This is an opportunity. If not me, then who will step up and do it?”


People aim to develop the competence to manage the challenge successfully.

They do this by building on their strengths and following their successful style – their best way of working. Sometimes they complement their efforts by asking for help from others. This may involve getting support from friends, trusted advisors and experts.

People prepare properly before embarking on the many stages of tackling the challenge. They then commit themselves fully when entering the situation.

They keep pursuing their chosen principles and aim to perform at their best. Sometimes this also involves finding creative solutions to problems.


How do people show class? They do this by showing character or, as some say, grace under pressure.

People managing an illness, for example, often provide comfort to those who come to comfort them. They demonstrate it is possible to follow their principles, especially when faced by tough events.

Perhaps this is the real goal – to pursue one’s purpose and principles. The people we admire often do this, even when they are facing pressure. They show the triumph of the human spirit.

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

Describe a specific challenge that you may face in the future.

Describe the specific things that you can do to show character when tackling that challenge.

Slides Character.003

Slides Character.004

Clarifying the benefits
of showing character

Looking back, when you have benefited from showing character when tackling a challenge? Different people give different answers to this question. Here are some of the things they say.

The benefits were:

Being true to my values … Appreciating the important things in life … Giving everything … Realising I was stronger than I thought … Meeting people who have since become trusted friends … Developing skills that I have applied since.

People sometimes look back fondly at those times, even though they might have been tough. One person said:

“Looking back at the illness, I actually felt more alive than for some time. It helped me to gain a sense of perspective.

“Soon afterwards I returned to climbing mountains, something I had not done since my youth.

“I began with climbs suitable for my age and ability, but then slowly increased my range. This has given me the opportunity to test my mettle and also enjoy feeling alive.”

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

Describe the specific challenge where you will have the chance to show character.

Describe the specific benefits of showing character when tackling this challenge.

Slides Character.005

Slides Character.006

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