The Art of Strengths Coaching

D is for Doing Your Best After A Disappointment

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Don Clifton, the author of Now, Discover Strengths, was once asked about a certain person’s potential. An extremely positive person, Don was also realistic. He answered along the following lines.

“The person has strengths and shows promise, but I do now know how good they can become. I will be able to answer better after I see how they deal with setbacks.”

Different people react in different ways to disappointments. Some choose to give up. Some choose to blame the world. Some choose to develop and do their best in the future.

Looking at your own life, can you recall a time when you went on to do good work after a disappointment? This could have been in your personal or professional life.

You may have taken this step after being turned down for a job, losing a customer, ending a relationship, being rejected by a sports team or whatever.

How did you go through the healing process? What did you learn from the setback? How did you then aim to do your best in the future?

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 did your best after a disappointment.

Describe the specific things you did to do your best after the disappointment.  

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

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Different people respond to setbacks in different ways. Some react by going through the stages of shock, denial, paralysis, anger and hurt. They may then spend some time healing.

At a certain point they may feel ready to move forwards. They may gain strength, set new goals, work hard and get success. This can lead to regaining a sense of confidence.

Some individuals respond quickly to setbacks. They may experience a sense of surprise or shock, but they then move on to finding solutions to the challenge. They ask:

“What is actually happening? What do I want to happen? What are the real results I want to achieve? What is the picture of success?

“How can I do my best to achieve these results? What are the various options I can follow? What are the pluses and minuses of each option?

“What is the route I want to follow? How can I translate this into a clear action plan? What do I want to do and when? How can I get some quick successes?”

Swinging into action, they pursue their short, medium and long-term plans. At a certain point, however, they may reflect on the experience and see how they can apply the learning in the future.

Liz Murray is somebody who has recovered from setbacks. Her story reached many people in the film Homeless To Harvard.

She grew up in the Bronx with parents who were addicts, but she always had dreams. The video below provides a short extract from a speech she gave at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana.

Here are some excerpts from an article about her speech. You can find the article at:

http://www.depauw.edu/news-media/latest-news/details/15641/

“It’s not about Harvard, it’s not about a prestigious school,” says Liz Murray of her incredible and uplifting life story, which she shared with an audience at DePauw University tonight.

“It’s not about that. It’s about learning, about educating yourself and gathering enough knowledge to find your way through any little crack or crevice you possibly can so you can move up and escape from that trap you were born into.”

Murray detailed how she was born to drug-addicted parents, and how as a child, living in squalor, her parents and everyone she knew was living month-to-month on government checks. 

Despite the tumultous environment in which she was raised, Murray says she has always loved her parents. Her life, already in disarray, unraveled quickly when her mother was diagnosed with HIV.  

Her mother moved out, her father went to a homeless shelter, and Murray, then a young teen, was sent to a group home.

Her unpleasant experiences there led her to run away and she lived on the streets of New York City, eating out of dumpsters and sleeping at friends’ houses or on subway trains, but in her own words, “going nowhere.” The year Murray turned 16, her mother died, and her view of life changed.

“I got the sense that my life was in my own hands,” she told her DePauw audience.  

Murray’s ultimate goal is to create a coaching and seminar company that will work with groups, perhaps specializing in inner-city schools. 

“Instead of just speaking about my life, I want that to be a footnote, and I want to offer strategies to people.”

Liz has moved on to focusing on how to provide opportunities for young people. Here is a longer video in which she talks about the power of possibilities.

Different people have different approaches to clarifying what they learned from a disappointment.

Some people spend a long time focusing on failure. They ask questions like:

“What went wrong? Why did it fail? Why did I behave that way?”

Some people take a different approach. They ask questions like:

“What did I do well? How can I do more of these things in the future? What could I do better next time and how? How can I apply these lessons to future challenges?”

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a potential disappointment that you may experience in the future? This could be in your personal or professional life

You may have a book rejected, lose a piece of business or fail to do your best in a sporting event. You may fail to follow your values, take time to get over a setback or experience some other kind of disappointment.

How can you recover from the setback? How can you build on what you did well? How can you improve in the other areas? How can you then aim to do your best in the future?

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 want to do your best after a potential disappointment.

Describe the specific things you can do to do your best after the disappointment.  

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

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