The Strengths Blog

 


May 21st, 2015

O is for Observing Properly In Order To Be A Good Operator

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Great workers are good at reading reality. They have the ability to observe what is actually happening in their chosen field.

They may be facilitating a workshop, tackling a technical problem or focusing on another activity in which they excel. Such workers go through the following steps to observe what is happening.

They see the big picture and the small details.

They see the patterns – both the successful and unsuccessful patterns – and the possible consequences.

They see the practical strategies that can be followed to achieve the picture of success.

Great workers are also good operators in their field. They know how to implement the right strategy in the right way to deliver the right results.

Looking at your own work, where are you good at reading reality and achieving success? You may combine these abilities when encouraging people, leading particular projects, tackling certain kinds of challenges or whatever.

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

Describe the specific activity where you observe things properly and are also a good operator.

Describe the specific things you do to observe what is happening in this activity.

Describe the specific things you then do to be a good operator in this activity.

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Great workers are often a mixture of scientist and artist. Combining the heart and head, they have what is called strategic intuition. They are able to read reality and also translate this into a realistic vision for success.

“The hardest thing is to watch what is actually happening,” said one of my teachers.

“Many people have confirmation bias. They see what they want to see, rather than see reality. Some people also fall into the trap of quickly making interpretations.

“Good decision making calls for gathering data. By the way, feelings are also data. You can then make good decisions, even during a drama.

“Look at people’s behaviour and the consequences. These provide the keys to what is really happening.”

This message was reinforced when I visited George Lyward, who achieved outstanding results at Finchden Manor. This was a therapeutic community for troubled boys.

Hundreds of social workers travelled to its location, near Tenterden in Kent, to seek the secret of his success. Walking around the ramshackle huts, they saw boys playing guitars, kicking footballs, tending gardens and, in some cases, engaged in study.

Finally the visitors crammed into the large hall and bombarded George with questions.

“What therapy do you believe in,” they asked. “What is the role of the staff? They seem to do little except watch the boys.”

“You are right, they watch the boys,” said George.

“Watching is one of the hardest things to do in life. Our staff members watch the boys painting, mending cars, playing music, helping each other or whatever.

“They look for when the boy ‘comes alive’. They then nurture the boy’s talent and help them to shape their future life.”

Let’s return to the activity where you are a good observer and operator. How can you build on these strengths?

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

Describe the specific activity where you observe things properly and are also a good operator. 

Describe the specific things you can do to pursue this activity in the future.

Describe the specific benefits – both for yourself and other people – of pursuing this activity where you are good observer and operator.

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May 20th, 2015

S is for Where Things Go Slowly Yet Swiftly

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When do you go into your equivalent of the zone? When do you flow, flow and finish?

Different people describe this experience in different ways. They say things like:

I felt in my element – at ease and yet able to excel.

I felt hands-on and fully present yet, at the same time, I felt like I was hovering about the situation and seeing the big picture.

I felt things were going slowly, yet afterwards people told me that things went swiftly

When do you experience such feelings and also do fine work? You may be counselling a person, playing a sport, performing a song, solving a problem or tackling some other kind of challenge.

Writing in his autobiography, Second Wind, the Boston Celtic’s basketball player Bill Russell described one time when the whole team went into such a zone. He explained:

It was almost as if we were playing in slow motion. During those spells I could almost sense how the next play would develop and where the next shot would be taken.

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

Describe a specific activity where things seem to go slowly for you – yet others may think they go swiftly – and you do good work.

Describe specific examples of when you have done good work in this activity.

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Peak performers often seem to have ‘more time’ to do things in the activities in which they excel. They make complicated things look simple. They seem to go at their own pace and yet perform superb work.

People can experience this feeling when working as individuals or in a team. Writing in his book Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote: 

Surgeons say that during a difficult operation they have the sensation that the entire operating team is a single organism, moved by the same purpose; they describe it as a ‘ballet’ in which the individual is subordinated to the group performance, and all involved share in a feeling of harmony and power.

Great workers are simultaneously able to see the big picture and yet have attention to detail. They also quickly see patterns. This gives them the ability to know what will happen before it happens.

Al Siebert, author of The Survivor Personality, called this gift personal radar. This gives them more time and space to use their repertoire of talents to deliver great results.

So what happens when people use their personal radar? Entering the situation in which they excel, they feel alive and alert. Employing their antennae, they rapidly gather information about the following things.

They clarify the big picture and the small details. 

They clarify the potential picture of success.

They clarify the best strategy for achieving the picture of success.

Peak performers then use their repertoire of tools to achieve the required picture of success.

This sounds a long process, but sometimes it takes just a few seconds. Great workers go at their own pace, which for them may seem as if they are doing things slowly. For other people, however, the events seem to move swiftly.

Let’s return to your life and work. How can you specialise in the specific activity where things go slowly? How can you continue to do good work in this activity? What will be the benefits – both for you and other people?

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

Describe a specific activity where things seem to go slowly for you – yet others may think they go swiftly – and you do good work.

Describe the specific things you can do to pursue this activity in the future.

Describe the specific benefits – both for yourself and other people – of pursuing this activity.

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May 19th, 2015

L is for Liberating Beliefs rather than Limiting Beliefs

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People who are positive often pursue what they believe to be liberating beliefs. They translate these into behaviour and aim to do their best.

Some gurus urge people to focus on their so-called limiting beliefs, but taking this route can increase people’s self-doubt. Another approach is for people to focus on their liberating beliefs.

Such beliefs need to be based on reality, of course, rather than wishful thinking. Bearing this in mind, people often go through the following steps to clarify their liberating beliefs.

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Looking back at your life, when have you pursued a liberating belief that enabled you to reach a goal? You may have done this when working to pass an exam, deliver a project or reach some other goal.

If appropriate, how did you translate this belief into positive affirmations? Different people do this in different ways. A person may say, for example:

“I can do it. I have done it before, so I can do it again. I just need to keep doing certain things in the right way. I will then reach the goal.”

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

Describe a specific situation in the past when you followed a liberating belief and translated this into positive affirmations.

Describe the liberating belief and positive affirmations that you followed in the situation. 

Describe the specific things you did to translate the liberating belief and positive affirmations into action.

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You will have your own approach to helping people to follow their liberating beliefs. People who use Appreciative Inquiry, for example, often invite clients to recall when they have performed brilliantly. They then help people to translate these principles into liberating beliefs.

Counsellors sometimes invite a troubled client to build on their inner resources. They invite the person to recall when they have overcome similar setbacks successfully.

The client then develops belief from the gut. They have done it before, so they can do it again. Building on this feeling, they can follow similar principles to tackle the present challenge successfully.

Different people use liberating beliefs in different ways. Looking at my own life, for example, I had the liberating belief that I could get out of the factory and get a job helping people.

Leaving school at fifteen, I embarked on a six-year apprenticeship at Rolls Royce in Derby. Unfortunately I was not good at operating machines, so I tried to get a job doing some kind of social work.

Visiting the local employment office, I was asked about my academic record. Having failed the old 11+ Exam in the UK, things looked bleak on this front. The person at the employment exchange said:

“Your place is in a factory for the rest of your life.”

My liberating belief, however, was that I had fighting spirit and the ability to learn. One teacher encouraged me by saying she had seen that, when I put my mind to it, nothing would stop me reaching a goal.

Spurred on by this belief, I spent the next few years educating myself at the local reference library. This led to leaving the factory the day before I was 21 and managing to get a job in an office.

Another year of exploring many avenues led to being interviewed by Community Service Volunteers. They gave me the chance to work with mentally handicapped children. This eventually led to running therapeutic communities for teenagers.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking to the future, can you think of a situation when you may want to follow a liberating belief? You may want to do this when taking the next step in your career, tackling a specific challenge or whatever.

What is the liberating belief you would like to follow? If appropriate, how can you translate this into positive affirmations? How can you then translate these words into action?

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 follow a liberating belief and translate this into positive affirmations.

Describe the liberating belief and positive affirmations that you may want to follow in the situation. 

Describe the specific things you can do to translate the liberating belief and positive affirmations into action.

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May 18th, 2015

G is for Graciousness

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There are many definitions for the being gracious. The one we are exploring is when people show the qualities of being kind, humble and respectful.

Nelson Mandela is often mentioned as showing graciousness towards people, including his former captors. One of his most quoted statements is:

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

Some people show graciousness toward others. They make people feel welcome and listen to them carefully. They may have strong opinions themselves, but they aim to be kind towards other people.

Some people show graciousness towards life, even when going through tough times. Those who experience an illness or loss sometimes show gratitude for what they still have in life. They demonstrate a sense of perspective and peace.

Some people are gracious towards their profession. Some sports people do their best, for example, but are respectful towards both the event and other competitors. They demonstrate good manners in both victory and defeat.

Some people show graciousness towards the planet. They aim to walk lightly on the Earth. They believe it is vital we treat the planet in a way that is grateful, rather than greedy. Such people want to pass on a beautiful planet to future generations.

Looking back, can you think of a person who has shown graciousness? How did they show kindness, humility or respect?

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

Describe a person who you have known or heard about who showed graciousness. 

Describe the specific things they did to be gracious.

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Different people show graciousness in different ways. Some people demonstrate it through the Buddhist concept of Right Livelihood. This is part of The Noble Eightfold Path, which encompasses the following principles.

Right View.
Right Intention.
Right Speech.
Right Action.
Right Livelihood.
Right Effort.
Right Mindfulness.
Right Concentration.

The Right Livelihood Awards, for example, are given to people who follow these principles in their daily lives and work. Known as the Alternative Nobel Prizes, these highlight those who do positive work that helps both people and the planet.

Wangari Maathai, for example, gained the Right Livelihood Award in 1984 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. Whilst using fighting spirit to overcome adversity in some areas of her life, she showed graciousness towards the planet.

Best known for her work with the Green Belt Movement in Kenya, she also acted as a positive model for people. During her life she recruited hundreds of thousands of people who planted more than 40 million trees.

Jakob von Uexkull founded the Right Livelihood Awards in 1980. Born in Uppsala, Sweden, he came from a family of pioneers. He went on to become a philatelist and stamp trader.

The latter led to him creating a successful business, which he sold to fund the first five years of the Right Livelihood Awards. You can discover more about the awards via the following link.

http://www.rightlivelihood.org/

His initial move was to approach the Nobel Foundation. The original categories for the prizes had been set in a different world, said Jakob. Would it be possible to create awards for people tackling the present challenges facing humankind?

The Nobel Foundation were polite, but said that no new categories would be added. Jakob responded by creating the Right Livelihood Awards. He explains why in the following way.

The idea of ‘right livelihood’ is an ancient one. It embodies the principle that each person should follow an honest occupation, which fully respects other people and the natural world.

It means being responsible for the consequences of our actions and taking only a fair share of the earth’s resources. 

In every generation, there are groups of people and individuals around the globe who valiantly uphold these principles of right livelihood.

They should be the stars in our human cosmos; instead their work often entails personal sacrifice, being opposed by powerful forces around them.

The Right Livelihood Award exists to honour and support such people.

Some people show graciousness towards other people, some show it towards their profession. Some people even show it in the competitive world of sports.

Jack Nicklaus, the legendary golfer, showed it in a remarkable act of sportsmanship when playing Tony Jacklin in the final match of the 1969 Ryder Cup.

The US and Britain were tied as the two players approached the final hole. This meant that, as the holders, the US would retain the trophy if the hole was halved.

If Nicklaus won the hole, the US would be recorded as winning – rather than simply retaining – the Ryder Cup. Nicklaus sank his putt and this left Jacklin needing to hole a difficult putt to draw the match.

After holing his own putt, Nicklaus immediately walked across the green and picked-up his opponent’s ball. He opted to concede Jacklin’s difficult putt.

Nicklaus was criticised by some people. His response was to cite his friendship with Tony Jacklin. He felt a duty his friend, rather than pile on the pressure of potential failure. The record books were not as important as the friendship.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking to the future, can you think of a specific situation when you may want to act in a gracious way?

You may, for example, envisage facing a difficult challenge. How can you be gracious in the situation? What may be the result of following this path?

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 act in a gracious way.

Describe the specific things you can do then to act graciously.

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of acting graciously in the situation.

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May 16th, 2015

P is for Creating Your Version Of Paradise

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People love to create their own versions of paradise. They may aim to do this by creating a garden, room, book, relationship, community, work place or whatever.

Christopher Alexander describes how people can shape buildings in which they feel at ease. This can lead to them experiencing a sense of harmony and fulfilment in their lives.

Other people create other versions of paradise. Parents aim to create a loving family in which children can grow. Teachers aim to create an inspiring environment that enables students to shape their future lives.

Good leaders are positive and predictable. They aim to create a stimulating culture in which motivated people can achieve peak performance.

Looking at your own life, when have you aimed to create your own version of paradise? You may have chosen to create a beautiful garden, a lovely home, an encouraging relationship, a stimulating sanctuary or other kind of inspiring environment.

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 create your version of paradise.

Describe the specific things you did to create the environment.

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of creating the environment.

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Some people aim to create a physical paradise, some a psychological paradise. Some aim to create a combination of both.

Some create paradise in their own heads. Alice Herz-Sommer, for example, survived concentration camps through the help of music.

Alice said: “Music is God.” Music was her daily passport to paradise. The video below is a trailer for a documentary about her called The Lady in Number 6. Here is the official introduction.

Music literally saved her life! “The Lady in Number 6″ is one of the most inspirational, uplifting stories of the year.

109 year old, Alice Herz Sommer the world’s oldest pianist and oldest holocaust survivor in the world shares her views on how to live a long and happy life. She discusses the importance of music, laughter and having an optimistic outlook on life.

During the 1960s and 70s I visited many therapeutic communities that aimed to create a version of paradise. Different communities had different kinds of environments. But most aimed to give people the chance of shaping fulfilling lives.

The places I visited included Finchden Manor, Steiner Schools, The Henderson Hospital and Peper Harow. Some people gained from being in such environments, whilst others did not make use of the opportunities.

I also visited schools that created environments in which students could develop. Henry Pluckrose and his team at Prior Weston School in London’s Barbican, for example, created a state primary school that built a worldwide reputation for excellence.

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Prior Weston enabled children to master both social and educational skills. It encouraged them to express their individuality through the arts – such as poetry, music and acting. Every year students went on scores of visits to local buildings, theatres, museums and work places.

The results were impressive. The school attracted a waiting list of students and visitors from many countries. Eventually it had to limit the visitors to 4,000 a year.

I first heard about Prior Weston on the BBC radio programme The World At One. It was introduced as a school which ‘everybody liked’. Students and parents were so enthusiastic that the presenter pleaded:

“Please tell me one thing that is wrong with the school.”

Prior Weston was successful because the staff believed in the educational – rather than engineering – approach to running a school. Whilst it was important to deliver certain results, these could be achieved by treating students as individuals. Henry believed in the following principles of learning.

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Some years ago I wrote an article about Henry’s work. As a result I was contacted by former students who described the debt they owed to Prior Weston.

Some had been inspired to become teachers. They incorporated the ideas into their own approaches to encouraging students. You can read more about Henry’s work via the following link.

http://www.thepositiveapproach.global/henry-pluckroses-approach-to-doing-positive-work/

Let’s return to your own life and work. Can you think of a situation when you may want to create your own version of paradise?

You may want to nurture a garden, create a sanctuary for animals, play music, renovate a house, encourage a person, write a book, create something beautiful or whatever. How can you take these steps?

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

Describe a specific situation when you may aim to create your version of paradise.

Describe the specific things you can do to create your version of paradise. 

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

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