The Art of Strengths Coaching

P is for People Who Have A Positive Philosophy  

There are many ways to live life. Some people choose to follow a positive philosophy in their daily life and work.

They are often positive realists. They choose to have a positive attitude but are also good at reading reality. They then keep focusing on their purpose, principles and picture of success.

Such people often develop a sense of gratitude. They count their blessings rather than their burdens. They focus on what they can control rather than what they can’t control.

They also develop a sense of purpose. Sometimes this means focusing on short-term goals and doing satisfying work. Sometimes it means following a spiritual faith, a vocation or working towards their life goals. Sometimes it means serving something greater than themselves.

They believe in following certain principles. They may aim to be kind, encourage people, create beauty or follow other guidelines. They aim to express these principles in their lives and work.

Such people often balance enjoying the journey with achieving specific goals. They love to set stimulating goals, do satisfying work and achieve their picture of success. This provides them with positive memories and the strength to keep giving to other people.

Looking back, can you think of a situation when you chose to have a positive philosophy? You may have chosen to overcome a setback, pursue a stimulating project, tackle a challenge or do another activity that gave you satisfaction.

What did you do then to have a positive attitude? What did you to focus on the specific purpose, follow your principles and achieve your picture of success?

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 have a positive attitude and then focus on the purpose, principles and picture of success.  

Describe the specific things you did to take these steps.

Describe the specific things that happened as a result.

Choosing
To Be Positive

People make choices every day. They can choose to be positive or negative, to be creators or complainers to take responsibility or avoid responsibility. The choices they make have consequences, both for themselves and other people.

This was brought home to me during my early career when caring of older people in a hospital. Jacko, as he liked to be called, had lost the use of his legs but continued to enjoy each day. Part of my duties involved dragging small pieces of faeces out of his bottom each morning.

Jacko loved his food and wanted to know how many pieces of faeces he had produced. He took great delight in reaching a certain number. He helped to teach me about the joy of being alive each day.

Alice Herz-Sommer was somebody who chose to be positive. A pianist and survivor of Nazi concentration camps, she continued to enjoy life well past the age of 100.

Alice’s view of life reached a wider audience after an interview she gave to the BBC became popular on the web. Here are some things she said in the interview.

Life is beautiful

I have lived through many wars and have lost everything many times – including my husband, my mother and my beloved son.

Yet, life is beautiful, and I have so much to learn and enjoy. I have no space nor time for pessimism and hate.

And life is beautiful, love is beautiful, nature and music are beautiful. Everything we experience is a gift, a present we should cherish and pass on to those we love.

Life brings pain and beauty, said Alice, but she focused on gratitude, love, kindness, nature, music and the joyful things in life. She said the secret of happiness is:

To focus on what is important – what is really important.

Caroline Stoessinger gave an insight to Alice’s approach in her book A Century of Wisdom: Lessons from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer. She provided a series of quotes in which Alice explained her philosophy. These included the following.

Gratitude is essential for happiness. Only when we are old do we realise the beauty of life.

When I play Bach, I am in the sky. My world is music. Music is a dream. It takes you to paradise.

I am richer than the world’s richest people, because I am a musician. Music saved my life. Music is God.

Every day is a miracle. No matter how bad my circumstances, I have the freedom to choose my attitude to life, even to find joy.

Evil is not new. It is up to us how we deal with both good and bad. No one can take this power away from us.  

My optimism has helped me through my darkest days. It helps me now … The more I read, think and speak with people, the more I realise just how happy I am. 

When I die I can have a good feeling. I have done my best. I believe I lived my life the right way.

Here is a video in which Alice talks about her life and philosophy.

Choosing To
Develop A Purpose

People love to have a sense of purpose. They love to do something they believe in and work towards achieving a stimulating goal.

Sometimes this can involve pursuing a short-term purpose, such as completing a satisfying task. Sometimes it can involve doing something each day towards achieving their life goals.

Sometimes it can involve serving something greater than themselves. It can mean following a spiritual faith, a vocation or a sense of mission. Pursuing this route often provides them with the strength they need to tackle challenges in their life and work.

Some people seem to know their purpose at an early age, whilst for others it is a lifetime quest. Here are some of the most common ways that people take towards developing a sense of purpose.

Different people use different ways to express their sense of purpose. Mary Gordon translated her compassion for people into creating the organisation called Roots of Empathy.

Its mission is to build caring, peaceful and civil societies through the development of empathy in children and adults. The programme involves bringing a local baby into the classroom. The children then learn how to understand and care for the needs of another human being.

The Roots of Empathy programme has spread to many countries. It has produced remarkable results in enabling children to become more caring and able to solve problems. This has also reduced aggression, bullying and other social problems. You can discover more on the organisation’s web site.

http://www.rootsofempathy.org/

Choosing To
Follow Your Principles

Imagine that you have settled on pursuing a specific purpose. You may want to encourage other people, create beauty, help people find satisfying work, pass on a positive legacy or pursue another activity.

How you can you translate this into action? One approach is to clarify the principles you want to follow in your daily life and work.  The Dalai Lama says, for example:

My religion is kindness.

He therefore tries to express kindness in his daily life when communicating with people, giving television interviews and doing other activities. He keeps focusing on the core drivers in his life.

Many individuals take this approach. They clarify their purpose and the principles they want to follow to translate this into action. They aim to express these principles in personal and professional situations.

Such individuals then return to their centre. They relax, re-centre and refocus. This enables them to keep drawing strength from the central beliefs in their life. They then explore how they can follow their principles in the next situation.

A person who takes this approach is more likely to be centred. They keep returning to their inner compass. They then focus on how they can follow their chosen principles in the different situations they encounter in life.

Different people focus on different principles. Bearing in mind their purpose, different individuals may say they believe in doing the following things.

To be kind, to help other people and to build a fairer world. 

To appreciate life, to create beautiful things and to spread happiness.

Looking at my own life, for example, there are several principles I aim to follow in situations. These are:

To be a positive encourager.

To help people to build on their strengths and achieve their picture of success.

To help to build a positive planet.

I try to follow these principles when meeting people, mentoring, running super team workshops and writing. The aim is to provide practical tools that people can use to achieve their picture of success.

Let’s return to your own philosophy. Imagine that you have done some work on clarifying your purpose. What are the principles you want to follow to translate this purpose into action?

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

Describe your purpose – the specific thing you want to focus on doing in your life.

Describe the principles you want to follow to translate this purpose into action.

Choosing To Work Towards
Achieving Your Picture Of Success

People who are positive often focus on their purpose. They then aim to translate this into action by following certain principles. Sometimes they gain satisfaction from simply following these in their daily life.

Sometimes, however, they like to follow these guidelines and achieve specific goals. They often get satisfaction from doing the work and achieving their picture of success.

There are many ways to get this feeling. Sometimes a person may focus on doing the daily tasks – such as caring for their loved ones – and get great satisfaction from seeing people happy. Sometimes they may focus on bigger aims that help them to work towards their life goals.

Different people choose different ways to clarify their picture of success. Let’s explore some of these approaches.

The Picture of Success – Clarifying the
actual words you want people to be saying

Trusted advisors, for example, often clarify the actual words they would like people to be saying after a session. Looking ahead, they may describe their aims in the following way.

The actual words I would like the person
to be saying after the session are these. 

The trusted advisor made me feel welcome and I was able to explore all the topics on my agenda. I felt that they understood my challenges and my goals. They helped me to focus on the real results I wanted to achieve. 

I liked the way that they helped me to understand how I had tackled similar challenges successfully in the past. This gave me confidence that I could tackle the present challenges successfully.

Looking at the first topic I wanted to explore, the trusted advisor outlined the possible options I could pursue going forwards. They also outlined the pluses and minuses of each option.

When appropriate, they asked if it was okay for them to share their ideas. They then outlined some possible options that I had not considered. This was extremely helpful.

I liked the way they invited me to take a little time to reflect and consider the route I wanted to take. Once I had done this, they provided lots of practical tips and tools that I could use to pursue this route.

We worked through each topic on my agenda. We then concluded the session by clarifying my actions plans for going forwards. I believe in these action plans and feel that taking these steps will give me the greatest chance of success.

Trusted advisors clarify how they can do their best to achieve these aims.  They then aim to translate these ideas into action and help the person to achieve success.

Superb teams take a similar approach when setting goals. Gathering their people together, they invite them to go through the following steps.

To write the actual names of each of the stakeholders they need to satisfy and to allocate one flip chart per stakeholder.  

To describe the actual words they would like to hear the specific stakeholder saying. 

To describe the specific things they can do to, as far as possible, ensure the stakeholder is saying some of those things. 

The Picture of Success –
Clarifying the positive legacy

The New Zealand All Blacks rugby team revitalised their approach by refocusing on their purpose. Writing in his book Legacy, James Kerr describes how they adopted Jonas Salk’s approach to becoming good ancestors. They aimed to become better people and better All Blacks by focusing on humility, respect and excellence.

One of the principles they followed to translate this into action was to Sweep The Sheds. After every game they cleaned their changing room and left it in good condition. These actions reminded them of their roots and taught them to remain grounded.

Bearing in mind the purpose, the players were expected:

To leave the jersey in a better place.

To add to the legacy. 

To represent all the players that have come before and all the players that will come afterwards.

When joining the All Blacks, each player was given a small black book that started with pictures of the jersey from 1905 to the present day. The rest of the pages were blank.

The player was invited to describe the legacy they wanted to leave in terms of honouring the jersey. They then continued writing in the book whilst they remained an All Black.

There are many ways to focus on creating a positive legacy. When working with one HR Director, for example, I invited them to describe the legacy they wanted to leave in, for example, three years. They described the following things.

My Positive Legacy 

In 3 years time I want to be
able to say that I have helped: 

To build a strengths-based company in which people can make their best contributions and help the company to achieve success. 

To build a company that employees would recommend their friends to join because it is one where they can create success for themselves, success for the customer and success for the company.

To put in place a pioneering social programme in which our employees use their strengths to help young people, start-ups and community initiatives to achieve success.  

To put in place a career development programme that enables people to feel they can do satisfying work and shape their future careers inside or outside our company.

To ensure that our present and future leaders feel they have the tools they need to help our company achieve ongoing success in a fast-changing world.

Clarifying Your
Lifetime Picture Of Success 

There are many ways to set goals. Some people focus on short-term aims, some focus on their lifetime picture of success.

During my early career I attended many workshops on personal and professional development. One exercise that was often used was to invite individuals to write their obituary.

This sounds depressing, but it could actually be uplifting. It got people to focus on what they believed to be the important things in life. The exercise involved taking the following steps.

Describe the specific things you would like people to say, write and feel about you after you die. 

Describe the specific steps you can take now to work towards people saying some of these things.

A similar exercise that is used in development sessions is to invite a person to describe their lifetime picture of success. Everybody is different and everybody has different pictures of success.

What is your picture? Looking back on your life when you are 80, what for you will mean you have had a successful life?

The exercise invites you to start from your destination and define your overall life goals. People often cover three themes when doing this exercise.

Positive Relationships

Individuals often talk about how they want to be remembered as a parent, partner, friend or whatever. A person may say something like the following.

I want my partner and I to have given our children the opportunity to enjoy a happy childhood. For example, I want them to say things like: 

“Our parents were always there for us. They encouraged us, helped us to develop our talents and also learn how to make good decisions.”

Positive Experiences

Individuals often focus on how they want to enjoy life, pursue experiences and have no regrets. A person may say something like the following.

I want to have lived life fully. For example, I want:

To have visited many countries.

To have completed the book I promised myself I would write.

To have made full use of my talents. 

Positive Contribution

Individuals often talk about wanting to make a positive contribution to the world. This may involve them following their vocation or doing something that improves life for other people. A person may say something like the following.

I want to have used my talents to have done work that has helped other people. For example, I want: 

To have …

To have …

To have … 

You may prefer to clarify your life goals in another way. Whatever approach you take, clarifying these goals can act as a long-term compass.

You can bear these aims in mind when making key decisions. When given the opportunity to take a new job, for example, you can ask yourself:

Will taking this step help me to achieve my longer-term picture of success?

It can also be useful to do one thing early each day towards achieving your life goals. This helps to provide a sense of meaning to the day. It also means you are doing something towards achieving your long-term picture of success. Here is the exercise.

As mentioned earlier, there are many ways to live life. Some people choose to follow a positive philosophy in their daily life and work.

They choose to have a positive attitude. They then focus on their purpose, principles and picture of success.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a situation when you may want to pursue a positive philosophy?

This could be in your personal or professional life. You may want to do this when encouraging a person, managing a transition, tackling a challenge or doing another project.

Looking at the situation, what can you do then to have a positive attitude? How can you clarify the purpose – the specific thing you really want to do? How can you clarify and follow your chosen principles? How can you do your best to achieve your picture of success?

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 pursue a positive philosophy.

Describe the specific things you can do then to choose to be positive and then focus on the purpose, principles and picture of success. 

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

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