The Art of Strengths Coaching

P is for Choosing To Be Positive rather than To Be Paralysed  

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“People can choose their attitude,” we are told. This sounds reasonable, but how can you translate it into action? Let’s start by looking at the bigger picture.

People who have a positive attitude often have a history of being given encouragement. Looking back on their lives, they sometimes say some of the following things.

My parents always encouraged me … One teacher helped me to believe in myself, even though I had difficulties because I was dyslexic … Being good at athletics gave me kudos, but it also taught me how to deal with disappointments. 

I had a severe illness that taught me to appreciate life … I was depressed about many things happening in the world, but then I decided to use my strengths to help other people … My main concern now is to build a caring world for future generations. 

Children start with lots of creative energy. Retaining this spirit calls for them continuing to get encouragement. It also calls for them learning how to recover from setbacks.

People who stay positive do what they believe in. They may choose to do work that gives them positive energy, for example, rather than that which has the highest money or status. They then build on their strengths and follow the daily disciplines required to achieve success.

Such people often find something to serve that is greater than themselves. They follow this compass. They refuse to bow to outside forces – such as despots, unhealthy systems or pots of gold – that aim to beat them into submission.

Looking back, can you think of a time when you chose to be positive rather than become paralysed? You may have experienced a setback, a fear or an uncertainty.

What did you do to move forwards? How did you translate this decision into action? What happened as a result of taking this route?

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 chose to be positive rather than to be paralysed.  

Describe the specific things you did to pursue the route of being positive.

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

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People may have a lot of belief during their early years, but sometimes this can drain away. Individuals experience both successes and setbacks. Some use the events to become stronger; some find their strength ebbs away.

Gordon Mackenzie, who wrote Orbiting The Giant Hairball, inspired many people to do creative work within organisations. But sometimes this was a challenging task.

He spent 30 years working for the Hallmark Card Company. During that time Gordon managed to orbit successfully around what he called the hairball of organisational bureaucracy.

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Gordon said that the process of suppressing the spirit starts early. Sometimes he spent whole days in elementary schools and asked each class the same question.

Starting the day in the kindergarten class, he asked:

“Who here is an artist?”

Everybody in the room put their hands up. Many wanted to show their paintings or other creative work they had done. The first grade class responded in a similar way, though with a little more caution.

He continued to ask the question as he worked through the grades. By the end of the day few young people raised their hands. Something had happened to the spark within.

Gordon died in 1999, soon after the publication of Hairball. Throughout his career he urged people to continue to be creative and give their best to the world. The final sentences of his book are:

“If you go to your grave without painting your masterpiece, it will not get painted. No one else can paint it. Only you.”

Everybody meets challenges in life. Different people choose to react in different ways. So why do some people thrive and others just survive?

People make choices each day and each choice has consequences. They can, for example, choose to take either of the following routes.

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People can choose to be positive. They can plant seeds of hope and encourage other people. They can provide practical tools that others can use to shape their future lives.

They can choose to show up each day, take responsibility and find creative solutions to challenges. This is more helpful than staying stuck, avoiding responsibility and complaining.

People often gain strength by choosing to serve something greater than themselves. Individuals often aim to serve their loved ones. They may also choose:

To serve a spiritual faith, values or philosophy.

To serve a purpose, mission or cause.

To serve a vocation, creative drive or project

Looking at my own life, for example, I have tried to serve the philosophy of encouragement. This has provided strength, even when things have been tough. You will make your own choice about what you want to serve.

Looking ahead, can you think of a situation when you may want to choose to be positive rather than to be paralysed? This could be in your personal or professional life.

You may want to take this step when making a transition, managing a setback or doing a project. How can you pursue this route in your own way? What might be the benefits for you and other people? 

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 choose to be positive rather than to be paralysed.

Describe the specific things you can do then to pursue the route of being positive. 

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

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