The Art of Strengths Coaching

S is for Soul Food

 

What are the things that feed your soul? Here are some answers that people give to this question.

The specific things
that feed my soul are:

Encouraging people … Being with our children … Listening to music … Passing on knowledge … Walking each day … Cooking and giving food to people … Gardening … Listening to the sound of water falling.

Revisiting my values … Deep breathing … Doing creative work each day … Learning from sages … Studying success … Learning more about positive psychology … Watching people do brilliant work.  

The term soul food originally referred to food eaten by African Americans living in the Deep South of the USA. Since then it has been used to refer to other things that feed your soul.

A person can benefit from nurturing their body and soul when tackling a challenge. Getting the right kind of soul food can sustain them, for example, on the road to doing satisfying work.

People who do not feed their soul can run into difficulties. They may carry on with the work, but inside they can feel empty and, in some cases, even desperate. They need to refuel themselves both physically and psychologically to do good work.

Looking at your own life, what are the things that act as soul food for you? What happens when you get this soul food? You may feel more at peace, calmer, uplifted, more alive or whatever. What happens if you do not get enough soul food?

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

Describe the specific things that act as soul food for you. 

Describe the specific things that happen if you do get this soul food.

Describe the specific things that happen if you don’t get this soul food.

Different people have different approaches to soul food. Some start the day with soul food. Some maintain a steady supply of it during the day. Some starve themselves of soul food when striving to reach a goal. Let’s explore these approaches.

Some people start
the day with soul food

Some people have morning rituals they follow to feed their body and soul. They follow these steps each day to appreciate life, maintain sense of gratitude or serve something greater than themselves. They may, for example:

Pray … Meditate … Follow a ritual for recentering … Count their blessings … Take time to appreciate the moment … Revisit their deepest values … Listen to music … Follow a positive mantra … Clarify how they want to encourage people that day. 

Some focus on their core principles and how they can translate these into action. They ask some of the following questions.

What is my life philosophy? What are the principles I want to follow? How can I follow those principles today? How can I translate my philosophy into action and help other people during my time on the planet? 

Different people choose different approaches to recentering. Some focus on their inner compass; some focus on their life goals; some focus on the specific actions they want to take that day.

Some follow a spiritual path. Brother David Steindal-Rast, for example, encourages people to appreciate the potential beauty of each day. Here is a video in which he explains this approach.

Some people maintain a
steady supply of soul food 

Some people plan the day so they can get regular boosts of soul food. This approach sometimes emerges when inviting people to describe their perfect day.

There are several exercises you can do on this theme. These involve clarifying your perfect personal day and your perfect professional day.

Here are the exercises. When doing these it can be useful to create time to get soul food at various points during the day.

Clarifying your
perfect personal day
 

Imagine you could craft your perfect personal day. What would you like to do during such a day?

Maybe you would like to create things, spend time with special people or simply enjoy the moments. What would you like to feel at the end of the day?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. Start by brainstorming and then clarifying your day.

Different people will obviously have different days. For example, you may aim:

To have a leisurely breakfast.

To go for a run.

To spend time with your children.

To work in the garden.

To listen to music, paint, write or do some other creative activity.

To enjoy a siesta.

To go for a walk.

To visit the theatre.

To …

You may also wish to sketch out different kinds of perfect personal days. If you wish, try completing the following exercise.

Clarifying your
perfect professional day
 

Imagine you could craft your perfect professional day. What would you like to do during such a day? What would you like to feel at the end of the day?

People often like to follow their own rhythm during the day, rather than be side tracked. How could you try, as far as possible, to feel in control of shaping your day?

How could you set up the day to succeed? How could you make good use of your prime times, the times of the day when you have most energy?

How could you spend time on stimulating projects? How could you set aside time to gather your thoughts during the day? How could you gain a sense of accomplishment from the day?

Different people will obviously have different days. For example, you may aim:

To focus on your life goals.

To clarify what you are going to do during the day to work towards your life goals.

To get to work early.

To spend time with a coffee rehearsing the day ahead.

To spend most of the day doing what you do best.

To spend time with stimulating customers.

To eat something healthy and nourishing every 2 hours.

To set aside time for yourself halfway through the day.

To rehearse the rest of the day.

To help others to succeed

To do things that enable you to feel fulfilled at the end of the day.

Again, you may have several different kinds of perfect professional days. If you wish, try completing the following exercise.

As mentioned earlier, it is good to create time to recharge your batteries during the day. You may want to take time to get fresh air, go for a walk, gather your thoughts, eat nourishing food or whatever.

It can be useful to bear this in mind when organising your day. You may then aim to follow something like the following cycle. This will enable you to sustain yourself when doing satisfying work or tackling challenges during the day.

Some people starve
themselves of soul food 

Some people take this approach, but it can have consequences. One person explained this in the following way.

For the past ten years I have got to the office for 7.30, packed the day with meetings and got home late at night. Many Sundays have been taken up with flying to other countries for the Monday meetings.  

My father devoted himself to work. He thought this was the best way to provide for the family, but we hardly saw him. I vowed not to make this mistake, but I am following his pattern.  

I have also stopped doing many of the things I enjoy in life. I used to play music in a band and go to concerts. I also enjoyed fishing, which was one of the few times I could sit and think.  

Recently my partner had a health scare, so we sat down together and planned the next few years ahead. This includes sharing lots of adventures with the kids and each of us doing things we love. It took my partner’s illness to make me focus on the important things in life.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, how can you get soul food in the future? You may want to get enough sleep, play your favourite music, go for walks, eat nourishing food and be with positive people. You may want to do satisfying work, spend time with stimulating customers, pass on knowledge to people and help to encourage future generations.

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

Describe the specific things you can do to get soul food in the future.

Describes the specific benefits – both for yourself and other people – of being able to get this soul food.

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