P is for The Positive History Approach To Getting Positive Results    

There are many ways to live life. One approach is for people to learn from their positive history and to follow their positive patterns to get positive results.

Everybody has a positive history. Everybody has followed successful principles at some point in the past – even if only for a few minutes. Everybody has worked to achieve a specific goal or has tackled challenges successfully.

A person may have done certain things right when changing their lifestyle, doing creative work, managing a crisis or leading a team. They may have done so when building a relationship, recovering from an illness, playing well in a sport, finding solutions to a problem or performing brilliantly in a specific situation.

A person can be helped to find and follow their positive patterns. When facing a particular challenge, for example, they can be helped to take the following steps. 

They can clarify when they have managed a similar challenge successfully in the past. 

They can clarify what they did right then – such as the principles they followed – and clarify their positive patterns for tackling such challenges. 

They can clarify how they can follow their positive patterns – plus maybe add other skills – to tackle a similar challenge in the future. 

This is an organic approach to development. It believes that people already have positive patterns – as well as negative patterns – within them. Many people are aware of what fails. This approach helps people to build on what works to achieve their picture of success. 

The positive history approach can be used to help individuals, teams and organisations. I first became aware of it during the late 1960s and found that it could help people to do some of the following things:

To feel more in control … To change their lifestyle … To stay calm … To encourage their partner … To build on their strengths … To do satisfying work … To help other people succeed … To follow their principles.

To make decisions … To manage transitions … To manage crises … To find solutions to challenges … To lead super teams … To build successful organisations … To achieve their picture of success.

Looking back, can you think of a situation when you have used elements of this approach? This could have been in your personal or professional life.

What did you do to reflect on when you had, for example, tackled a similar challenge successfully? What did you do to identify your positive patterns for tackling such challenges? How did you follow some of these principles in the new situation? What happened as a result?

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

Describe a situation in the past when you learned from your positive history and then followed your positive patterns to get positive results.

Describe the specific things you did to take these steps. 

Describe the specific things that happened as a result.

Looking back at my own work with people, during the late 1960s I focused on what people could change in their lives. At the time I was working with people who hurt themselves or other people.

Within a few years, however, I began to focus on how people could develop their internal strengths. People liked the idea that they already had strengths and successful patterns within them.

People could be helped to build on these positive patterns plus also learn other skills. Paradoxically, by putting the emphasise on development – rather than change – one of the outcomes was change.

There are many ways to build on the positive history approach. Here are some ways that it can be used to help people.

The Strengths Approach
To Doing Satisfying Work

This approach builds on what has worked for people in the past. Creative people throughout history have followed certain themes to earn a living doing what they love.

Great workers build on their strengths and follow their successful style of working. They clarify the deeply satisfying activities in which they deliver As rather than Bs or Cs. They then clarify the specific things they can deliver to help other people to succeed.

They also clarify their successful style of working. They do this by recalling the satisfying projects they have done in the past and what made these satisfying. They clarify how they can follow these principles to do satisfying work in the future.

Such workers then focus on finding sponsors – employers or customers – who may hire them for doing what they do best. They clarify their perfect customers – the kinds of people with whom they work best. They also clarify the challenges that such people face.

They reach these potential customers in ways that fit with their values system. They may give to other people by sharing knowledge or by creating a shop window – such as a website. They show how what they offer can help people to succeed.

Great workers meet with their potential sponsors and show they understand the customer’s goals. They then clarify the real results to achieve. They make clear contracts, deliver an early success and do superb work. They use their strengths to help the sponsors to achieve their picture of success.

You can discover more about this approach via the following link. This describes how to get work by going out and helping other people to succeed.

Getting work by helping others to succeed

The Appreciative Inquiry Approach

Appreciative Inquiry is an effective model for helping individuals, teams and organisations to succeed. It is based on what works.

David Cooperrider gave birth to this approach during the 1980s. Since then it has been applied by many practitioners who have helped organisations to achieve ongoing success.

You can discover more about the background via the following links to David’s website and the Appreciative Inquiry Commons.



AI adopts an organic approach and studies humanity at its best. It invites people to clarify when they have performed brilliantly and how they can follow these principles in the future.

It inspires people to follow good habits and has a track record of delivering success. Here is an introduction to the approach.


AI starts by inviting people to define the particular topic or challenge they want to explore. People in an organisation, for example, may choose to focus on topics such as the following.

How can we work well together? How can we give great customer service? How can we improve morale? How can we find positive solutions to a specific problem? How can we build a sustainable and successful organisation? 

People then follow the 4D cycle that goes through the stages of Discovery, Dream, Design and Delivery. In the original model the fourth stage is called Destiny.


This stage involves people discovering the successful principles they have followed in the past. Bearing in mind the topic they want to explore, people are invited to recall when they have tackled a similar challenge successfully.

People share stories about their successful experiences. They also clarify the principles they followed and how they translated these into action.

When working in large groups, people break into small groups to share their stories. They then return to the large group and share the principles they have discovered.

People often find this experience to be uplifting. They realise they have a track record of achieving success. They can follow these principles – plus maybe add other skills – to achieve success in the future.


This stage involves people building on the successful principles they have discovered. They then focus on how they can follow these and translate them into a relevant and reachable picture of success.

Imagine, for example, that people want to work well together across an organisation. They will have clarified what they did right to make this happen in the past. Looking back at their positive history, they may have done some of the following things.

They chose to tackle a specific challenge … They set a specific goal – such as solving a problem for a customer … They committed themselves to achieving a clear picture of success. 

They combined their strengths to do superb work … They worked together to find solutions to challenges … They created a win for the customer and a win for the organisation.  

Bearing in mind the principles they know work, people may then choose to combine their strengths to deliver a successful project. They can set a stimulating and yet stretching goal where they have a good chance of achieving success.

AI is different from most visioning approaches in a crucial way. It builds on the stories, strengths and successful principles that have emerged from people sharing their experiences.

People are then doing several things. They are building on the organic soul of the organisation and what works. They may be dreaming but, because they are following successful principles, they believe they can deliver the goods.


The Dream is the What – the real results to achieve. The Design is the How – the strategies people will follow to achieve the picture of success. People may ask some of the following questions when designing their action plan.

What are the strengths we have in the organisation? What are each person’s and each team’s strengths? What other assets do we have that may help us to reach the goals?

Bearing in mind our strengths, what are the key strategies we can follow to give ourselves the greatest chance of success? How can we manage the consequences of any weaknesses? What other resources may we need?

What are the challenges we may face? How can we prevent some of these challenges happening? How can manage these challenges if, despite our best efforts, they do happen? 

What is our concrete action plan? Who will be responsible for delivering what and by when? What support will they need? How can we get some early wins? What else can we do to achieve the picture of success?

People make action plans and clear contracts about their parts in achieving the goal. They also make plans to get the required support and keep each other informed about their progress. They then move onto action.

Delivery – Originally Called Destiny

This stage involves translating the dream into reality. People throw themselves into the work and get some early wins. Maintaining the momentum is crucial, so it is vital to have follow-up meetings.

Different people choose different ways to keep others informed of their progress. One approach is for people to do the following things when running follow-up sessions.

People start by reminding themselves of the dream – the picture of success.

People share the specific things they have delivered in, for example, the past week towards achieving the goal.

People describe the specific things they plan to deliver in the next week.

People describe the challenges they face, their plans for tackling these and the support they would like to do the job.

People finish the session by refocusing on the dream – the picture of success.

AI has been used by people in all walks of life to tackle challenges in their daily lives, work and communities. It can be used with small and big groups. Sometimes it can involve thousands of people.

In my own work I have used elements of it when working with organisations in business. Every time people have applied the approach properly they have delivered success.

Below is a video in which David talks about how Appreciative Inquiry can help the human family. It is a stimulating approach that provides people with realistic hope for building a positive future.

The Channelling
Your Champ Approach

A person can aim to channel their inner champ rather than their inner chimp. What does this mean?

During the last decade Steve Peters has helped many athletes to manage their chimp. Their chimp can take many forms. It can be self-doubt, irrational emotion and negative self-talk.

Steve helps people to manage these impulses. He also encourages athletes to make specific plans for performing at their best. You can read more about Steve’s work via the following link.


Another approach is to help people to channel their champ whilst managing their chimp. It is to help them recall the times when they have produced their equivalent of championship performances. Let’s look at some examples of translating this approach into action.

A Team Channelling
Their Inner Champ

Good teams can use this approach to keep developing. Imagine that a soccer coach, for example, wants to help their team to channel their champ rather than their chimp.

The team has developed a pattern of performing well until the last part of a game, but then they fail to finish properly. On several occasions they have been leading 1-0 or 2-1 with ten minutes to go.

The team then surrenders to its collective chimp. The players start thinking about when they have lost in similar situations and this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

They become paralysed and stop doing the basics. They keep watching the clock and hoping the game will end. This leads to the other team scoring and taking over the game.

The coach has a choice. One option is to rip into the players for forgetting to do the basics. Scolding the players may increase their sense of fear, however, so it may be better to choose another route.

The coach can encourage the team to channel their champ rather than their chimp. How to make this happen?

One way is to invite the players to recall matches when they have led by one goal with ten minutes to go and gone on to win. The team can revisit what they did right in those situations.

They players may have chosen to stay calm and be proactive rather than become paralysed. They may have kept doing the basics, kept moving and kept passing the ball to each other.

What did the players do if they lost the ball? They may have encouraged each other, pressed as a unit and worked to regain possession. They then maintained their discipline until the final whistle.

The coach can enable the players to channel their champ – the times they have performed superbly in a stressful situation. They can then focus on how to follow these principles in the future.

Great teams practice how to perform under pressure. This is an approach taken by the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team. Below is a video in which Ceri Evans, who worked with the team as a sports psychologist, explains aspects of this approach.

He describes the importance of professionals – whether they be surgeons or athletes – practicing how to manage challenges. They are then more likely to channel their champ rather than their chimp.

A Person Channelling
Their Inner Champ

Several years ago I worked with a singer who wanted to feel at ease when performing live in front of audiences. She explained this in the following way.

My career took off but then it stalled. I became preoccupied with being loved by everybody. It got to the point where I froze if I spotted a person in the audience who was not being appreciative.  

There is now an opportunity coming up, however, where I have the chance to sing live. I would love to take it, providing I can deal with my version of stage fright. I want to enjoy singing and also give people great experiences. 

I invited the singer to recall her most satisfying performance. Looking back, she said her best performances came when she served the song. She described one particular experience when she sang one of her favourite songs.

I rehearsed in my room and in my mind for many weeks. Then came the day of the performance.

Getting to the theatre, I went through my usual rituals for centring, which included deep breathing.  

Moving from the dressing room, I snapped into action and strode onto the stage. Forgetting myself, I sank deeply into the music and aimed to serve the song.  

Before I knew it, the song was over and the audience gave rapturous applause. I am not exactly sure what happened, but people said it was the best performance I had ever given.

Looking deeper, we began to explore what she had done right on that occasion. We then looked at other times when she had given fine performances. Could we see any recurring patterns?

Eventually we began to clarify the key principles and how she could follow these in the future. Looking ahead, she felt it would be useful to pursue the following themes.

To play to my strengths when choosing a song.  

To forget myself and serve the song. 

To perform superbly and, when appropriate, to add something special. 

We focused on the specific steps should could take to translate these principles into action. She was then able to feel more at ease and less tense when giving performances.

The positive history approach can help people to perform at the best. Bearing this in mind, let’s return to your own life and work.

Looking ahead, can you think of a situation when you may want to use elements of this approach? You may wish to take this approach when pursuing a creative project, playing a sport, making a transition, leading a team or doing another activity.

Bearing in mind what you want to do, can you recall a time when you  tackled a similar challenge successfully? What were the principles you followed? How did you translate these into action?

How can you follow these positive patterns – plus maybe add other skills – to tackle the present challenge? What else can you do to achieve the picture of success?

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

Describe a situation in the future when you may be able to learn from your positive history and follow your positive patterns to get positive results.

Describe the specific things you can do to take these steps. 

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result.

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