The Art of Strengths Coaching

I is for Aiming To Inspire rather than Impress

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“It is always about aiming to inspire other people, it is not about trying to impress. It is always about them, it is not about you.”

Alec Dickson, founder of Voluntary Service Overseas and Community Service Volunteers, continually gave this message during our meetings.

Meeting him during the late 1960s provided the first introduction to what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi would later call Flow. Alec believed we often do our best work when channelling our talents into serving something greater than ourselves. We are most ourselves when we forget ourselves.

Alec and the other mentors I met during those years added another key point about helping people to shape their future lives.

“Inspiration is vital, but remember that inspiration given from the outside is short lived.

“If you are going to help people, you need to give them something they can use to inspire themselves every day.”

Looking back on your life, can you think of times when you aimed to provide inspiration for others, rather than tried to impress?

You may have done this when encouraging a person, facilitating a coaching session, giving a keynote speech, singing an inspiring song, enabling a team to shape its future, serving a mission or whatever.

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

Describe a specific situation when you aimed to provide inspiration rather than impress.

Describe the specific things you did then to try to provide inspiration, rather than impress.

Describe the specific outcomes – both the pluses and any minuses – of taking this approach.

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During the past 45 years much of my work has involved trying to pass on practical tools that people can use to inspire themselves and achieve success.

Relatively early on I was fortunate to be introduced to the following except from a quote by Michel de Montaigne.

I have merely made up a bunch of other men’s flowers and provided nothing of my own but the string to bind them.

The string to bind them, of course, related to being able to present knowledge in a way that people could use to achieve their picture of success.

Good educators go beyond providing inspiration. They provide implementation tools that work and enable people to integrate the learning in their daily lives and work.

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Looking back over the years, some of the best work I have been involved with has come when aiming to provide inspiration and practical implementation tools. This has resulted in enabling people to apply the knowledge in their own ways to achieve success.

Some of failures have come from falling into the trap of trying to impress. This has resulted in straining too much and forgetting the true purpose of the work.

Alec believed in providing inspiration, rather than trying to impress. Paradoxically, like many people who embodied this belief, he was quite impressive. Nevertheless, he believed in providing experiences that enabled people to learn how to inspire themselves each day.

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 provide people with inspiration rather than try to impress.

Describe the specific things you can do then to provide inspiration.

Describe the specific outcomes – both the pluses and any minuses – that may result from you trying to provide inspiration rather than impress.

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