The Art of Strengths Coaching

P is for The Positive Approach To Focusing On Your Purpose, Principles And Picture Of Success

There are many ways to live life. The positive approach starts by choosing to have a positive attitude. It then involves focusing on your purpose, principles and picture of success.

People who take this approach are often positive realists. They have a positive attitude but are also good at reading reality. They are good at seeing patterns and anticipating what may happen. They then build on what they can control and manage what they can’t.

Such people develop a sense of purpose. Sometimes this means focusing on short-term goals. Sometimes it means following a spiritual faith, a vocation or serving something greater than themselves. Sometimes it means working towards their life goals.

They believe in following certain principles. Different people will believe in different principles and aim to express these in their daily lives and work. They may choose to do this by, for example, encouraging people, doing satisfying work or helping to build a better world.

Such people often aim to enjoy the journey when working towards their goals. They set goals by clarifying the real results they want to achieve. They then follow their chosen principles towards achieving the picture of success.

Looking back, can you think of a situation when you chose to have a positive approach? 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 Have
A Positive Attitude

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.

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 really important in life.

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. 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.

I learned a similar lesson about choosing to be positive during my early twenties when I was caring for older people in hospital. Jacko, as he wished to be called, was one of the people I looked after. He had lost the use of his lower body but he loved his food and continued to enjoy each day.

Part of my duties involved dragging small pieces of faeces from his bottom. Jacko asked me to count each piece during the process and he took great delight in reaching a certain number. Procedure over, he then looked forward to the food he was going to enjoy that day. He taught me about the joy of being alive each day.

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 approaches that people take towards developing a sense of purpose.

Different people use different ways to express their sense of purpose. Peter Benson, for example, devoted his life to focusing on people’s sparks. He had a profound influence on the way many people encourage children, teenagers and adults. He wrote:

 

Peter looked for the good in everybody and everything. Whilst being a rigorous researcher, he conveyed his findings about people in a compassionate and inspiring way. Here are some of the things he said about sparks.

Sparks are the hidden flames in kids that excite them and tap into their true passions.

Sparks come from the gut. They motivate and inspire. They’re authentic passions, talents, assets, skills, and dreams.

Sparks can be musical, athletic, intellectual, academic, or relational; from playing the violin to working with kids or senior citizens.

Sparks get kids going on a positive path, away from the conflicts and negative issues – violence, promiscuity, drugs, and alcohol – that give teens a bad name and attract so much negative energy.

Sparks can ignite a lifelong vocation or career, or balance other activities to create an emotionally satisfying, enriched life.

Great educators look for these signs in students. They then encourage, educate and enable people to keep these alive throughout their lives.

Peter died at the age of 65 in 2011, but his work lives on through colleagues at the Search Institute. Below is a video of him in action. You can discover more at the official web site.

http://www.search-institute.org/

Choosing To
Follow Your Principles

Imagine that you have begun to explore your 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 life and work. 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 A Picture Of Success

Many people gain satisfaction from simply following their chosen principles in their daily lives. Sometimes, however, they like to translate these into working towards achieving a specific picture of success.

A person may aim to tackle a challenge, do a creative project or focus on delivering a dream. They then aim to do superb work, find solutions to challenges and gain a sense of satisfaction from reaching their goals.

Sometimes they work towards achieving their lifetime picture of success.  Here is an exercise on this theme.

Clarifying Your Lifetime
Picture Of Success

Everybody is different and everybody has different goals. What is your lifetime picture of success? Looking back on your life when you are 80, what for you will mean you have had a successful life?

This 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.

Super Teams Often Focus
On Their Picture Of Success

Great teams also focus on their aims. There are many models for building such teams and following section looks at one approach.

Super teams create a positive environment in which motivated people can achieve peak performance. They believe that people work best if they have context and can see the big picture. Bearing this in mind, they make sure that everybody understands the team’s purpose, principles and picture of success.

Such teams then give people the chance to reflect and decide if they want to contribute. If so, they encourage people to build on their strengths and clarify their best contributions.

Super teams are made up of people who choose to have a positive attitude and be professional. They also want to perform superb work and do their best to help the team to succeed.

Such teams make clear contracts with people about the results they will deliver towards achieving the goals. They also give people the support they need to deliver the goods.

Super teams then manage by outcomes rather than by tasks. They encourage people to co-ordinate their strengths, perform superb work and find solutions to challenges. People then do whatever is required to achieve the picture of success.

Imagine that you lead a team. The following sections provide a framework that you can use to clarify and communicate the team’s purpose, principles and picture of success. People can then make clear contracts about their best contributions towards achieving the goals.

This is an approach that I have used hundreds of times with teams in organisations. There we have used the framework of focusing on the 3 Ps – Profits, Products and People. But you may use another framework for clarifying your team’s aims.

As mentioned earlier, there are many ways to live life. Some people 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 take this approach? 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 take the positive approach. 

Describe the specific things you can do 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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