The Art of Strengths Coaching

G is for The Guiding Principles Of Gratitude, Giving And Good Work    


There are many ways to live life. Some people follow the guiding principles of gratitude, giving and doing good work. They aim to plant seeds of hope that encourage both present and future generations.

Looking back, I have been fortunate to meet many such people. During the 1960s and 70s I visited individuals, schools and communities dedicated to healing, giving to others and caring for the whole human being.

Some of these people had grown up in a caring environment. Some had chosen to become more caring after a life-changing experience. Some had chosen to follow a spiritual faith that emphasised caring. Some followed the principles of Right Livelihood.

Such people were often humble yet battle-hardened. Gaining strength by drawing on their guiding principles, they showed both toughness and tranquillity during testing times. Let’s explore these themes of gratitude, giving and good work.


During the past 40 years many people have researched the topic of happiness. They have asked some of the following questions.

What kinds of people are happy? What are the principles such people follow to be happy? How can other people follow these principles in their own ways to be happy?

People who are happy often have a sense of gratitude. They count their blessings, rather than their burdens. They focus on what they can do, rather than worry about what they can’t do. This provides them with the strength to encourage other people.

There are now many books that focus on gratitude. These often mention the life and work of Brother David Steindl-Rast. Writing in Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer, he says:

What we really want is joy. We don’t want things.

Everything is a gift. The degree to which we are awake to this truth is a measure of our gratefulness, and gratefulness is a measure of our aliveness. 

Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy – because we will always want to have something else or something more.

You can discover more about the work of Brother David and his colleagues at the following site.

What are the things that you are grateful for in your own life? Here are some answers that people give to this question.

I am grateful for:

Having a happy childhood … Being helped to find my talents by a special teacher … Enjoying forty years of health … Spending several years in a soul-destroying job, because this made me appreciate the satisfying work I did later in life … Meeting kindred spirits.

Being with an encouraging partner … Being treated by wonderful nurses and doctors when I had a serious illness … The gift of music … Living by the sea for several years … Learning to love gardening … Relearning how to enjoy a sense of wonder as I got older.  

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

Describe the specific things you are grateful for in your life.

Describe the specific things you can do keep being grateful.


Many of the happiest people I meet are givers rather than takers. They love to give to people and create enriching environments in which people can grow.

During my work I visit many different organisations. It is easy to detect those that have a caring culture. The leaders of such organisations are often the main cultural architects.

Such leaders are often warm, human and relate to others in a caring way. It is interesting to watch their interactions with the receptionists, cleaners and other staff.

They like to make a person feel at ease and the centre of their world. They enjoy giving to people – whether it is giving them encouragement or opportunities to develop.

Looking at your own life, what are the things you want to give to people during your time on the planet? Here are some of the answers that people give to this question.

The things that I want to give people are:

A loving home … Nourishing food … Lifeskills people can use to shape their future lives … The chance to find satisfying work …  The chance for young people to work abroad … Helping people to learn life lessons through sports …Beautiful experiences.

A breakthrough treatment for a specific illness … A safe place where people can heal … A chance to regain their belief in life … Pastoral care for people in our organisation …  Helping people diagnosed with autism to find jobs working with data.

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

Describe the specific things you want to give to people during your life.

Describe the specific things you can do to try to give these things to people.

Good Work

There are many ways to do good work. A person may cook nourishing food, make beautiful furniture, play uplifting music, nurse people back to health, help other to succeed or follow another path. You will have your own way of doing work that helps people or the planet.

One approach is to follow your vocation. Your vocation remains constant throughout your life, but you may express it through various vehicles on the way towards doing valuable work.

Another approach is to build on your strengths and do satisfying work. You may be good at encouraging people, managing crises, solving technical problems or whatever. You may use this strength to serve others and help them to succeed.

Today many people are interested in the theme of doing well and doing good – rather than just doing well. Some people are pursuing this path by working as individual contributors. Some are choosing to join organisations such as social enterprises.

Here are videos from five such organisations. The Ashoka Organisation, Expeditionary Learning, Echoing Green, Unreasonable Group and the Singularity University.

These provide an insight into some of the paths people are taking towards doing good work. Here are links to the organisations if you would like more information.

Let’s return to your own life. How can you continue to do work? How can you build on your strengths, do satisfying work and help other people to succeed? How can you encourage both present and future generations? How can you do work that helps people or the planet?

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

Describe the specific things you can do to continue to do good work. 

Describe the specific benefits – to people or the planet – of continuing to do this good work.


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