The Art of Strengths Coaching

H is for Doing Work That Involves The Heart, Head and Hands

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What are the activities where you use your heart, head and hands?

Your heart feels you want to do the specific activity. Your head understands what you are doing. Your ‘hands’ bring something into being.

Let’s explore where you do such work.

The Heart

What are the activities that make your heart sing? You may love gardening, painting, teaching, cooking, solving problems, climbing, writing, inventing or whatever. You feel entranced and carried-away.

Christopher Alexander, the author of The Timeless Way of Building, explains why it is important to follow this spirit when, for example, creating buildings. He wrote:

Each one of us has, somewhere in his heart, the dream to make a living world, a universe.

When you first see a pattern, you will be able to tell almost at once, by intuition, whether it makes you feel good or not: whether you want to live in a world which has that pattern in it, because it helps you feel more alive.

A man is alive when he is wholehearted, true to himself, true to his own inner forces, and able to act freely according to the nature of the situations he is in. To be happy, and to be alive in this sense, are almost the same.

Of course, a man who is alive is not always happy in the sense of feeling pleasant; experiences of joy are balanced by experiences of sorrow.

But the experiences are all deeply felt; and above all, the man is whole and conscious of being real.

Try tackling the exercise on this theme. Describe the specific activities where you use your heart. You love doing these activities and they make your heart sing.

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The Head

What is the specific activity that involves both your heart and your head?

Your heart really wants to do it. Your head has a model for making sense of what you are doing.

Entering a situation, you go ‘A, B … then leap to … Z’. You have a strong feeling – or perhaps have a picture – about the desired goal.

Starting from this destination, you work backwards to the present. You rehearse different strategies to see which is most likely to help you reach the goal. When you feel ready, you pursue your chosen strategy.

Sometimes there will be challenges. You will then use your knowledge to find creative solutions and maybe even redraw the route. You will keep your eyes on the goal, however, and continue until you reach the destination.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. Looking at the activities you mentioned previously, which are the ones where you use both your heart and head? Try completing the following exercise.

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The Hands

When do you use your ‘hands’ to bring something into being?

By ‘hands’ I mean, in some cases, literally your hands – to paint, build, fix, type or whatever. But in other cases it may be using your whole being – your experience, body, voice or whatever to produce a result.

You may be cultivating a garden, encouraging another person, teaching a class, implementing a solution or whatever. Translating intention into action, you do something that aims to improve the world. It is about creating, rather than consuming.

When does this happen for you? Describe the activities where you use your heart, head and hands. Try completing the following exercise.

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How do you feel when doing these activities? One person said:

“I am so involved that I forget myself but, afterwards, I feel more real, more myself.”

How can you do more of these things in the future? If you wish, try tackling the final exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific activity where you use your heart, head and hands.

Describe the specific things you can do to pursue this activity in the future by, for example, translating it into doing a specific project.

Describe the specific benefits of doing the specific project where you use your heart, head and hands.

You can then focus on tackling the project and doing satisfying that benefits both yourself and other people.

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    G is for The Generosity Approach

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    Generous people are like good gardeners. They create an environment that encourages people and things to grow.

    Such people often do this by focusing on encouragement, education, enablement and, when appropriate, enforcement. They are prepared to protect the environment from people who want to spoil it for others.

    So how do we learn generosity? How can we practice it in our daily lives? How can we be generous toward future generations? Let’s explore some of these themes.

    The Philosophy and
    Principles of Generosity

    When I started working with people I had little training in psychology. Trying to get up to speed, I asked many people:

    “What has helped you to grow most in your life?”

    Several common themes emerged. People said things like:

    “I had someone who encouraged me … They gave me time and made me feel the centre of their world …

    “They focused on what I did well, but they were also prepared to tell the truth … They were generous and helped me to follow my way.”

    Bearing this in mind, I tried to be an Encourager. This led to studying the art of generosity. More recently I have asked people about how they learned to be generous.

    Some talk about parents, friends, teachers, managers, leaders and others who embodied the spirit of generosity.

    Some talk about growing up in a certain culture – a school, a team or a work place – that encouraged people to develop and also give to others. Some talk about learning it from spiritual or religious traditions.

    Some talk about critical points in their lives when they chose to be generous rather than – in its widest sense – greedy. They found that being caring led to both themselves and others feeling better.

    If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to look back on your life and do the following things.

    Describe some of the generous people you have known.

    Describe the specific ways in which they showed generosity.

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    Here are answers from two people who did this exercise.

    “My parents always encouraged me. They had a positive attitude and this spread through the whole family. I had a debilitating illness for a year. But they focused on the activities I could do, rather than what I couldn’t do.”

    “I had a marvellous teacher at school. She created a stimulating place that helped the students to learn. She spent hours working with each student. Looking back on that time, I realise how important that was for me, especially during my teenage years.”

    Different people learn and express generosity in different ways. Some of these are simple actions. Some involve great personal risk.

    Writing in The Altruistic Personality, Samuel and Pearl Oliner describe the actions of up to 500,000 non-Jews who risked their own lives to rescue the victims of Nazi persecution.

    They were ordinary people, said Pearl and Samuel. They were farmers, teachers, entrepreneurs, factory workers, rich and poor, parents and single people, Protestants and Catholic.

    Different people helped the Jews in different ways. Some offered them shelter, some helped them escape from prison, some smuggled them out of the country.

    The ‘Rescuers’ showed that people can do wonderful things, even in the midst of catastrophe. Why did people show such generosity? Here are some of the things they said:

    “It was the right thing to do … My mother influenced me mostly by love. She was a warm woman, and we admired her for her wit, her wisdom, and her intelligence.

    “I was always filled with love for everyone, for every creature, for things. I am fused into every object. For me everything is alive …

    “I sensed I had in front of me human beings that were hunted down like wild animals. This aroused a feeling of brotherhood and a desire to help.

    “We had to help these people in order to save them, not because they were Jews, but because they were persecuted human beings who needed help.”

    The Practice of Generosity

    There are many ways to give to others. Some people give in an economic way. Some give in an encouraging or educational way that embodies the spirit of generosity.

    Some people show generosity by embodying the principles outlined by Erik Erikson in his view of The Generative Age. He described this as:

    “A concern for establishing and guiding the next generation.”

    Sometimes this is expressed through parenthood. But it can also take many other forms, such as doing fine work or leaving a positive legacy.

    Erikson’s view was that, up until this age, we often define ourselves in relation to other people. For example, our parents, siblings, friends, teachers, peers and authority figures. But The Generative Age brings a new awareness.

    He said that we may then define ourselves in relation to humanity. He explained:

    “Adults need to create or nurture things that will outlast them, often by having children or creating a positive change that benefits other people.

    “Success leads to feelings of usefulness and accomplishment, while failure results in shallow involvement in the world.

    “Older adults need to look back on life and feel a sense of fulfilment. Success at this stage leads to feelings of wisdom, while failure results in regret, bitterness, and despair.”

    Some people embody elements of The Generative Age throughout their lives. As Anne Frank wrote:

    “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single minute before starting to improve the world.”

    Generous People Sometimes Create An
    Environment The Enables People To Grow

    Generous people sometimes do more than encourage people on a one to one basis. They create an environment that enables people and things to grow.

    This environment can take many forms. The most basic is the family. Others may choose to create a school, a work place, an organisation, a society or whatever.

    They may even create a culture or a new paradigm – a new way of thinking. This can reach many people and have a long-lasting legacy.

    Such people often start by explaining the purpose of the environment to people who want to join. They explain the principles that people are encouraged to follow to achieve the purpose. People are then invited to reflect and decide if they want to opt into working to achieve the goals.

    Generous people sometimes combine elements that at first sight may seem contradictory.

    Encouragement

    They provide encouragement. They provide a stimulating and supportive environment in which people can grow.

    Education

    They provide – in its widest sense – education. This includes providing knowledge, wisdom and models that people can use to achieve positive results.

    Enablement

    They provide practical tools that enable people to shape their futures and achieve ongoing success.

    Enforcement

    They are prepared to act as enforcers and protect the environment from those who want to spoil it for others.

    People make choices every day. They can choose to be generous or greedy, to help people or hurt people. Each choice does, of course, have consequences.

    Human beings are often at their best when they choose to be generous. As the Buddha said:

    “A generous heart, kind speech and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.”

    You will, of course, choose to be generous in your own way. 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 be generous in the future.

    Describe the specific benefits of doing these things – both for other people and for yourself.

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