Direct your Client to, without over thinking, circle words from the list below that feel like a core value to them personally
|Being the Best||Kindness||Humility||Security||Wealth|
|Community||Excellence||Making a Difference||Proactive|
Next, ask the Client to make five groupings of similar values. For example: Joy, Optimism, Fun could all be grouped together. If the Client has more than five groupings, have them drop the least important grouping(s).
Now ask your Client to choose one word within each grouping that represents the label for the entire group. Again, encourage the Client not to over think the selection as there is no right or wrong answer. For example the Client chose Joy from the grouping.
Now the Client is to add a verb to each value label. This guides the Client into the action needed to feel like they are truly living on purpose. Perhaps the verb chosen for Joy is sow.
Finally, ask the Client to write down their core values in order of priority. Knowing core values is important because it will help the Client choose or decide something by simply determining if the choice lines up with their true value. A life lined-up with personal values is a well=lived, purpose-filled life.
Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.~Maya Angelou
What natural strengths do you possess? Often times this is a very difficult question to answer. Often times it is difficult to answer because society dictates stating strength is not being modest. Or we think it is our weaknesses that are our greatest areas for growth. However, when a Coach asks the Client to consider any specific words or phrases that others often use to describe them, it often brings insight to their strengths.
In his book, Authentic Happiness (page 134), Seligman explains that strengths are moral traits. One way to get to know your strengths is to take the VIA (Values in Action) Signature Strengths Questionnaire.
The questionnaire affirms those strengths that you most naturally exhibit and gives you clues about ways to use your top five strengths to get more out of life. Visit authentichappines.com and take the VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire
to learn about your interpersonal virtues. This is a twenty-five minute exercise and covers twenty-four strengths. Seligman (page 160) concludes that most of the findings of this exercise will feel authentic to you, but one or two of them may not be the real you. A signature strength are strengths of character that a person self-consciously owns, celebrates, and exercises every day in work, love, play, and parenting. Seligman continues (page 137) to say that first, strength is a trait, a psychological characteristic that can be seen across different situations and over time.
Tayyab Rashid & Afroze Anjum discusses 340 Ways to Use VIA Character Strengths (July 16, 2008) Their discussion offers multiple ways a Coach can create powerful questions to bring awareness to their Client on how to leverage their strengths.
From Practicing Positive Psychology Coaching by Robert Biswas-Diener (2010, page 22-33) a Coach is to help the Client perform at their absolute best. Biswas-Diener goes on to state to develop a strengths vocabulary. Often times your Client may use a label that is not positive. Biswas-Diener writes about a Client who said they were a procrastinator. Through powerful listening and asking powerful questions, the Coach told the Client that what they were seeing was a strength better described as an incubator. This one word allowed the conversation to continue to discuss how the client could best help develop and use this strength.
Biswas-Diener lists how to identify strengths from your Client by looking out for:
- Rising inflection
- Rapid speech
- Better posture
- Wide eyes, raised eyebrows
- Smiling and laughing
- Increased hand gestures
- Increased use of metaphors
- More fluent speech
Biswas-Diener states that energy is a hallmark feature of strengths. A simple question of curiosity, such as Tell me more about that can move your client forward towards their goal.
Growing up I remember having to write thank you notes for gifts I received. It was a chore and often times I almost wished I had not received the gift! I remember in 1994 first reading Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach and realizing that “thank you” had a totally deeper meaning. When Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude was published as a follow up a few years later I believe was the awakening of the power of giving thanks. At this same time, our family replaced the rote prayer of “Grace” around the evening dinner table with stating What I am Thankful For.
Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has—as opposed to a consumer-oriented emphasis on what one wants or needs. Gratitude is getting a great deal of attention as a facet of Positive Psychology: Studies show that we can deliberately cultivate gratitude, and can increase our well-being and happiness by doing so. In addition, grateful thinking—and especially expression of it to others—is associated with increased levels of energy, optimism, and empathy.
Appreciate – “Thank You” – is a central pillar in Positive Psychology. Tal Ben-Shahar (Happiness 101) speaks about appreciation stating that while in the materialistic world appreciation means something increases value, he also states, When we appreciate the good in our life, the good appreciates.
In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).
Real change comes with action. Below is an activity for coaching.
A New Look at Appreciation (Biswas-Diener, 2010, page 43)
Think about how appreciation links to a positive mood, and how beneficial that can be to clients. Work with your client to make time – even five minutes – to reflect on all that went well during the day. Consider the following questions: Who had a hand in the day’s greatest successes? Who rose to the occasion? Who took the initiative? Who offered support? How were these people acknowledged? How does it make you feel when you think of these things? What does it make you feel like doing?
You might also want to focus on appreciation as it relates to your client. Try asking this: Who acknowledged you today? How did it feel when you were acknowledged? Try visualizing that moment. What else would you like to be acknowledged for?
An attitude of gratitude brings altitude ~ Louise Lavergne
Brother David Steindl-Rast, a monk and interfaith scholar, suggests happiness is born from gratitude. His TED Talk speaks about slowing down, looking where you are going, and above all, being grateful.
Doing less rather than more is another way of saying simplify.
Dr. Ben-Shahar (Happiness 101) speaks about rating your top two favorite songs. Perhaps you rate one song a 10 and the other a 9. However, when you play both of these songs at the same time, you do not get a 19 but rather NOISE!
How can we switch off the noise? One suggestion is to reduce multitasking. Dr. Ben-Shahar continues to explain when we are concentrating while perhaps having our email and/or phone turned on we lose 10 IQ points, which is equal to going without sleep for 36 hours.
Suggestions to reduce the “noise” could be: Take a lunch without your phone turned on or being “connected” on your phone or tablet, getting a good night’s sleep, or taking a vacation (without being connected) are suggestions to help you do less. Introduce rituals in your everyday life such as the gratitude journal or giving appreciation at the dinner table.
An activity I introduced to my husband a few years ago was to for each of us to tell the other one thing we appreciated the other one did for us that day. When I heard what my husband appreciated often times it was for simple things I did not even think were big. Another benefit we both received was awareness throughout the day to look an appreciation to acknowledge.
Principal researchers belonging to the Positive Psychology school, including Martin Seligman and Jonathan Haidt, suggest that mindfulness is but one (albeit a major) component of a “repertoire” of disciplines that have been shown to significantly improve “Subjective Well-being” (happiness). They recommend a combination of exercise, mindfulness meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy, and, where needed, medication (esp. selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).
Happiness is Satisfaction with Your Life
One measure that positive psychologists use to take your happiness temperature is the Satisfaction With Life Scale (Biswas-Diener, 2010). All you have to do is decide, on a scale of 1-7, how strongly you agree with the five questions below.
Here’s how to pick a number;
7 – Strongly Agree
6 – Agree
5 – Slightly Agree
4 – Neither Agree nor Disagree
3 – Slightly Disagree
2 – Disagree
1 – Strongly Disagree
And here are the questions:
- _____In most ways my life is close to the ideal.
- _____The conditions of my life are excellent.
- _____ I am satisfied with my life.
- _____ So far, I have gotten the things I want in life.
- _____If I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing.
Choose a number between 1-7 to indicate your agreement with each statement. Now add up the numbers you assigned to each statement
While the Satisfaction With Life Scale gives you a sense of your overall happiness, the fact is that, in real life, some parts of our lives are happier than others. We may adore spending time with our families, for example, and hate going to work. Or vice versa! We might have a rich, fulfilling spiritual life but finances that drive us nuts.
To get a more detailed picture of the parts of our lives that are working well and the parts that need some tweaking, let’s plug some numbers into each of the main segments of our lives.
Wheel of Life
Below is a “Wheel of Life” with concentric circles numbered 1-10. For each section of the wheel, think about how many of the positive emotions you generally feel in that life-area compared to the number of negative emotions that you feel (anger, annoyance, worry, confusion, discouragement, helplessness, loneliness, irritation, and sadness, discomfort and so on).
Then decide on a scale of 1-10 – where 1 represents a total absence of positive feelings and 10 represents completely positive – pick the number that applies for each area in your life. You can either print this article or just make a list of the life areas and write your numbers next to each one.
And here are one client’s scores:
Physical Environment 7
Happiness at a Glance
You can see at a glance the client is fairly happy with her health, her marriage, her home (physical environment), her community involvement and her spirituality. But she’s certainly not having much fun, and she doesn’t spend nearly as much time with her friends as she would like. Her job doesn’t give her a lot of satisfaction and her finances are a bit of a problem for her, too. She’s moderately happy with her family life, but when you ask her, she’ll tell you that she wishes they had more time to do fun things together.
Now the client has a starting place. She can see at a glance what parts of her life need an infusion of some positive emotions.
After we have had time to explore some steps she can take to bring more good feelings into her life, the client can do the wheel again. Then we’ll have a concrete way to see how well she’s doing with her goal “to be happier.”
In conclusion, whether it is discovering your purpose, your strengths, or practicing gratitude, awareness is the foundation for practicing Coaching and Positive Psychology.
Coaching is a practice in search of the backbone… scientific, evidence-based backbone and a theoretical backbone. I believe the discipline of positive psychology provides both those backbones” (Seligman, 2007, p. 266).
Positive Psychology is a perfect compliment for coaching in that it shares moving the client to success, awareness of strengths, and overcoming obstacles while maintaining positive approach. Coaching is Positive Psychology in action.
Ben-Shahar, Tal (2007), Happier: learn the secrets to daily joy and lasting fulfillment: McGraw Hill.
Biswas -Diener R. (2010). Practicing positive psychology coaching: Assessment, activities, and strategies for success. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Emmons & McCullough (2003). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Authentic Happiness. New York: Free Press.
Seligman, M. E. P. (2007). Coaching and positive psychology. Australian Psychologist, 42(4), 266.
You Tube Video – Happiness 101 with Tal Ben-Shahar https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-RVECUWOGQ
Other Hyperlinks for websites noted throughout.