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Why Strength Matters and How to Grow It

You’ll know when you're coming from your strength because you feel invigorated, productive and enterprising.  When you come from your own strengths, life is easier.

The evidence points to your ability to learn far more quickly when you come from strength; you gain greater satisfaction; you perform more easily; and you experience a desire or a yearning to perform the activity more frequently, as you feel you just have to do it.

Strength Matters – Actually We Have Many Strengths

 I’ll focus on two main bodies of research in the strengths discipline: the first in the personal development space and the second in the organization development and leadership space.  In fact, they overlap and co-mingle.  Both offer an excellent online survey that you can take to identify your own strengths.

First step is to  discover  your innate strengths (also called talents) and then you go out, use them and put them to work.  This is the key to optimizing your well-being,  your flourishing, and a happy life;  and by happy life, the emphasis is on the engagement and meaning aspects of happiness.  This kind of happiness is when you are in alignment with your purpose and are contributing in ways that bring you deep joy and satisfaction.

At work, a good indicator that you're using your strengths is when you are fully engaged in an activity, and, while it may be challenging, you feel at one with it and you lose track of time.  In that case, you're experiencing the flow state, that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's famous book, Flow, the Psychology of Optimal Experience, introduced to the world.  On the contrary, when your energy is depleted and you're either bored (because the task is too easy) or stressed (because it's too hard and not aligned with your natural strengths), you are not in that flow state.  It robs you of productivity and vitality.

But first, let me define “strengths” in the context of human and organization development with a brief overview. 

Character Strengths – Virtues in Action

I’ll start with character strengths developed by the late Chris Peterson of the University of Michigan and Martin Seligman, at University of Pennsylvania,  deemed the father of positivity psychology, and others.  

With knowledge of your character strengths, it is possible to express and develop character and be poised to better direct talents and abilities into meaningful and engaging behaviors that improve your own life and the lives of others.   

This research identified a framework of 24 character strengths that are classified into 5 broad areas of strengths, namely,

  •  cognitive
  • emotional
  • social and community
  • protective
  • spiritual

Your top five strengths in any one of these broad areas are your innate character strengths and when you work with them and bring them into all aspects of your life, you have much greater capability to live a life that engages you fully and is meaningful.  Seligman talks about the Good Life as

Using your strengths to obtain abundant gratification in the main realms of your life

You can become aware of own strengths by paying attention to the activities that absorb you, that make time fly by andStrength matters you feel they are totally occupying you in a good way, that may also be challenging, yet you just want to be doing it.

For me designing courses and facilitating and writing and speaking bring out the best in me. I get into that flow state and I am totally engaged. It’s not to say it’s not challenging, because challenge and stretching yourself is good.

 

Signature Strengths – StrengthsFinder

Around the same time in 2001, the late Don Clifton, former Chairman of Gallup  who was deemed “the father of Strengths-Based Psychology and the grandfather of Positive Psychology” shared his research of near 30 years.

He had been studying excellence in two million people, finally identifying themes that reflect natural talents, naming them signature strengths. He recommends that for success and fulfillment we

“Capitalize on strengths, whatever they may be, and manage around weaknesses, whatever they may be.”

Clifton defines strengths as

“Consistent near perfect performance in an activity . . . the ability is a strength only if you can fathom yourself doing it repeatedly, happily, and successfully.

Clifton’s findings reveal that your top five signature strengths are themes of talent and therefore are your highest potential for development, because that’s where you will find the greatest satisfaction and do what comes most naturally.

“By focusing on your top five themes, you will actually become stronger, more robust, more open to new discoveries and, importantly, more appreciative of people who possess themes very different from your own.”

Take the Surveys

I invite you to go online and take one or both of these strength surveys (listed below) to help you learn about your best attributes and where you can leverage your potential to create the changes that will lead to a more satisfying and meaningful life.

The VIA Survey

VIA stands for Virtues In Action at the website viame.org

The VIA survey is free to take.  I highly recommend it.  You receive a report describing your 24 character strengths with more detail about your top 5.  You can also purchase a range of more detailed reports.   This website is full of excellent explanations and resources.  It's a fabulous resource.

StrengthsFinder Survey

The StrengthsFinder Survey, at the website gallupstrengthscenter.com. There is a cost to take this survey , and there are a number of reports you can invest in to learn more about your signature strengths.

Personal Growth and Development Opportunities

Both surveys will help you identify your strengths, and appreciate the strength matters in a whole new, supportive way. You will come away with valuable insights and personal growth and development opportunities.  Inspired by your new found strengths, some of which you will have intuited and some may come as a surprise, you’ll become more consciously aware of your best self what energizes you so you perform with greater ease.

At the same time, you will now have greater understanding why you find yourself struggling at times and feel depleted.  When you are not in your strengths, it takes more effort, more energy and you find it harder to be in that positive state of engagement.   

How You Can Be More Energized than Depleted

You’ll  start to understand which environments stimulate you or bore you; which behaviors calm you or excite you. Over time, this adds up to a life that is efficient, effective, healthy, productive, and satisfying.

How Positive Emotions Make us Better Problem Solvers

Positivity is your power. It operates like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. Negativity has a power.  In fact, negativity has a stronger pull on us in evolutionary terms.  Both positive emotions and negative emotions serve us. All emotions have a purpose.

What comes to mind when you hear,

“Don’t get so emotional”, or, ‘don’t go all emotional on me; “ or “he’s so emotional.”

Or, you hear people say, as I’ve heard said,

“She’s being so emotional! And I’m just saying the truth!  I’m a realist.”

Both Positive Emotions and Negative Emotions Serve

All emotions serve us.  You can be real and positive simultaneously — AND, you can also be real and negative simultaneously . Neither is inherently good or bad. They just are; and they serve us for BOTH our survival AND our flourishing.

Neuroscience teaches us that negative emotions and positive emotions activate different neural connections in the brain. They release different chemicals and overtime they influence our biochemistry and change us at the cellular level in different ways.

Below is a very personal story. The purpose is to show how negative emotions set us off on one course of action that impact our brains and bodies;  and positive emotions set off a other another response. You’ll also observe that you can’t shift out of a state of negativity and despair until you begin to experience a shift to positive emotions towards hope.

If you’re feeling negative there’s most likely one solution you’re stuck on and it's hard to shift from that place of stuckness.  When you experience positive emotions, you're more fluid and you'll find you are open to many more different possible directions that will help you with solutions to help solve your problems.

The brain lights up differently to different responses. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in the brain shows that different neural pathways light up when subjects experience negative responses versus positive. fMRI is a relatively new procedure that measures the tiny metabolic changes that take place when a certain part of the brain is activated.

Positive Emotions help with Problem Solving

Positive emotions light up the part of the brain that helps us see the big picture. To help people do that, you first induce some kind of positive experience, such remembering a past experience that was joyful or warming, or listening to music, or seeing pictures of loved ones; or you remind them of something that’s special to them or they want, then you are more likely to open them up to connect in a more resourceful way to the issues at hand and help with problem solving.

This is why accessing positive emotions is foundational to creating positive change.

Personal Story

My sister Skypes me in tears. She apologies for not being in touch but she's been in a really bad place and she’s calling to let me know she’s quitting her job. She blabbers in between sobs, that she's coping, she's bad feelings: she's overwhelmed, and feeling totally incompetent; she feels she's letting the side down; she feels a failure and wants to give up. She blurts out she's going in to work the next day to tell her boss she's quitting.

I'm in shock. She loves her job, after having a tough time starting out in life. She’d hated school. She got into the wrong crowd; did drugs, got expelled from one school. But she loved animals and started working at an Animal Hospital and Shelter.  She loved it. She adopted cats and bred cats for years.

After several years being a vet’s assistance, she decided she wanted to become a nurse. But she didn’t have the educational qualifications to enter nursing and in those days – in the 1980s nursing training was actually conducted in the hospitals. So, she hired a math and English coach; got all the references she needed, passed the entry exams and thus began her nursing career of 25 plus years.

Years fly by and she ends up an Emergency Room nurse. Several weeks before this call when she's sobbing that she's quitting her job, she'd been offered a special job in a shiny new wing of the hospital. It was an honor to have been invited to apply and she was successfully awarded the job and therefore, she was being acknowledged very highly in being chosen to work in the shiny new hospital wing.

And now – three weeks into it, she wants to throw in the towel. She's feeling so bad that there's only one way out for her – quit – it’s the flight response of that old reptile brain. You fight or you flee. She has no fight left, as she's emotionally drained and physically and mentally exhausted.

I knew that to get her to shift from feeling totally powerless to finding some personal power was the only way that she could begin to imagine a different future.

Coaching Family is a Challenge

It was a tough call for me, because I think many of you will agree, coaching a family member is not easy. There’s a lot of emotional baggage you both carry around with you. Yet, my sister was in serious pain and it pained me to see her that way. I wanted so bad to help her.

So after acknowledging how she was feeling, and showing that I had been truly listening by reflecting back some of the words, and feelings she had been expressing, I asked the following questions bit by bit, allowing her the space to respond in her own time in between sobs, gasps and silences :

  1. In five years time, how do you want to look back on your almost 30 year nursing career?
  2. You’re so proud of your achievements, how do you want to remember all these efforts and successes in the future?
  3. How do you want people to remember you?
  4. What have you imagined about your own retirement and your own retirement party?

I could go down this line of inquiry because I know her history and I know that many of her friends were beginning to retire and they loved to party.

I started to notice a shift in her body and face – the crying stopped, long pauses of silence, some feeble sounds of acknowledgement about what she had achieved and how important her work was to her, because she really did love her work and the people she worked with and cared for.

Then like a bolt, she said, “I know what I can do”…..and she came up with her own solution.  She would go to her boss the next day, not to quit, but ask to go back to her old job, which was still open to her. She had FORGOTTEN about that option.  She was so overwhelmed, that the negative emotions that had shut her down and closed off options.

The solution was always there, but the negative energy she had spiraled down into had prevented her from possibilities thinking.

In hearing this story, you could add some of your own perspectives as you make sense of this story. Here are two common ones.

Fear of failure

Fear of failure is self-sabotage that prohibits us from taking action. If you think back to your own early childhood when you might have been fearful of raising your hand to contribute your ideas in the classroom situation because you if your were wrong, you were chastised and made to feel bad.

Those kinds of past experiences come up when you are in a negative state. Those memories of past pain tell you to stay safe. The hormone cortisol is released when under stress. And if you’re constantly stressed, the release of too much cortisol over time can lead to serious health issues.

And coupled with the biological responses, you have the psychological response from the old stories you tell yourself to keep keep you “safe”. Those little voices in your head that come from somewhere: “Play it safe. Stay Put! Leave the courageous acts to others!”

I’m reminded of a thought-provoking quote from Dr Mark Goulston “to be only safe, you’ll end up sorry.”

Fear of the unknown

Equally pervasive is another kind of fear, and it’s related. It’s fear of the unknown or fear of others; and it’s far more subtle; therefore, you may not be as aware of it; yet, it does stand in the way of your personal leadership and your ability to embrace any kind of change.

In the workplace, fear of the unknown and fear of others may be evidenced when a new person joins the team, a new leader is hired, or a new company takes over yours. You close off to new inputs and so  you are not allowing yourself to be open to change.

This fear comes from the need for self-preservation. You may fear others who may not be like you, or who have different perspectives that you don’t yet understand. This fear absolutely gets in the way of building relationships, and slows down progress.

In Summary

To sum up, here are some facts about the different purposes of both positive and negative emotions that come out of this story. When you are in a negative, depressed, anxious, fearful state, you close yourself off from seeing there are many possible directions you can go in, or choices you can make, or options you can consider.

You have to be able to access the positive feelings before you can have any positive thoughts, let alone take positive action.

Positive emotions expand your awareness and help you come up with, different possibilities for action.

Positive emotions get people to see the big picture.

Once you induce something positive into a situation,then you're more open to find solutions and be a shining example of an agent for positive change.

Invest in Developing Strengths – Why Bother?

Before I even started school, I remember annoying my grandmother, mother and father because they thought I asked too many questions.

“Curiosity killed the cat” was one of the many proverbs my grandmother delighted in repeating to me, every time I poked my head into something new, or asked “Why?” It silenced me, as I was upset by the idea of “killing cats.”

My mother, too, after endless “Why?” questions, in frustration would sigh, “Because I said so” or “’Y’ is a crooked letter that can’t be made straight.” I had to pause to think hard about trying to straighten the letter “Y” and wouldn’t dare ask, “Why does it need to be straightened?”

Even my father would tell me, “Mind your p’s and q’s.” I couldn’t fathom that one.

Curiosity and Love of Learning Energize Me

In spite of these early reprimands, it seems my curiosity, love of learning, and desire to seek out new ideas have been my constant guides. These days, whenever I am in a new territory, I am called to go further to explore what’s around the corner, over the hill, or beyond the horizon.

I am truly satisfied when I discover for myself what I can learn and what new ideas come up that stimulate possibility-thinking and what-if scenarios.

After all these years, I know now that curiosity, love of learning, collecting ideas, and seeing the big picture are my best attributes, or my signature strengths. I know I am most satisfied when I am playing or working to these strengths.

Our Weaknesses Attract More Attention and Investment

It’s a relatively new, and thankfully a growing trend, to focus on and develop strengths. Yet, the old paradigm of ‘overcome weaknesses first’ is played out every day in most of our homes, our schools, our institutions, and our places of work and worship.

The behaviors, the processes, the decisions that are weak or problematic in some way, are the first to grab attention. You focus on the things that “need fixing.”  What happens as a result is those behaviors, thoughts, feelings, decisions, and processes that are working well and bring you successes don’t attract the same attention or the investment of resources.

Do you think it’s a fair generalization to say that you invest energy, money, time, intellect, and emotion into things that don’t work for  you more than you  put energies into those things that will give you an easier and a much-better return for your efforts and investments?

The Task of Leadership

Key question: Are you better off investing in and developing strengths? – defined as innate talents that can be more easily and speedily developed – than dealing with weaknesses that can be worked around and will take more effort, time and resources and always be a struggle?

The late management and leadership guru, Peter Drucker’s quote is relevant more than ever:

 “The task of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths, making our weaknesses irrelevant.”

Strength-based approaches to human and organization development and positive psychology, defined as the study of strengths, excellence, resilience, and optimal functioning in general, focus on people’s talents and gifts.

Your talents and gifts are your strengths. When people are performing in roles in which they play to their strengths, studies show that performance and satisfaction increase, productivity improves, and they have greater chance at achieving their full potential.  That’s from the book Now, Discover your Strengths, by Buckingham & Clifton (2001).

This is a radical departure from the long-held view that to help someone perform at his or her best, you work on improving the person’s weaknesses. This view is evidenced by the fact that in 2001 only 20 percent of employees in companies across the globe feel their strengths are in play on a daily basis or  “have the opportunity to do their best work”.  Good news is, in 2014, that statstic has jumped to an average of 30%.

Are you helping grow that statistic?  I sure hope so.  I know as an agent for positive change, I am.

How Positive Language will Improve Your Life

As the Saying Goes

“Stick and stones will break your bones, but words will never hurt you.”

 

That's what my mother would say, whenever, as a very young girl, I was hurt by my friends when they suddenly turned into short-term enemies and called me nasty, horrible names.

At a sophisticated level, that favorite expression of my mother's is very true.  Listening to negative language does not improve your life.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” 

a famous quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, is in the same vein.

Develop your Perceptual Repertoire

Yet, words do hurt us, and shape us, and inform our self-image and shape our beliefs.  It's not until we're grown up that we can begin to develop our perceptual repertoire to begin to improve our life.  We learn that we can shift our perceptions of ourselves and our world and even eliminate hurt and negativity, and at the same time rewire our brain for good, and potentially improve our life.

Let me share a very personal story. It’s about my oldest and dearest friend, whom I’ll call Jenny, for confidentiality purposes. Jenny’s a nurse, a wife, an animal lover.  I love her deeply and even though we’ve had some challenges over the years, particularly the earlier years, now, as maturing adults, we are here for each other.  However, for around 15 years, I equated my best friend with gloom and doom!

Self-sabotage

The amount of distrust, insecurity, negativity and self-dislike was partly due to her fear of disappointing people and anxiety that she’d be criticized. Feelings of not being good enough all added up to self-sabotage. For a long time, changing her self-belief and behaviors was not even a consideration. It’s just who she was and she was okay with the self-inflicted pain and misery. She was not open to recognize there were other options.

That fear and anxiety were real for her, yet they were of own creation, and what she co-created in relationship with others. The neurons in her brain were not open to connect with others who were trying to extend the love and understanding they were wanting to communicate. She was not open to listening to others or feeling heard.

We See the World just as We Describe it

I tell her story, not because I like it, and she’s long since moved on with help and support, but that’s the story she lived at the time and she believed her, she had me believe her, and the world performed just as she described and expected it would. And that’s the truth!

It’s just how we talk about stuff, what we believe and the words we use to talk about ourselves, our families and friends and colleagues, bosses, companies, industry, politicians and countries that reveal how we see the world.  It’s how we show up in the world and how the world shows up to and for us.

You know, it’s not:  we describe the world we see.  It’s we SEE the world we describe.

I’m not saying that tragedies don’t befall us, financial crises don’t happen, natural disasters don’t happen, illnesses and death don’t occur – we don’t chose them, and they change us. What I am saying is: It’s how we chose to respond that counts and you know that. Be careful of what you focus on, because what we focus on grows. You know they say, be careful what you wish for.

Improve Your Life

So a lesson here, when you want to create positive changes to improve your life, a great start point is to pay attention to how you talk to yourself, and ask yourself where those words come from? Who are the narrators in your head that highjack your better intentions.

Think back to my friend, Jenny. Is life a battle to be fought or a mystery to be embraced? How deeply programmed are you to focus on the problem side of life Vs the developmental side of life? Those of you with children – do you see them as problem children or developing children? How do their teachers see them? In your workplaces, how do you see your co-workers and leaders? It is all embedded in the beliefs you have that are reinforced through your language.

It’s helpful to reflect on how your mind is shaped by the descriptions you use about yourself and others.  I invite you to reflect on the words that describe you.  Where did those words came from?  Was it from your caregivers, your friends, your teachers?  And also, what positive language are you intentionally using to improve your life?

Finding Inspiration, With Jade Inspiration – PS024

Finding inspiration by removing blocks that get in the way of your life’s purpose is the message of Jade Inspiration, host  of “Right on Baby – the Inner Growth Show.” In her conversation with Robyn Stratton-Berkessel, she shares her personal story of overcoming trauma to finding inspiration and her pathway to her life’s purpose.

Episode Overview

Jade Inspiration is a life coach, certified Law of Attraction practitioner, and popular podcaster with her own show called “Right On, Baby: The Inner Growth Show.” She left her six-figure corporate job to start a new career as a life coach and inspirational speaker. In this episode, Positivity Strategist host Robyn Stratton-Berkessel talks with Jade about her own path to finding inspiration through personal healing to become an inspirational speaker.

Episode Introduction

jade-inspiration-speaker-coach-36Jade describes herself as a spiritual seeker and a serial entrepreneur. Jade has built several small businesses from photography, marketing and product development to growing an online retail business to over a half million in sales. Today, Jade focuses on her passion to help others utilize their own experiences as learning tools to truly harness their inner being as a driving force in their lives.

Jade’s mission is to share her inspiring messages of going from struggles to triumphs –  and how our innate human spirit can rise above our past conditioning and subconscious blocks –  to create the life we desire from the inside out.

Success by Whose Standards?

By her mid 40s, Jade had achieved “success” by society’s standards.  Yet, she herself did not feel successful. She wasn’t doing what she felt she was supposed to do; she wasn’t feeling herself in her “authentic realm” — a place that feels real and creative to her.  She was so unhappy and unfilled that when Friday rolled around, she was already dreading Monday.

Jade with a leap of her own faith, after listening to her heart, decided to quit her six-figure corporate job. Jade’s mother instilled the importance of joy and happiness in her at an early age, and that understanding helped her make the transition into her new career as a life coach, certified Law of Attraction practitioner, and inspirational speaker.

POSITIVITY LENS for this EpisodePositivity Lens Notebook

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Learning and Growth from Past Experiences

The structures in society pressure people to live up to standards that may not truly resonate with their true self and authentic sense of being. The strengths, talents, and learnings that helped Jade create a new entrepreneurial life and facilitated her own self growth stem from past experiences. Experiences in life set us up for what we experience now, and we can apply those experiences to determining our life’s purpose. For Jade, working with others has helped her transition into the work she’s doing now.

Indentify Blocks to Growth

Jade learned not to speak out when she was a child. As a result, there were energy blocks within herself, which manifested through her attitudes, emotions, intellect, and physical being into her adult life. Such blocks are generally formed from what was habitually learned in childhood experiences and, unless we do the work, we carry them into adulthood where they live in our subconscious mind.

Jade took action. She sought help and guidance to overcome her past traumatic experiences, so she could take full responsibility for the choices in her life.  She learnt, and now teaches that instead of enacting these subconscious blocks, we do the work and learn to trust our intuition and go with our instincts.

Finding Inspiration

Listen in to hear Jade talk about how her greatest joy now is expanding on her own internal growth and being able to help others. Jade’s message of inspiration is not so much about a fear of failure — although that fear is true for many people. Instead, her message is about what can happen with the innate strength and empowered spirit we have.

Jade’s greatest joys in work now are expanding on her own internal growth and the ability to help others. Embracing who you are and accepting, trusting yourself to live authentically, cannot not shine out into the world. It's about finding inspiration for ourselves.

The Law of Attraction

Listen in as Jade briefly provides an overview of the four steps of the Law of Attraction.

  1. Know what you want
  2. Believe you can have it — or that you have it now
  3. Take the actions needed to get what you want
  4. Receive — and accept with gratitude that you received it

These actions steps will come to you through intuitive nudges. They come from knowing what you want and knowing you can have it, which gives the positive energy impetus to move forward to take action on your heart’s desires. Receiving will be the conclusion to the desiring.

I mentioned that in Appreciative Inquiry, one of the principles is the Anticipatory Principle.  This principle says that images we hold of the future – our imaginative capacity,whether individually or collectively guide our current discourse and behavior.  When you believe it, you see it. Not the other way round.

Positivity Strategies

Listen in to this week’s Positivity Lens Activity to learn of Jade's three strategies to help you build your positivity muscle and find your own inspiration.

Links Mentioned In This Episode

Books Mentioned In This Episode:

Go Beyond Positive Thinking and Positive Quotes

I've compiled a short list of positivity resources to help you on the road to greater positivity in your life.   Positivity is not just about positive thinking or positive quotes.  Positivity is a state of being that you can develop and strengthen through regular practice.   I've put a little guide together to share some of my favorite resources.  When you feel like a good dose of positivity, just open one of the links in our Positivity Resource Guide and voilà, you'll have access to some great content and feel nourished.

We know from brain research that we can rewire our neural connections to change thoughts, behaviors and emotions.  In the positive psychology and wellness spaces, this is particularly good news.  We can rewire our brain for good. If you listen to a number of the episodes on Positivity Strategist podcast, especially, Melissa Schnapp and Jackie Kelm, and my episode, What you Focus on Grows, you will learn more about the benefits of specific practices to strengthen your own positivity.

In fact, in most of the podcast episodes, there are Positivity Lens Activities you can download to help you begin your practice.  I take the learnings from my guest each week and summarize them into 3 to 5 steps so that you can actually implement the success strategies of my guests.  You can turn your podcast listening experience into actionable practice.   Therefore, if you want to really improve your own positivity, this is a simple, quick way to start.

The resource guide is in four categories:

TED Talks

Six of my favorite TED Talks. These story-tellers reveal how we can overcome adversity when we are in touch with our inner strengths. From a place of humility and humor, we learn we are powerful.  At our core, we share hope, love and connection.

Blog Posts

Terrific blog posts on a range of subjects and approaches about positivity and happiness. All suggest that positivity improves our health, productivity and relationships, potentially leading to lives of flourishing.

Books

On the subject of positivity and happiness, these books are among my most thumbed.  The authors are thought leaders in the field offering a blend of science, philosophy and down-to-earth practical know-how.

Podcasts

In the self-development and inspirational space, you can’t go wrong with these six podcasts.

I'll be creating additional Positivity Resource Guides, so stay tuned for newer versions in the future.  To get started, download Version One of Positivity Resource Guide.  I would appreciate your letting  me know which resources best resonate with you.

3 Steps to Appreciative Living With Joy Engineer, Jackie Kelm – PS016

Episode Overview – 3 Steps to Appreciative Living With Joy Engineer, Jackie Kelm

Host, Robyn Stratton-Berkessel, Positivity Strategist and Jackie Kelm, The Joy Engineer of Appreciative Living engage in conversation and share stories about their passion for Appreciative Inquiry (AI), the strength-based, positive change methodology.  Jackie shares her 3 step Appreciative Living process and announces the launch of her home study course to bring greater joy into our lives whatever the situation, and move beyond our cultural negativity bias.

Mechanical Engineer to Joy Engineer

3 Steps to Appreciative Living with Jackie KelmJackie Kelm started her career as an engineer – a mechanical engineer at General Motors.  She still describes herself as an engineer, but her context and process has shifted.  She’s now The joy Engineer of Appreciative Living LLC.

In this episode, you’ll hear that Jackie’s first awareness of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) was during her MBA studies at Case Western Reserve University when she did a class with David Cooperrider.  She was so amazed by his teaching that she was up all night learning more.  She knew this was life changing.

Once Jackie began to apply Appreciative Inquiry as a “change management consultant” and witnessing the extraordinary transformational results it produced, she became more of a “believer.”

Appreciative Living

Life has a way of showing up for us, and, at a significantly challenging time in her life, Jackie decided to apply AI to her own life to lift her from a history of depression.  Jackie came up with her own process of applying the classic 4-D cycle of Appreciative Inquiry to her own situation.  The result was personally transformational.  For the first time in her entire life she was happy.

As a result, Jackie wrote her first book, Appreciative Living, The Principles of Appreciative Inquiry in Personal Life.  I love this book.  If you want to find out about the Principles of Appreciative Inquiry, this is the book!

Her next book, The Joy of Appreciative Living, is a highly practical book.  It’s a 28 day guide to joy.

Guide to Joy

Listen in to find out what Jackie discovered when when she applied her own AIA process to herself. What Jackie experienced is that applying Appreciative Inquiry in organizations, as a consultant, or teaching it, does not automatically mean you live it, nor that it’s integrated into your own being.  Jackie suggests there might be some things that map across, but without the personal work, it doesn't mean you are truly living the principles and values of AI.

Jackie’s 3 Step AIA Process

  1. Appreciating what is and finding the good in a situation
  2. Imagining the ideal and thinking about what you really want
  3. Acting in alignment

Positive Principle

The “positive principle” in Appreciative Inquiry embraces positivity.  In the context of Appreciative Living, it’s having a way to automatically see that the good things exist along with the bad.  It is really about valuing a more complete view of reality –  the whole picture.  When we are conscious of the wholeness of life, we’re able to expand how we embrace all the goodness that exists in the world, helping us move beyond our “programmed” cultural negativity bias.

The more you open up the positive and see the good, the more you find the courage and the strength to face and deal with the negative. You’re on the path to appreciate the totality of what it is; and you become so much more aware that our interpretation of what’s going on is totally subjective, just as we become aware that each of us is unique.

Losing All Interest in Life

Can you imagine losing interest in everything, feeling totally flat, not feeling any pleasure or joy; not feeling any emotion even when your children hug you? And, this is a different condition from depression, as nothing touches you.  Jackie, the Joy engineer went through almost two years of this condition, called anhedonia.  She explains her experience of anhedonia during the episode – what she learnt and what she did to cure herself.

Anhedonia

Jackie’s research has revealed that brain and gut health are related.  The length of time taking certain medications will impact the health of the gut which has the potential to bring on a condition such as anhedonia. The condition can be hardwired into the brain causing sufferers to lose touch with their emotions.

Learning these facts ignited Jackie to create exercises to stimulate the part of the brain affected by anhedonia.  After 4 weeks, she noticed changes for the good,  and after 6 weeks she began to experience positive emotions again.  However, feeling positive emotions did not make her automatically feel a happy person.

Next, was to apply her Appreciative Living (AIA) exercises.  She found success and she was able to build her happiness right back up again.  Jackie shares her joy at telling her personal story that her AIA  cycle  has worked for her twice now.

Growth Mindset

Considering these setbacks in her life, I inquired into what Jackie truly values about herself, having overcome such suffering.  She reflected that her strength and what she values about herself is that she has a “growth mindset” – a term that resonated from Carol Dweck’s book Mindset (link below.)  Jackie has a strong belief, and now evidence, that she can figure it out.  She also reflected that she is extremely persevering.  She has overcome challenges, and continuous learning gets her there.

Appreciative Living in Practice

Listen in to learn more about the home-study course that Jackie offers.  It’s a self-paced course of six weeks.  Jackie is extremely excited to offer this course,  as it contains the best of all that she’s done to date.  There are daily exercises to help you overcome any negativity; it will help you see the good in life and create an ideal vision; it will guide you through inspired action planning that is essential to make it happen.

In a nutshell, it’s a progam:

  • for leading a successful life in alignment with your own motivations and aspirations,
  • with a toolbox for life-long learning,
  • offering daily, weekly practices so that you stay on top of all that happens.

As the the Joy Engineer, Jackie’s greatest joy comes from watching others apply the ideas and practices of Appreciative living to make positive changes in their lives.

Click on the button to visit the home study course page.

Links Mentioned in This Episode:

Books Mentioned In This Episode:


POPositivity Lens NotebookSITIVITY LENS for this Episode

Download Jackie's suggested “positive activities” for this episode: Hint- it’s about applying 3 positive steps to find greater joy in your life.

 

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Community Strengths and What Makes Us Human, With Jean-Louis Lamboray – PS015

Our guest, Dr. Jean-Louis Lamboray, is Co-founder of Constellation, a non-profit global community development organization. Jean-Louis’ passion is to stimulate local responses where people realize their strengths, their collective capacities and begin to take action toward their dreams. It’s a strength-based, positive approach with the emphasis on real experiences, practice and people doing it for themselves.

Episode Overview – Community Strengths and What Makes us Human

Dr. Jean-Louis Lamboray in episode 15, "What Makes Us Himan"Dr. Jean-Louis Lamboray co-founded a global organization, called Constellation 10 years ago.  It’s a Belgian NGO working around the world to stimulate, empower and connect communities.

Since co-founding Constellation, Jean-Louis has co-created a strengths-based approach to community development called Community Life Competence. The organization is a non-hierarchical network of people and organizations delivering strength-based approaches where learning emerges from within the community and is transferred to others outside.  (Please note, I use the term “community” throughout,  yet this work applies equally to all organizations).

Strength-based Community Development

What Constellation does best is to show that when a community discovers its strengths, it takes ownership, it starts to act and mysterious things happen.  In this episode, I invite Dr. Jean-Louis Lamboray to comment on his own beautiful words inserted below. If you want to be inspired, and if you like good stories, you will absolutely enjoy my interview with Jean-Louis.

For some mysterious reason, I have always felt that at their core, people were good, and that they could achieve a lot if they were engulfed with trust. I keep being amazed by the power of a positive outlook on people and situations. That power not only transforms the situation, it has transformed me.

Program Failure Births a Positive Epidemic

Jean-Louis starts with a story when, as a medical doctor, he was working at the World Bank and together with UNAIDS, he co-founded a program to deal with the AIDs epidemic in a region in Thailand.  He considers the failure of that project – after 5 years of success at arresting the epidemic through local responses, there were no changes in the program’s policy at the institutional level to deal with epidemics at the local level – provoked him to change his own actions.

What actually happened is that he learnt so much from the communities who were able to deal with adversity successfully that he eventually founded Constellation in 2004.  Since then, he has worked on most continents co-creating with communities the process that has become the Community Competence Cycle.  The cycle is SALT, and it stands for:

Stimulate, Appreciate, Learn,Transfer

The cycle starts when Constellation facilitators  visit with a community.  They visit to learn through stimulating conversations with the community.  They truly appreciate what is going on.  Dr. Lombray stresses appreciate in the SALT cycle is not an analytical process.  It is not an audit of assets.  Appreciate is a behavior where they stop and let the mind stand still, so they truly notice what is going on in the present moment. Learning emerges from the conversations and the actions that are actually making a difference.  The community members learn themselves into resourceful actions. The transfer occurs when people talk to each other and they pass on their insights and learnings to their neighboring communities and it multiplies over and over.


PPositivity Lens NotebookOSITIVITY LENS for this Episode

Download Jean Louis' suggested “positive activities” for this episode: Hint- it’s about applying S.A.L.T. to your life.

 

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How to Start a Positive Epidemic

With this appreciative disposition, we create neither sinners nor saints. We appreciate that people are good at the core.  We observe their strengths and their competencies.

By looking for what’s working in communities, these three things happen at minimum:

  1. the way we ask ourselves questions and reflect together enables us to learn to recognize our own strengths, allowing us to continue doing what works
  2. by tapping into our own resources to collectively address community concerns, we learn what more is possible
  3. we are transformed by those conversations and learnings which then multiply over and over. An excellent indicator of success is the transfer.  It comes after the community realizes that we can do it by ourselves.

Thereby, a positive epidemic is unleashed. The process is generic. Every group has within the essential resources to carry out action towards a dream.

What Makes Us Human

Dr. Lamboray’s book, What Makes Us Human is available in French and Spanish and will be available English by the end of 2014.   It’s a book that tells the story of Constellation and the SALT cycle.  It verifies that, as humans co-existing on this plant we are all in this together.  The most appropriate metaphor for organizational life comes from nature, not from machines.  Our organizations are evolving.  That’s a beautiful thing.

What makes us human is our connection with others, with nature, with our innate gifts; and, as humans, our aspirations are similar the world over: we want to be free to have dreams; we want to find ways to work together, to be truly happy at work, and most of us are in service of a higher purpose.

This is a longish podcast.  If you’re interested in life-centric change, community engagement, positivity, empowerment, how to unlearn and move out of the cage of rigid constructs, you will truly enjoy listening to Dr. Jean-Louis Lamboray.

Links Mentioned in this Episode

Books Mentioned In This Episode:

Let's Stay Connected

It's always great to hear from you. Please connect with me to ask questions or leave comments about this episode or the podcast in general, and there are several good ways to do this:

  • Share your questions and ideas on the Podcast Feedback page
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Embracing Change: The App – Video

iPadThanks to all for your interest in the shift I am making in creating content for tablet devices, starting with the iPad and also ready for the Samsung Galaxy Tab. (Preview video below.)

It's exciting that we authors and content creators now have even more opportunities to transform our knowledge and information into this appealing, interactive, engaging way for our customers and clients. Subject matter comes alive when we physically engage with the touch screen to explore information in ways that are dynamic and non-linear. Readers and learners can now interact with content and make sense in ways that come from curiosity, play and leaps of intuition.

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Immersive Learning on Tablets

Ipad-shotSerendipitously, on three occasions in as many days, I have been in the presence of three 3 year olds (just love all those 3's).  Each time, I was filled up with joy watching them engage with content on their iPads.

First time, we were at dinner with a couple when their three year old pulled out the iPad, tapped into one of her favorite apps and was immediately engrossed as she tapped, swiped, dragged and, from time to time, sat up, tilted her head confidently to reflect on the objects she was engaging with.  Her fullest absorption in her iPad totally attracted the attention of older people in the restaurant,  amazed at her competence with the tablet device.

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