The Art of Strengths Coaching

W is for What People Worship

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There are many models for understanding what motivates people. One approach is to focus on what they worship.

The key is to look at people’s actions, rather than words. What are they devoted to pursuing?

Human beings as a species may need to switch their focus regarding what they worship, for example, if they are to succeed rather than commit suicide. They may need to care for the planet, rather than worship money.

People sometimes get to a point in life where they evaluate what they feel is important. They may do this after a wake-up call or simply as they get older. They clarify what they want to pursue in their lives and work.

Imagine that you may have gone through – or a going through – such a process. Let’s explore how this can happen.

Clarifying what you
have pursued in the past

The things we worship often mirror what we have been encouraged to pursue. One person said:

If you ask me what I am obsessed by, it is probably learning and development. I got this from my parents, plus some teachers who took an interest in me.

My parents always encouraged me to be happy. They helped me to learn in my own way, rather than to fit into school systems.

This led to a few scrapes, particularly in my teenage years. They also taught me, however, that I was responsible for my actions. So I needed to take the consequences.

Today I have my own business, providing educational software for young people. I believe that education is vital, but there are far better routes than following old school systems.

Some people find that pursuing certain values works for them and others. There may be ups and downs, but they resettle on their inner compass.

Some people find that pursuing certain values can, even with the best of intentions, lead to problems. But then comes the opportunity for them to refocus on what they believe is important. One person explained:

I have always been an achiever, but now I try to achieve different things.

During my youth I was a top student. Good at passing exams, I also competed for my country in athletics.

Leaving university I climbed the corporate ladder, always aiming to be promoted quicker than people of the same age. Then I reached the pinnacle, or so I thought. I made the Board Room by my early thirties.

As the cliché goes, however, when I got there, there wasn’t there. Looking out of the window, I asked myself: ‘Is this it?’

People sometimes go through the stages of striving, surviving and thriving. This is what happened for me.

Striving was a natural part of my personality. It still is. But I was stuck at the stage of surviving, rather than going on to thriving. So I decided to change the things I wanted to pursue in life.

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

Describe the specific things you pursued – as shown by your actions – in the past.

Describe the pluses and minuses – both for yourself and other people – of pursuing these things.

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Clarifying what
you want to pursue

Different people choose to pursue different things and this, of course, has consequences. The high achiever mentioned above explained what happened for them.

Looking at my life, I was running on empty and there was a price to pay.

So I clarified what for me was important in life. These included the usual things, such as doing what I loved and giving love to others.

I had aimed to do this all along, of course, but I had become a hard, empty vessel. The key was to regain my sense of joy.

I began by doing simple things – such as running for fun, spending time with people who made me laugh and wearing bright colours. Paradoxically, my work improved. It did mean, however, that I reassessed my career

Seeing an opportunity, I volunteered to run a pilot project that would help set the tone for the future business. This meant stepping down from the Board, but that was okay.

Looking around the web, you see lots of young people who are suffering from incurable diseases. They sometimes raise money for charity, with the proclamation: ‘Life is for living.’

I eventually left the company to set up a social enterprise. I still aim to do my best, but now I build things that encourage people to care for their wellbeing and feel fully alive.

A person’s contribution to life depends on their actions, rather than their words.  The things they pursue indicate what they worship.

Looking at your own life, what do you believe it is important for you to focus on in the future? If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific things you want to pursue – together with the actions you want to take – in the future.

Describe the pluses and minuses – both for yourself and other people – of pursuing these things.

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