The Art of Strengths Coaching

P is for Helping A Person To Learn From Their Positive History

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Imagine that you are helping a person to build on their strengths. Everybody has a positive history, so it can be useful to help them to learn from their achievements.

“But I have not achieved anything,” somebody may say. Looking back on their life, however, they may have:

Overcome an illness as a child.
Performed in a play.
Played sport at a high level.
Written an article.
Built a good relationship.
Designed a house.
Learned a language.
Led a team to success.
Built a successful prototype.
Helped a specific person.
Or whatever

They can learn from what they did right to succeed and follow these principles in the future. Here are some steps for making this happen.

You can encourage them to
describe their positive history

Invite the person to list all the things they have achieved in their life. You may say something like:

“Start by drawing a timeline down the side of the paper. Go from 0 to your present age.

“Beginning from as early as you can remember, list all the things you have achieved in your life. These can be small and big things. Continue until you get to the present day.”

You can invite them to tackle the following exercise.

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You can encourage them to
learn from their positive history

Encourage the person to talk through their achievements. Certainly this may take a long time, but it is well worthwhile.

After a while you may want to encourage the person to focus on one particular achievement. Invite them to explore one that was particularly rewarding or one that is relevant to what they plan to do in the future. You can then say something like:

“Tell me about this example. What actually happened?

“What did you do right then? What were the principles you followed to overcome the challenge or reach the goal?

“How can you follow similar principles in the future?”

Several things may happen as the person revisits their positive history.

They grow in confidence by realising they already have successful patterns.

They identify the principles that enabled them to be successful.

They start focusing on how they can follow these principles in the future.

So invite the person to do the following exercise.

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You can encourage them to
shape their positive future

If you wish, you can invite the person to make more concrete plans about shaping their future. You may want to say something like:

“Let’s move onto shaping your future. Looking ahead, consider what you may want to achieve in the years ahead.

“Start by drawing a timeline showing your future years.

“Taking each period in turn, brainstorm the kinds of things you might want to do during some of these times.

“Bear in mind what has worked for you in the past. You may want to follow some of these principles in the future.

“If you wish, look at the years ahead and settle on some things you may want to do during those times.

“Again, it is impossible to predict the future, but it can be useful to clarify what you want to achieve or leave behind.

“Identifying these things can help you to create a useful road map to look at – and possibly change – now and again in the future.”

Doctors invite people to describe their history of health and illness. The positive history approach applies a similar discipline, but it explores how individuals have succeeded or overcome setbacks.

People are able to find their successful principles and then follow these to shape a positive future.

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