The Art of Strengths Coaching

S is for Serenity, Satisfying Work And Success


There are many ways to live life. Some people focus on the circle of serenity, satisfying work and success. Different people do this in different ways.

An athlete may believe that their sport matters but they also recognise there more important things in life. Bearing this in mind, they will stay calm when entering the arena. They will aim to do their personal best and play their A Game. At the same time, however, they will see where sport matters in the grand scheme of things.

A mediator will stay calm when helping people to solve a conflict. They will show respect to each person and clarify what each party wants. They will then build on common ground, get some quick successes and help people to find solutions to challenges.

A person coming to the end of their life may see things in perspective. They may count their blessings and enjoy positive memories. Experiencing a sense of peace, they may then aim to pass on knowledge that helps both present and future generations.

One approach is to see serenity, satisfying work and success as a circle. Some people seem to be naturally calm. Some people only reach this stage, however, after doing satisfying work and achieving success.

Looking back, can you think of a situation when you felt relatively serene, did satisfying work and achieved your picture of success? You may have been mentoring a person, doing creative work, managing a crisis or doing a specific project.

What did you do then to stay calm? How did you perform satisfying work and do your best to achieve success? What happened as a result?

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

Describe specific situation in the past when you focused on serenity, satisfying work and success. 

Describe the specific things you did then to focus on serenity, satisfying work and success.

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


There are many approaches to finding serenity. These often involve having a sense of perspective, focusing on what you can control and developing tools for nurturing inner peace.

The famous Serenity Prayer, for example, is commonly used in recovery programmes. Stemming from the original written by Reinhold Niebuhr, one adaption is the following.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Let’s look at some of the approaches that are used to develop such a sense of peace. You will, of course, choose your own path towards experiencing such feelings.

Developing a
sense of perspective

Some people take this step by clarifying their deepest values. This sometimes happens when a person falls ill or experiences a shock.

Vulnerability can be a great teacher. Sometimes we learn valuable lessons about what is important in life. Sometimes we also apply these lessons in the future. One person expressed this in the following way.

Our family went through a tough time when my wife suffered a serious illness. Then, to make matters worse, my job came under threat. So our income was threatened.

My first reaction was to simply want everything to be like it was before. But then I realised that things had changed forever. We could give up or learn to manage the new reality. 

Starting to research her illness, we scoured the web for information and met with patient groups. This paid dividends. She eventually chose a specific form of treatment with a fine doctor.

We also took stock of our assets – our finances, relationships, professional contacts and other resources. We soon realised how wealthy we were in real terms.

We explored the possibility of downshifting. This would mean moving to another part of the country, perhaps near my partner’s parents, and starting a different kind of life.

My wife recovered and the job survived. But we also heeded the lessons. One year later we moved closer to my partner’s parents. She returned to part time teaching, which she loves, and I set up my own business.

Our daughter likes living in the country and has started doing part time work at a stable. Our son changed his chosen subjects at university. Rediscovering his youthful idealism, he plans to become an environmental journalist.

Some people develop perspective by having a sense of gratitude. They count their blessings rather than their burdens. They appreciate what they do have rather worry about what they don’t have.

There are now many books about gratitude. These often mention the life and work of Brother David Steindl-Rast. Writing in Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer, he says:

What we really want is joy. We don’t want things.

Everything is a gift. The degree to which we are awake to this truth is a measure of our gratefulness, and gratefulness is a measure of our aliveness. 

Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy – because we will always want to have something else or something more. 

You can discover more about the work of Brother David and his colleagues at the following site.

Some people develop perspective by looking at the big picture and seeing things in context. One person expressed this approach in the following way.

Looking at the great sweep of history, we are only here for a short time. Bearing this in mind, I try to do my best each day. Sometime I agonise over problems but then I ask myself:   

“Looking back on my life when I am older, how much will this issue really matter?”

As I have grown older, I realise there are virtually always solutions to problems. It is just a matter of finding these solutions and then producing the best outcomes for people.  

Developing a
sense of control

A person often feels more at ease when they feel in control. Looking at your own life, for example, how much do you feel in charge of shaping your future?

How would you rate your sense of control on a scale 0-10? What can you do to maintain or improve the rating?

Today it is more common to hear people talking about controlling the controllables. The phrase is often used by athletes, but many people are applying the philosophy in their daily lives.

People often cross a threshold in their lives when they choose to focus on what they can control. They opt for this route rather than worry about what they can’t control. Some find this approach to be liberating. One person said: 

Several years ago I had a health scare. Fortunately I got wonderful treatment, but it also taught me a lesson.

Nowadays I put my energies into the things I can control. This means choosing to have a positive attitude, encouraging other people and doing satisfying work.  

In the past I often worried about events beyond my control. Sometimes I used to spread gloom and doom, which was self-indulgent.  

These days I count my blessings. Each day is a bonus and I try to do my best to help other people.

Controlling the controllables is an approach that can be used by individuals, teams or organisations. People can then focus their energies on the things they can do to shape their future lives.

If you wish, try tackling the exercises on this theme. These invite you to do the following things.

Describe the specific things you can control in your personal and professional life.

You may say, for example, that you can aim to have a take care of your health, eat healthy food and exercise. You can choose to have a positive attitude, be professional and make good use of the talents you have been given.

You can aim to encourage other people and help them to build on their strengths. You can spread hope and do your best to build a better world.

Describe the specific things you can’t control in your personal and professional life – though you may do your best to influence them. 

You can’t control whether or not or you get an illness, though you can do everything possible to stay healthy. You can’t control what people think of you, though you can try do you best to build a good reputation.

You can’t control your employers or the job market. You can’t control everything that happens in the world, though you can control your attitude towards these things.

Describe specific things you can do to build on what you can control and manage what you can’t.

Developing tools for
nurturing inner peace

Different people use different methods for developing a sense of inner peace. This may involve deep breathing, counting their blessings, having a sense of perspective or whatever.

One approach is to practise the art of centering. Don Greene is somebody who takes this approach when helping performing artists, athletes and others to perform at their best.

Here is an introduction to his work with musicians. You can discover more via the following link.

Imagine that you have gone some way towards developing a sense of serenity. You may then pursue the following step.

Satisfying Work 

There are many ways to do satisfying work. One approach is to build on your strengths. It is to focus on the deeply satisfying activities in which you deliver As rather than Bs or Cs.

Bearing in mind these activities, you can concentrate on one that you want to translate into a specific project. You can then aim to build on your strengths, do superb work and deliver success.

Different people pursue this route in different ways. Here are the kinds of answers that people give regarding doing such work.

The satisfying work I love to do is: 

To encourage people … To cook nourishing food … To renovate houses … To coach footballers … To work as a vet … To create beautiful things … To find solutions to technical problems … To help people to heal .. To lead pioneering teams.  

Great workers are often loyal to their craft and love to translate this into doing certain projects. They often enjoy the journey as much as reaching their goal.

Some people choose to serve something greater than themselves. They may aim to follow a spiritual faith, their vocation or pursue a cause. Such people focus on something they really care about and then translate this into action.

Maggie Keswick Jenks was somebody who took this path. She was a writer, landscape designer, painter and mother of two. She was the co-founder, alongside Charles Jencks, of Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres. Here is some background that you can find on their website.

In May 1993, Maggie was told that her breast cancer had recurred and spread to her bones, liver and brain. Told that she had three months to live, she joined an advanced chemotherapy trial and lived for another 18 months.

During that time, she and her husband Charles Jencks worked closely with her medical team, which included oncology nurse, Laura Lee, now Maggie’s Chief Executive, to develop a new approach to cancer care. 

In order to live more positively with cancer, Maggie and Charles believed you needed information that would allow you to be an informed participant in your medical treatment, stress-reducing strategies, psychological support and the opportunity to meet other people in similar circumstances in a relaxed domestic atmosphere.

Maggie was determined that people should not “lose the joy of living in the fear of dying” and the day before she died in June 1995, she sat in her garden, face to the sun and said: “Aren’t we lucky?” 

In November 1996, the first Maggie’s Centre opened in Edinburgh and what Maggie had planned became real.

What is Maggie’s? 

Maggie’s is about empowering people to live with, through and beyond cancer by bringing together professional help, communities of support and building design to create exceptional centres for cancer care.

Maggie’s Centres are for anyone affected by cancer.

They are places where people are welcome whenever they need us – from just being diagnosed, or undergoing treatment, to post-treatment, recurrence, end of life or in bereavement.

We also welcome family and friends, as they are often deeply affected by cancer too.

We know that those who love and look after someone with cancer can feel just as frightened, vulnerable and uncertain.

Our visitors tell us that the welcome they receive at Maggie’s is what they appreciate the most.

Just walking through our doors puts them at ease.

This is a key part of our pioneering approach that integrates professional help with a community of support in thoughtfully designed centres, a combination that is proving highly effective in alleviating the emotional distress and practical difficulties that cancer brings.

Everything we provide is free of charge, so visitors can feel welcome to access our support for as long as they need it.


Imagine that you plan to do satisfying work and have translated this into doing a specific project. You will then work towards achieving your picture of success.

Different people have different definitions of success. A person may define it as helping others, raising a happy family, achieving specific goals, leaving a positive legacy, finding peace or whatever.

Rodrigo Arboleda is somebody who has set specific goals.  He is Chairman and CEO of the One Laptop Per Child Association. The organisation has so far distributed more than 3 million laptops across the world.

Here is some background from the organisation’s website. You can discover more about its superb work via the following link.


OLPC’s mission is to empower the world’s poorest children through education.

We aim to provide each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop.  

To this end, we have designed hardware, content and software for collaborative, joyful, and self-empowered learning.  

With access to this type of tool, children are engaged in their own education, and learn, share, and create together.

They become connected to each other, to the world and to a brighter future.

Learning is the basis for full human, social,
economic and democratic development

As the pace of change in the world increases dramatically, the urgency to prepare all children to be full citizens of the emerging world also increases dramatically.  

No one can predict the world our children will inherit. The best preparation for children is to develop the passion for learning and the ability to learn how to learn. 

The root cause of the rapid change, digital technology, also provides a solution. When every child has a connected laptop, they have in their hands the key to full development and participation.

The tool with which to unlock their potential is the XO. Put this ultra-low-cost, powerful, rugged, low-power, ecological laptop in their hands and contribute to making a better world.  

In the first years of OLPC we have seen two million previously marginalized children learn, achieve and begin to transform their communities. We are working to provide this opportunity to millions more.

There are many ways to live life. As mentioned earlier, some people focus on the circle of serenity, satisfying work and success. Different people follow this approach in different ways.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a situation when you may want to take their approach? This could be in your personal or professional life.

How can you do your best to see things in perspective and achieve a state of serenity? How can you do satisfying work? 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 focus on serenity, satisfying work and success.

Describe the specific things you can do then to focus on these steps. 

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result.

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