The Art of Strengths Coaching

L is for Leaving A Positive Legacy

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People often want to leave a legacy. They often want to encourage their loved ones and help other people to be happy. They also want to pass on the fruits of their labours and provide wisdom that helps future generations.

Different people do this in in different ways. Some aim to build loving relationships. Some aim to appreciate life and create positive memories. Some aim to build on their strengths and do satisfying work that helps people and the planet.

Human beings throughout history have aimed to leave a legacy. Some bequeathed money, some built monuments, some created works of art that would last beyond their lifetime.

Today there are many articles written about people wanting to pass on something meaningful. This was also a common theme on many personal development courses during the 1960s and 70s.

People were sometimes invited to do exercises that involved them writing their headstone, writing their obituary or describing what they wanted to pass on to other people. This sounds challenging, but many found it helped them to clarify their lifetime picture of success.

Stephen Covey popularised a similar approach when highlighting the habits followed by highly effective people. He encouraged people to: “Live, love, laugh and leave a legacy.”

Today many people are aiming to improve the world by doing meaningful work. Liepollo Pheko, a leader in South Africa, believes many women innovators can leave a positive legacy.

Below is a short extract from one of her speeches. You can discover more via the following link.

When we talk about women in business in South Africa and leaving a legacy, we first need to understand what we mean by creating sustainable economies, sustainable growth and empowerment.

Leaving a legacy means having something to show for the time we have spent in our areas of expertise and areas of endeavour.

It meant leaving inspiring footprints that will drive the people that we leave behind, the people that we work with and inspiring others with our ideas even after we are long gone.

It is about making a tangible impact and giving birth to ideas that can change communities today and in the future.

Clayton Christensen focused on similar themes when co-writing the book How Will You Measure Your Life? A professor at Harvard Business School, he looked at his own life and asked the following questions.

Is there something that I can leave the world that is something bigger than me? Something that will help other people become better people? How will I measure whether I am achieving that goal?

In the video below he describes how he encourages people to explore these questions. Many people found that going through this process had a profound impact on their lives.

You may have your own framework for focusing on what you want to pass on to people. If you wish, however, you can explore the following themes.

Positive Relationships

How can you continue to encourage people and build positive relationships? As Maya Angelou kept reminding us:

People will never forget how you made them feel.

Looking at your own life, how do you want to be remembered as a parent, partner, friend or colleague? What are the actual words you would like to hear people saying about the way you helped them in their lives? One person said the following about what they wanted their children to feel.

I want my partner and I to have given our children the opportunity to enjoy a happy childhood. For example, I want them to say things like:

’Our parents were always there for us. They encouraged us, helped us to develop our talents and also helped us to learn how to make decisions.’

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 do to encourage people and build positive relationships.

Describe the actual words you would like to hear people say about the way you encouraged them and built positive relationships.

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Positive Contributions

People often talk about wanting to help to build a better world. There are many approaches to making this happen.

Some people aim to do positive things each day. They try to be encouraging and help other people. They express the Dalai Lama’s view that: “My religion is kindness.”

Some people build on their strengths and do satisfying work. They use their talents to help others through teaching, coaching, designing, creating, building, problem solving or whatever. They aim to do things that help people or the planet.

Some people follow their vocation. Their vocation is their calling, it is what they are here to do. Their vocation remains constant throughout their life, but they may express it through various vehicles on the way towards doing valuable work.

Some people focus on following their purpose. They follow their passion, translate this into a clear purpose and achieve peak performance. They pass on their knowledge to other people and sometimes find a sense of peace.

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 do to make positive contributions to people or the planet.

Describe the actual words you would like to hear people say about the positive contributions you made.

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Positive Memories

People want to enjoy life, pursue experiences and have no regrets. Looking back in later years, they want to feel they have appreciated and made the most of life.

When you ask parents what they want for their children, they often say: “We want them to be happy.” So the question is: “How do people achieve happiness?”

During the past 40 years Positive Psychology has researched the topic of happiness. It has asked:

What kinds of people are happy? What are the principles such people follow to be happy? Is it possible for other people to follow these principles in their own ways to maintain or improve their happiness?

Here is an overview of some of the principles that have emerged. You will, of course, have your own views on themes that could be added.

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When people look back on their lives, they often recall the positive memories they have created for themselves and others. These are the things that have warmed their souls or made others happy.

If you wish, try tackling this final exercise on the theme of creating a positive legacy. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific things you want to do to enjoy life and create positive memories for yourself and other people.

Describe the actual words you would like to say about the positive memories you created for yourself and other people during your time on the planet.

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    C is for People Choosing To Be Caring rather than Cruel

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    People make choices every moment. They can choose to be caring or to be cruel, to help people or to hurt people. The choices they make have consequences, both for themselves and for other people.

    People who show caring for others often get benefits. Sometimes they experience what is called the helpers high. Putting themselves into the caring circle, they are also more likely to reap what they sow.

    Those who are cruel to others may also experience a temporary high. They may pay later, however, by those they hurt taking revenge on them, their loved ones or other people. Sometimes it is also the innocent who suffer.

    People who make far-reaching decisions in society sometimes need to think through the consequences. How can they show caring to all people? How can they create an encouraging environment for people and the planet? How can they enable people to flourish?

    Warren Buffet is sometimes quoted in this regard when referring to what he calls The Ovarian Lottery. He believes that he and his children won such a lottery, because they born into a society that gave them opportunities.

    Based on the theory of justice outlined by John Rawls, Warren invites people to design their ideal society. There are many versions of the story he tells and one is shown below. You can find an excellent version on Simone Joyaux’s website via the following link.

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    People now recognise that it is possible for individuals to get into a cycle of caring or a cycle of cruelty. Children who experience caring in the family and school, for example, are more likely to encourage others.

    Caring also involves giving consistent messages about helping – rather than hurting – other people. Hence there is now a movement towards emphasising the importance of character in schools, as well as academic grades.

    There are many approaches to encouraging young people to follow the Golden Rule. One is embodied in the work of Values-based Education in schools.

    Here is an introduction from the organisation’s website. You can discover more via the following link.

    Values-based Education is an approach to teaching that works with values. It creates a strong learning environment that enhances academic attainment, and develops students’ social and relationship skills that last throughout their lives.

    The positive learning environment is achieved through the positive values modelled by staff throughout the school. It quickly liberates teachers and students from the stress of confrontational relationships, which frees up substantial teaching and learning time.

    It also provides social capacity to students, equipping them with social and relationship skills, intelligences and attitudes to succeed at school and throughout their lives. 

    The school is a microcosm of the world. VbE is an approach that nourishes, and enables learners to flourish, making a difference to the world through who and how they are.

    When we actively engage with values we start to understand their implications for making choices about our attitudes and responses.  

    A Values-based approach encourages reflective and aspirational attributes and attitudes.

    These can be nurtured to help people discover the very best of themselves, which enables them to be good citizens and prepare them for the life of work.

    The caring approach is also underlined by the popularity of the famous THINK poster that is exhibited in many classrooms. Here is one of the websites that encourages educators to download and print the poster.


    People who choose to be caring want to help others to grow. They choose to spread happiness, rather than harm.

    Generous by choice, they love to give to people. They recognise it is important to take care of themselves, however, so they refuse to become victims.

    Such people have few regrets in life. The regrets they do have sometimes mirror those described by George Saunders in his famous Commencement Speech at Syracuse University He said:

    What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.

    Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded . . . sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.

    Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope:

    Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth?

    Those who were kindest to you, I bet.

    It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.

    You will, of course, have your own approach to encouraging people. If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. Looking to the future, this invites you to do the following things.

    Describe the specific things you can do to choose to be caring and translate this into action.  

    Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of choosing to be caring and translating this into action.

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