The Art of Strengths Coaching

H is for Promoting Health, Hope and Happiness rather than Hate

 

Different people choose different ways to live life. Some people choose to promote health, hope and happiness. Some people choose to promote hate. The things that they promote have consequences, both for themselves and other people.

People make choices every day. These choices are strongly influenced, however, by the personal models they have had during their lives.

People who have had models who were caring and respected others are more likely to encourage others. Those who had models who were cruel and who didn’t respect people who were different are more likely to persecute others.

Every person is responsible, however, for how they choose to behave. They are responsible for the culture they help to create in a family, organisation or society.

Different people choose different ways to promote health, hope and happiness. Some people simply aim to be kind in their daily lives and work. Some refer to the old THINK model before speaking or posting on social media. They focus on:

T – is it true?
H – is it helpful?
I – is it inspiring?
N – is it necessary?
K – is it kind?

This model is now used in programmes about digital citizenship. Here is one video that explains the approach.

Many people use their strengths to serve others. Some work to provide people with food, shelter or the basic materials for life. Some act as carers, nurses, doctors or help people to improve their wellbeing.

Some work as educators who enable people to shape their future lives. Some help people to see practical ways forward and provide them with realistic hope. Some pass on knowledge that people can use to enjoy happiness.

Can you think of a person who helped to promote either health, hope or happiness? This could be somebody you have known or somebody you have heard about.

They could be a friend, colleague, educator, mentor or trusted advisor. They could be an artist, inventor, scientist or psychologist. They could be a spiritual person, mediator, philanthropist or somebody who played another role.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to write the name of the person and then do the following things. 

Describe the specific things they did to promote health, hope or happiness. 

Describe the specific benefits of them doing these things.

Promoting Health

There are many ways to help people to be healthy. The first step is to ensure they have food, shelter and the basic materials for life. People can then be helped to take charge of their health and wellbeing.

Tom Rath is somebody who has taken this route. Known as the author of business books, he decided to switch to providing people with knowledge they could use to improve their wellbeing.

Here is an extract from the website devoted to his book Eat, Move, Sleep. This takes the form of a Question and Answer session regarding why he wrote the book. You can discover more via the following link.

http://www.tomrath.org/eat-move-sleep/

What prompted you to
write a book about health? 

After writing business books for more than a decade, I realized that improving health is the biggest business challenge of our generation. Nothing breaks household finances, corporate balance sheets, or national economies faster than poor health. 

But the much larger reason why I decided to focus all of my time and energy on this topic is because I was tired of seeing people that I care about suffer unnecessarily and die early.  

We are literally killing ourselves, sapping our energy, and destroying our wellbeing as a result of lousy decisions we make about our health each day.

Why have you spent so much
time studying this topic?

I first started doing this research to save my own life, literally. While I have been reluctant to discuss this before, I have been battling cancer for more than twenty years now. 

Ever since my diagnosis, I’ve spent time every day learning about specific things I can do to extend my odds of living a bit longer.  

Over the last decade, I have focused more attention on helping friends, family, and colleagues to learn from these discoveries and lead healthier lives.

What are some of the most important
things you have learned from this research? 

What I learned, not only about how to prevent cancer, but also how to prevent heart disease, diabetes, and obesity – is remarkably encouraging.

The vast majority of human disease and illness is preventable. There are hundreds of specific, proven actions we can take to increase our odds of living longer and stronger.  

What matters most are the small decisions we make each day, ones that give us more energy in the moment and also prevent illness in the future.

The second major finding is that these three elements – eating, moving, and sleeping – build on one another.  

Eating right makes it easier to be active. Being active makes it easier to sleep.  

Sleeping well helps you to avoid bad foods, and so on. As a result, working on all three at once is even easier than focusing on one area in isolation.

Don’t we already know that we should
be eating, moving and sleeping better?

In Eat Move Sleep, I cover a lot of the essentials that people know they should be doing, but have trouble applying on a daily basis.

I like books that help me figure out how to apply things I already know but don’t do.

There are several things in the book I have known for a long time, yet did not practice myself until I learned new ways to connect short-term incentives with what is best for my long-term health.

Frankly, my biggest challenge in writing this book was narrowing down to the most practical findings for a broad audience, given the wealth of good science on these topics today.

Promoting Hope

There are many ways to promote hope. Some people do it by acting as positive models. Some do it by offering practical tools that people can use to achieve their goals. Let’s begin by looking at two people who promote hope.

Jo Berry’s father was killed in the IRA Brighton bombing in 1980. Sixteen years after the tragedy Jo met with Pat Magee, the man who planted the bomb.

Their initial three-hour meeting led to Jo and Pat speaking together to audiences on over a hundred occasions. They showed how it is possible for people from different backgrounds to promote understanding and peace.

Below is a TEDx talk that Jo gave in Exeter. This is followed by an introduction to her story that is taken directly from the Building Bridges For Peace website. You can discover more via the following link.

http://www.buildingbridgesforpeace.org/

On October 12th 1984 my father, Sir Anthony Berry and 4 others were killed in the bombing of the Grand Hotel, Brighton as they attended the Conservative Party Conference.

I made a personal decision just two days later, to bring something positive out of this emotionally shattering trauma and to try and understand those who had killed him.

I chose to give up blame and revenge, instead taking responsibility for my pain and feelings, transforming them into passion for peace. The journey of healing began with my intention and I trusted that life would then bring me the opportunities to heal and grow.

Two months later I randomly shared a taxi with a young Irish man whose brother had been in the IRA and had been killed by a British soldier.

We should have been enemies but instead we talked about a world where peace was possible and where there were no enemies. As I left the taxi, I had a flash of inspiration, this was one way I could make a difference, I could build a bridge across the divide.

The hardest bridge to build was with Patrick Magee, who was sentenced for his part in planting the Brighton bomb and released as part of the Good Friday Peace Agreement in 1999.

I made enquiries from mutual friends and finally met Pat for the first time in November 2000 at a friend’s house in Dublin.

My intention was to hear his story so that I could experience him as a human being rather than a faceless enemy. I was scared and had doubts, but the strongest part of me needed to see him and speak to him.

I asked him many questions and shared a little about my Dad. At first he began to express his political perspective, which though I was familiar with was hard to hear but I could see he was a sensitive and intelligent person.

Then something changed. He stopped talking and said he didn’t know who he was any more, he wanted to hear my anger, my pain and what could he do to help.

It was as if he had taken off his political hat and had now opened up and became vulnerable. The conversation was very different after that and a new journey started, one which we are still on.

He now had a need to meet me and rediscover his lost humanity. When he planted the bomb he was not seeing human beings in the hotel, they were just a means to an end.

During our meetings, he began to develop the awareness that he had killed a human being with a soul, someone he could have sat down and had a cup of tea with.

He would later say that he was disarmed by the empathy I gave him, that he would have found it easier if I had met him shouting, blaming and defending my position. I wasn’t there to argue my point; I was there to listen and experience his humanity.

After three hours I could not talk anymore and ended our meeting by thanking him for his willingness to engage with me so honestly and he said he was sorry he had killed my Dad.

Patrick Magee brings courage and humility to the process of building bridges for peace. Here is an extract from his story. You can discover more via the following link.

Patrick Magee

I was released from prison in 1999, having served 14 years under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. Whilst in prison I completed a PhD examining the representation of Irish Republicans in ‘Troubles’ fiction.

It was important for me as part of the peace process in North of Ireland to recognise that now we should engage with former enemies and political opponents, addressing the needs and grievances of victims, helping to break down differences by explaining ourselves to the other. 

For 27 years I was a committed member of the IRA, whether on active service, on the run or in prison. I spent a total of 17 years either interned or sentenced because of my involvement.

A crucial part of that legacy is the need to look back over the conflict and to understand it in terms of the many conflicting perspectives. That will entail ensuring that many voices previously excluded or misrepresented must now be heard, including the voices of the victims.

In that light, as an individual, I agreed to meet Jo. Her father, Sir Anthony Berry had been killed, along with four others, in the IRA’s attack on the Grand Hotel. I had planted the bomb.

So, on the day, I was there to explain, in essence to justify, the armed struggle; and specifically ‘Why Brighton’. I was wearing a political hat. We talked for three hours. But something happened during that first encounter. 

Jo’s openness, calmness; her apparent lack of hostility – in fact her willingness to listen and to try to understand, disarmed me. Had Jo instead shown anger, however justifiable, it would for me have been easier to cope with.  

The political hat would have remained firmly attached. But in the presence of such composure and decency, as I said, I felt disarmed. It was a cathartic moment.  

It didn’t matter that as a former member of the IRA I could politically justify my past actions in terms of the legitimacy of the struggle.

As an individual I carried the heavy weight of knowing I had caused profound hurt to this woman.

I expressed a need to really hear what she had to say and to help her come to terms with her loss, if that were possible: 

‘I want to hear your anger, to hear your pain.’

A political obligation henceforth became a personal obligation. I now realised more fully that I was guilty of something I had attributed to the other: that our enemies demonised, dehumanised, marginalised, reduced us.  

In agreeing to meet me that first occasion and in continuing to meet me she has demonstrated a truly admirable, strength and purpose in her endeavour to try to make sense of her loss and her preparedness to listen to my perspective.

No matter what we can achieve as two human beings meeting after a terrible event, the loss remains. Neither forgiveness nor understanding can fully embrace that loss.

The hope lies in the fact we continue to meet in order to further this mutual process towards understanding.

Let’s return again to Jo’s story. The following words summarise some of the key themes in the work of Building Bridges For Peace. Jo explains these in the following way.

I passionately believe that there is humanity in everyone, and every time we demonise the “other” we are delaying the onset of peace in this world.

Once we find our own humanity, and we see the humanity in the other, then we are going to want them to have their human rights, their good housing, food, ­medicine, education and freedom to be themselves, to be safe and secure.

We will want for them all what we want for ourselves. Peace happens when we treasure everyone, all creatures, our land, our planet, and work together to find solutions in which everyone wins.

The Psychology Of Hope

Rick Snyder did pioneering work on the topic of hope. A key message is his book The Psychology of Hope is:

People feel more able to shape their futures when they score highly on both will power and way power.

Imagine that a person is tackling a difficult challenge. They will have a strong sense of hope if, for example:

They score 8+/10 in terms of their will to solve the challenge.

They score 8+/10 in terms of seeing a way to solve the challenge. 

The person will then feel confident about how they can achieve their picture of success. This is because they score highly on both will power and way power.

This model also explains why a normally positive person can be confused if they feel depressed when facing a particular challenge. They have a strong will to solve the issue, but as yet they cannot see a way to find a solution.

Once the person sees a way through the problem, however, the cloud evaporates. Their hope returns and they feel reinvigorated to tackle the challenge.

We are often told that: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” But this phrase can be turned around to say: “Where there’s a way, there’s a will.” If a person sees a way forward, they are more likely to develop the will to make it happen.

Educators take this approach in their work and aim to increase people’s way power. They offer people more ideas and tools that they can add to their repertoires.

That is why some people see education as the ultimate democratic activity. Educators are often hope givers. They help people to increase their ability to make choices and shape their futures. 

Promoting Happiness

When you ask parents what they want for their children, they often say: “We want them to be happy.” The question therefore is: “How do people achieve happiness?”

Some people say that happiness is an outcome of pursuing certain principles rather than an end in itself. During the past 40 years the Positive Psychology movement has researched the topic of happiness. It has asked:

What kinds of people are happy? What are the principles such people follow to be happy? Is it possible for other people to follow these principles in their own ways to maintain or improve their happiness?

The recent work on happiness was inspired by psychologists such as Martin Seligman, who wrote Learned Optimism and Authentic Happiness. Later he would express reservations about the term happiness.

Martin and other researchers now use terms such as wellbeing, flourishing and life-satisfaction. But many people continue to refer to the approach as focusing on happiness.

The researchers who explore this topic include Ed Diener, Robert Biswas-Diener, Sonja Lyubomirsky, Tal Ben-Shahar and Barbara Fredrickson. Here is an overview of some principles that have emerged from the research.

There are many ways to promote happiness. One approach is to encourage people to follow the principles demonstrated by people who are happy. It is up to them, of course, whether they want to take these steps.

One way is to encourage people to do things that give them positive energy. Barbara Fredrickson is a social scientist who has who focused on the importance of positive emotions in our lives. Twenty years of research culminated in publishing her book called Positivity.

The book was based on solid research but it also captured the imagination. Why? People focused on a key theme that can play a big part in their wellbeing. Barbara explained this in the following way.

People who have positive emotions in a ratio of 3:1 in relation to negative emotions are more likely to flourish.

The consistency here is extraordinary. For individuals, marriages and business teams, flourishing – doing remarkably well – comes with positivity ratios above 3 to 1.  

By contrast, those who don’t overcome their depression, couples who fail in their marriages, and business teams that are unpopular and unprofitable each have ratios in the gutter, below 1 to 1.

Some people disagree with the exact ratio but most agree that positivity can help people to grow. Barbara explains that this is more than simply being happy.

Positivity embodies gratitude, love, playfulness, curiosity and adventure. These emotions trigger each other and create an upward spiral. They broaden and build, helping us to make breakthroughs.

Such emotions provide the basis for creativity, problem solving and evolution. They enable us to open our hearts and minds. Negativity, on the other hand, closes down our ability to think, create and grow. Barbara explains this in the following way.

Positivity consists of the whole range of positive emotions – from appreciation to love, from amusement to joy, from hope to gratitude.

The term is purposely broad. It includes the positive meanings and optimistic attitudes that trigger positive emotions as well as the open minds, tender hearts, relaxed limbs, and soft faces they usher in.

Barbara has seen many people increase their positivity. She says that this is a lot like improving your physical health. If you want to be healthier, you may develop the habit of eating healthy food on a regular basis. Eating healthy food once a week and then junk food for the rest of the week will not work.

The same rule applies to psychological health. The first step is to want to feel positive. It is then to do things that give you positive energy and to maintain this habit. You will then be more likely to increase your sense of wellbeing.

You can discover more about Barbara’s work via the following link. This also invites you to test your own positivity ratio.

http://www.positivityratio.com/

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, is there any way in which you may want to promote health, hope or happiness?

You may want to help people to improve their wellbeing or do satisfying work. You may want to act as a positive model or encourage people to do things that give them positive energy. You may want to offer people practical tools they can use to shape their futures or to follow the principles that can bring happiness.

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

Describe the specific way you can help to promote health, hope or happiness. 

Describe the specific things you can do to focus on this activity to promote health, hope or happiness. 

Describe the specific benefits of focusing on this activity to promote health, hope or happiness.

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