The Supporting People’s Sparks Approach

When do you see people come alive? When do you see them fulfilled and creative? When do you see their sparks?

Peter Benson had a profound influence on the way many people encourage children, teenagers and adults. Much of his work was around the theme of sparks. He wrote:

Children want to be known for their sparks. A spark is something that gives your life meaning and purpose. It’s an interest, a passion, or a gift. When you see these sparks in them, then affirm them. You shall know them by their sparks.

Peter died at the age of 65 in 2011, but his work lives on through colleagues at the Search Institute. Let’s explore how to support the sparks in other people and yourself. You can discover more at the official web site.

Supporting The
Sparks In People

People show sparks throughout their lives. During a workshop for 40 people, for example, I asked them to each make a flip chart of the following exercise.

They then put these around the walls, filling the whole room with their sparks. This provided lots of information for them to build on during the session and afterwards with their families.

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Peter Benson 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.

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

Describe a person you want to encourage. You may want to focus on a child, partner, friend, colleague, kindred spirit or whoever.

Describe the specific times when you see their sparks – when they are alive, creative or fulfilled.

Describe the specific things you can do to support the sparks in this person.

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Supporting The
Sparks In Yourself

Earlier we looked at the exercise where people made a flip chart describing their sparks. When do you experience sparks? Here are some answers given by three people who I have worked with.

I Am Aware Of My Sparks When I Am:

Making Wildlife Films

I love the travel, setting up camp in the wilderness, the long wait for action shots and even the process of editing afterwards. The response from the public is also a huge bonus.

Trouble Shooting

I am a fixer and love making things work. The best part of my job is being called out to solve technical problems for clients. This gets the adrenalin going and gives me a big kick.

Coaching Footballers

I know how footballers think and I enjoy being on the training field. It is rewarding to see the players develop skills and put these into practice during matches.

Below is another video from Search International on the topic of sparks.

Although this is about young people, it is possible to find and build on your sparks throughout life. You can do this when encouraging yourself and other people.

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

Describe the specific times when you experience sparks – when you feel alive, creative or fulfilled.

Describe the specific things you can do to support some of the sparks in yourself.

Describe the specific benefits of supporting these sparks.

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