The Art of Strengths Coaching

P is for Pursuing A Passion For The Pleasure It Gives Not Just For The Payment Or Professional Status

There are many ways to do fine work. One approach is to pursue a passion for the pleasure it gives you not just for the payment or professional status.

You may want to focus on a passion that you can translate into a clear purpose and aim to achieve peak performance. It is still important to retain your sense of joy, however, otherwise things can go awry.

The return to joy is a route followed by some high performers who feel stressed. One professional athlete, for example, explained this in the following way.

I had to rediscover my love for the sport. I had become caught up with the whirlwind of chasing money and comparing myself to others. This led to negative self-talk and frustration.

Thomas Bjørn described a similar experience in Mind Game: The Secrets of Golf’s Winners, which he co-authored with Michael Calvin. In it he recalls learning how to deal with the demons in his own head.

This involved returning to the love he had for the game as a child. Here is an extract from the book where he describes facing this challenge.

A light went out when I lost my swing for a couple of years. I look for myself today and realise I don’t play the game with the same love I lavished on it as a kid. 

I don’t run to practise or play golf for fun with my friends. To me, it is a job, and it is therefore a short-lived thing.

Thomas began to rediscover his love for the game. He goes on to describe how this helped him.

It helped drive away the demons by reminding me of those beguiling moments when golf is just a game instead of a starkly defined, casually cruel profession.

Innocence is lost quickly, easily. If you cannot reconnect with the sense of wonder you had as a child, then you, too, will be lost.

A similar theme sometimes emerges in mentoring sessions. One senior leader I worked with expressed this in the following way.

I used to love my work, but now I am in an organisation which makes this difficult. I started in this work because it was a passion, but then it turned into a career and now it is a job. 

My moods swing up and down. Partly this is because some of my wages depend on the company share value. So I used to define myself in terms of whether the share price was above or below £100. This was something I had no control over, but it still affected me.

Looking ahead, I am not sure I can stand working this way for several more years. I just want to return to looking forward to going to work each day.

Looking at your work, when have you pursued a passion that gave you pleasure rather than doing the work just for payment or professional status?

You may have taken this route when encouraging people, creating something beautiful, tackling a challenge or doing another activity. You may have done so when working as a counsellor, educator, engineer, designer, leader or in another role.

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 pursued a passion for the pleasure it gave and not just for the payment or professional status. 

Describe the steps you took to pursue the passion.

Describe the specific things that happened as a result.

Imagine that you want to follow one of your passions in the future. You may want: a) To do this simply for the pleasure it gives; b) To combine this feeling with doing superb work and aiming to achieve peak performance.

Imagine you want to follow the latter route. How can you do your personal best? One possibility is to consider taking some of the following steps. Let’s look at how you may want to follow this path in your own way.


Great workers often pursue a passion in which they have the ability to achieve peak performance. They may feel passionately about encouraging people, designing gardens, playing a musical instrument, finding a medical cure, fighting for justice, caring for animals or whatever.

Imagine you want to take this path. Here are some questions it can be useful to explore before settling on your chosen activity.

What are my passions? What do I feel passionately about? What are the thing that give me positive energy? When am I in my element – at ease yet able to excel?

What are the deeply satisfying activities in which I have the ability to achieve 8+/10? What are the activities where I enjoy the journey as well as reaching the goal? What are those which, after I do them, I sometimes enjoy a sense of peace?

Bearing in mind your answers to these questions, it can be useful to focus on pursuing a specific passion. How to choose the activity? One approach is to make sure that pursuing it will:

Be pleasurable;

Be both stimulating and sometimes challenging;  

Be a specific activity where – providing you do your best – there will be an 8+/10 chance of delivering peak performance.  

Imagine that you have chosen to focus on a specific passion. It will then be time to move on to the next step. 


Great workers translate their passion into a clear purpose. Sometimes they translate this into doing a specific project. People love to have a sense of purpose and work towards achieving a compelling goal.

A person may aim to write an article, climb a mountain, finish a marathon or teach an inspiring course. They may aim to build a successful prototype, create something beautiful, build a certain kind of culture of whatever.

How to choose your specific goal? One approach is to pursue a stimulating project you would like to do even if you did not get paid for it. The Gallup Organization uses a similar question when helping a person to explore their strengths. It asks them:

What are the things you cannot help but do?

Derek Jacobi, the actor, described a similar philosophy in a television interview. When approached by young people who want his advice on becoming an actor, he says something along the following lines.

If you want to become an actor, then don’t do it. If you need to become an actor, then do it.  

Imagine that you have translated your passion into doing a project and working to achieve a specific goal. It can then be useful to ask yourself the following questions.

What are the real results I want to achieve? What is the picture of success? What will the benefits of achieving the goal? What will be the pluses and minuses involved in working to achieve it? How can I build on the pluses and minimise the minuses?

Bearing in mind what I can control, on a scale 0-10 how high would I rate the chances of success? What can I do to improve the rating? On a scale 0-10, how high is my motivation to achieve the goal? How can I encourage myself on the journey?

Imagine that you have worked through these themes. You may then want to explore the next step.


Great workers believe in following certain principles on the way towards reaching their goals. They then aim to translate these principles into practise.

Different people will follow their own chosen principles. Here are some that people aim to pursue on the way towards doing superb work.

I want: 

To encourage people … To build on people’s strengths … To create enriching environments in which people grow … To help people take care of their own health … To enable people to become architects of their own futures. 

To provide great customer service … To design things that are simple, satisfying and successful … To build pacesetting prototypes that show a better way … To focus on constant improvement … To improve life on the planet. 

Imagine that you have settled on a passion you want to pursue. You have also translated this into doing a specific project which will give you pleasure.

You may want to write an article, nurture a garden, run a workshop or play in a band. You may want to learn a life-saving technique, build a business, lead a team or do another activity.

If you wish, try tackling the following exercise. This invites you to complete the following sentences.

Project: The specific
project I want to do is:


Principles. The specific principles I want
to follow when doing this project are:





Great workers often follow certain rituals in their work. They rehearse properly before going into their version of the arena. They then click into action and follow their chosen rhythm.

Such workers are super professional. They follow their principles and aim to maintain high standards. They keep doing the right things in the right way on the route towards achieving their picture of success.

They often have OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Discipline. They make lists in their heads and cross off items when they are completed. They love doing satisfying work and enjoying the journey towards reaching their goals.

David Maister is somebody who inspired many people to do professional work. After leaving his role as a Harvard Lecturer, he spent the next 30 years advising professional firms in the law, finance and other sectors.

By the time he retired in 2010, David was acknowledged as one of the best business thinkers in the world. He also contributed to two highly praised books True Professionalism and The Trusted Advisor.

David gave the following advice to people embarking on a professional career. They should focus on the following three guidelines.


You need to do something you feel passionately about and be passionately committed to getting somewhere.


You need to understand how people – you, your clients and your colleagues – work.


You need to be somebody who has readily observable principles and be seen to actually follow these in practice. People can then decide if they want to work for you or with you.

David believes every company in the world has the same mission. They want to improve their profits, offer great products and services to their customers and provide their people with fulfilling careers.

The key is to actually live these values, however, rather than just laminate the values. Writing in his book True Professionalism, David explained how to translate these into action.

There are relatively few new ideas in business, if any at all. How often can one repeat the basic advice of:

Listen to your clients, provide outstanding service, train your people, look for and eliminate inefficiencies, and act like team players?

The problem, clearly, is not in figuring out what to do. Rather, the problem is to find the strength and courage to do what we know to be right.

The lesson is clear: Believe passionately in what you do, and never knowingly compromise your standards and values.

Act like a true professional, aiming for true excellence, and the money will follow.

Act like a prostitute, with an attitude of “I’ll do it for the money, but don’t expect me to care,’’ and you’ll lose the premium that excellence earns. True professionalism wins.

Below is an old video in which David explains the importance of actually living your values. This is from a talk he gave in Estonia. You can discover more about his work via the following link.

Peak Performance

Great workers do their personal best. They continue to build on their strengths and follow their successful style of working. They believe in enjoying the journey but also focus on constant improvement. They keep asking:

What is going well and how can I do more of these things? What can I do better and how?

Such workers keep doing the basics and add the brilliance. Demonstrating a relaxed relentlessness, they aim to flow, focus and finish. They sometimes add that touch of class to achieve peak performance.

Some people go a step further and pass on their knowledge to help other people succeed. This can sometimes lead to enjoying a sense of peace. They rest for a while before then going on to the next stimulating project.

Let’s return to the theme of pursuing a passion that gives pleasure. One soccer coach explained their approach to this in the following way.

I encourage players to return to being in love with the game. Unfortunately some are only in love with what they can gain from the game. Players who rediscover their love for the game are often more able to do their personal best.

Eden Hazard, a gifted soccer player, underlined this approach in a message he gave to fans when leaving Chelsea for Real Madrid. Here is part of the message he gave on his Facebook page. 

Football to me is about having a ball at my feet, playing games and enjoying every moment, we are lucky to play the beautiful game and this is always my advice to those who ask for a coaching tip! Play football and have fun! 

Let’s return to your own life and work. Can you think of a passion you want to pursue that will give you pleasure rather than just doing it for payment or professional status? How can you translate this into doing a specific project?

You may want to take this route when encouraging people, creating something beautiful, tackling a challenge or doing another activity. You may want to do so when working as a counsellor, educator, engineer, designer, leader or in another role.

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 passion for the pleasure it gives rather than just for the payment or professional status. 

Describe the steps you can take to pursue this passion. 

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result.

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