The Art of Strengths Coaching

S is for Focusing On Stimulation, Specific Goals And Success  

There are many ways to feel alive. One approach is to focus on stimulation, specific goals and success. Following these steps can help people to enjoy a sense of satisfaction.

Looking back, can you think of a time when you followed these steps in your own way? This could have been in your personal or professional life.

You may have been encouraging a person, tending your garden or doing a creative project. You may have been cooking a meal, playing a sport, tackling a challenge, solving a complex problem or doing another activity.

Did you actively do something to find the stimulation? Or did the stimulation come from outside in the form of an uplifting experience or challenge? How did you translate this feeling into setting a specific goal? What did you do then to achieve your picture of success?

Joseph Campbell, the famous professor of mythology, described how many people came to him to ask questions about life. One of the most common they asked was:

How can I find meaning in my life?

How to answer such a question? One approach is to help individuals to recall their most satisfying experiences and to find the recurring patterns. It is then to help them translate these patterns into a clear purpose and clarify their lifetime picture of success.

Joseph found that many of the seekers were actually searching for something else. They wanted to experience the rapture of life. He explained this in the following way.

People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking.

I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.

Let’s return to your own life and work. If you wish, try tackling the following exercise.

Describe a specific time when you went through the stages of focusing on stimulation, specific goals and success.

Describe the specific things you did to go through these steps.

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


During my work I meet many people who have a positive attitude and aim to do their best in life. When they go off track or feel down, however, they often refocus on the well-spring of their lives.

Such people revisit phrases like joy, happiness and stimulation. They do things that give them positive energy. This acts as an antidote to feeling grim or ground down.

One leader I worked with took this approach with her team. She encouraged her team to focus how they could deliver the scorecard and also do stimulating projects.

Every organisation has its own version of a scorecard. This describes the mandatory things that each team must deliver. Each person will also be given a scorecard. This describes what they must deliver in a specific role.

Some scorecards mainly focus on the What. They are written in outcome terms and outline the specific results people must deliver. People are then given freedom, within parameters, regarding how they deliver these results.

Some scorecards are much more detailed. They describe not only the What but also have strict controls on the How. The centre wants to feel more in control – not only of what people deliver, but how they go about it in their daily work.

The leader I worked with aimed to get the right balance between delivering the scorecard and doing stimulating projects. She explained this in the following way.

The scorecard has changed as our business has got bigger. Ten years ago it contained a few top line targets. These covered the normal 3 Ps of Profits, Products and People.  

We had lots of freedom in terms of how we worked to hit these targets.

During the past few years, however, the scorecard has contained more and more micro-targets. Sometimes it is hard to see the relevance of these to running a successful business. 

Some people get upset about the scorecard, but I say to the people who join my team that we have several choices. We can choose:

To ignore the scorecard;

To fight the centre about the scorecard;

To grumble about the scorecard and let it dominate our lives; 

To complete the parts of the scorecard we believe in; 

To deliver the scorecard – but in a way that is creative – and get on with doing other stimulating work as well. 

I tell the people that we are going with final option. This is the way we can keep the centre off our backs and create the space to do other good work. 

If people don’t want to do that – if they just want to do the things they find interesting without delivering their part of the scorecard – they should find another team. 

We deliver the scorecard and also aim to do satisfying work. But there is a proviso.

One day it may be that the scorecard becomes debilitating. If so, then we each need to make a choice. We may choose to move on to work places that give people more autonomy regarding how they deliver the required results.

Bearing this in mind, I invite each of the team members to do the following things. I invite them: 

To clarify the specific things they want to deliver towards achieving the scorecard; 

To clarify the specific stimulating projects they would like to do that will also help the organisation to achieve success. 

We can then make clear contracts about what each person will deliver in the financial year.  

The leader implemented this approach for many years. This proved successful and enabled many people to grow. At a certain point, however, the process became too exhausting.

The scorecard became an excuse for micro-managing from the centre. It also failed to embody the strategies needed to improve the business. The leader then moved on to another company where people can do stimulating work that contributes to achieving the scorecard.

Let’s return to your own life and work. What are the things you find stimulating in your personal and professional life?

You may enjoy writing articles, playing music, singing in a choir, walking beside the sea or being with your loved ones. You may enjoy working with certain clients, doing creative projects, passing on knowledge to people or doing other activities.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to describe the specific things that you find stimulating.

Specific Goals

Imagine you have described the things you find stimulating. How can you do more of these things in the future?

Some people take this step to feel more alive. Some take it to shift their careers.

Mark Evans, for example, is somebody I met when he was Chief Veterinary Advisor to the RSPCA. Whilst doing fine work in that role, he continued to take an interest in making films. Returning to this passion, he set several specific goals.

He aimed to earn a full-time living from hosting or producing populist, science-based, factual documentaries for TV and Online. His strategy was to strengthen and broaden his network amongst broadcasters and other production companies.

This led to him seeking and making the most of opportunities as they emerged. These included making films such as Dogs: Their Secret Lives and The BAFTA winning Inside Nature’s Giants.

Mark also made films about cars such as Inside Jaguar and The Engine That Powers The World. His other films include Dead Famous DNA and How To Win The Grand National.

He hosted Channel 4’s innovative, multi-platform, live events such as Hippo: Nature’s Wild Feast (winner of a prestigious Wild Screen Innovation Award) and Foxes Live. The latter generated the second biggest web traffic in Channel 4’s history. You can discover more about Mark via the following link.

Jacqui Smith pursued the things she found stimulating and translated these into a specific project. Several years ago she attended a career management workshop I ran for people who wanted to make a living doing satisfying work.

Looking back at the stimulating projects in her life, she found a recurring theme was creating enriching environments. She decided to pool her talents with David, her husband, a master carpenter. They set up their own interior design company called HomeSmiths.

Beginning by working for family and friends, Jacqui and David found customers through their network. Sixteen years later they continue to do satisfying work and have gained national recognition. You can discover more about HomeSmiths via the follow link.

Different people choose different ways to translate their stimulation into specific goals. Some may simply aim to do more of these activities. They may go skiing, learn a language, master a skill or care for the garden.

Some may focus on one such activity and translate it into an ambitious project. This can sometimes turn into something life changing. In some cases it can help them to shape their future career.

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

Describe the specific stimulating activity that you would like to pursue.

Describe the specific goal you would like to achieve by pursuing this activity.  

Describe the specific things that would be happening that would show you have achieved the goal.


Imagine that you have set a specific goal. How can you do your best to achieve your picture of success? Much will depend on the activity that you find stimulating.

You may aim to do something playful, practise a craft or pursue a creative project. You may aim to be still, enjoy silence or sleep. You may aim to tackle a difficult challenge, sweat or solve problems.

Bearing these things in mind, how can you reach your goal? One approach is to learn from your positive history.

Everybody has strengths and successful patterns. Looking back on their life, they can learn from their achievements. They may have overcome an illness, performed in a play or played sports at a high level. They may have built a good relationship, written an article, helped a person or led a successful team.

What did they do right then to reach a goal? What were the principles they followed? How did they translate these into action? How can they follow similar principles – and perhaps add other skills – to do their best to reach their next goal?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme called My Successful Style. Bearing in mind the goal you want achieve, try exploring the following themes

My Successful Style 

The specific situation in the past when I worked
towards a similar goal and achieved success was:

* When I … 

The specific things I did right then – the principles I
followed and how I translated these into action – were:

* I … 

* I … 

* I … 

* I …

* I … 

The specific things I can do to follow some of these
principles – plus maybe add other skills – to work towards
my present goal and do my best to achieve success are:

* I can … 

* I can …

* I can …

* I can … 

* I can …

Different people choose different ways to tackle challenges and reach their goal. Many build on their strengths, however, and follow their successful patterns.

Jill Bolte Taylor used many of her strengths when producing her book called Stroke Of Insight. Below is a video in which Jill describes her experience. Here is the description of her talk from the TED web site.

Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had an opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, she realized she was having a massive stroke.  

As it happened – as she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding – she studied and remembered every moment.  

This is a powerful story about how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another.

You can discover more about Jill’s work via the following link.

There are many models for doing satisfying work. One approach is to pursue the things you find stimulating. It is then to set a specific goal and aim to achieve your picture of success.

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

Describe the stimulating activity you want to pursue and the specific goal you want to achieve. 

Describe the specific things you can do to do your best to reach the specific goal and achieve success.

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