How to live a more appreciative life – the power of appreciation and positive questions
Originally posted Mar 9, 2018 on www.energised.life
I recently came back from a week in Paris studying something called ‘Appreciative Inquiry’ – it’s a lesser known method of change management within business focussing on what works well and doing more of it. (And yes, I know ‘Inquiry’ is spelt the American way, it annoys me too, but the founder insists on it). I want to look at it in a less business way here…
It all stems from the feeling of “What we focus on, grows”, so if we focus on the problem, the problem will grow – however much we try to fix it, whereas, with Appreciative Inquiry, the idea is to focus on what works and what is going well – so, in turn, this grows.
It sounds super simple and actually, it is. Ultimately, instead of dwelling on the problem, you create an alignment of your strengths that in turn; make the weaknesses irrelevant.
Although primarily a business orientated solution, it has gotten me thinking how we can all use it in everyday life. Surely we can be both appreciative and inquisitive in our own minds too?
I’ve talked a lot about how realising your own character strengths can be so powerful in helping you understand what will energise you – when you exercise those strengths; whether it be creativity, bravery or leadership, they make you feel good and the more you appreciate the power of those strengths within you, you’ll want to use them more. That is effectively the principle behind using Appreciative Inquiry to improve yourself.
If you think about your life, we live in a series of stories that we create with others. When you talk about your experiences, you’re telling a story. Our whole identity is generated by our stories. To live appreciatively, we need to understand that these stories matter and remember the key, positive influences you bring to those stories.
So, when we’re looking at these stories – whether it be a time where you felt passionate about something or engaged with a group of people, if you focus on the positive aspects of that story, you can discover what, about you, made you happy – think about the skills, the strengths, the values you hold that give you pleasure? Remember, whatever you focus on, grows; therefore, focus on what you want more of.
How can we use stories to create a better future life? Well, how about anticipating the future by creating a vision in your mind about what you’d like to happen? By doing this, you have a focus to work with. You’re creating a vision before making any decisions, effectively giving yourself a goal to work towards. So, for example, if improving your relationship with your friends is in your mind, envision the activities, types of conversations or the kind of time you’d like to spend with them first – then you have an end goal you can make decisions on how to get there. “I need to communicate better”, “I must invite Sarah out more often as I love her company”…. If you believe it, you can conceive it!
Conjuring stories when you felt most alive, engaged or passionate for example can help you generate positive emotions to feel good – by doing this you can find the strengths you used in those stories – like were you brave in your actions?trusting in your judgement or did your determination ensure you got through? Being able to identify your positive characteristics make you FEEL GOOD helping you to THINK GOOD when you try to anticipate a positive future.
You know how I feel about leveraging strengths, I now have a strengths checker in my journal and every day try and tick off which strengths I use. (Again, if you want to find your strengths, I recommend doing the free test on www.viacharacter.org)
If you’re wondering where the ‘Inquiry’ part of all this comes in – as we’ve been talking about how to live more appreciatively of yourself; well questions direct our focus, we have to learn how to ask questions that can lead us somewhere positive. You can create big change by asking small questions, how about asking some of these to yourself?:
- What skills or talents do I have that I most enjoy using? How can I use them more?
- How have those skills or talents contributed to my life or work so far?
- What are the parts of me I am most grateful for?
- What do I most love about my job/home?
- What inspires me to greater achievement?
- What do I want?
- What can I do more of today that will improve my positive emotions?
Hopefully, you can find MORE questions of your own that are similar…
By following these principles, you can start finding your ‘positive core’ – showcasing everything that is good about you:
- What you appreciate/like about yourself
- Things you are good at
- The good intentions you have
- The great things you have done
- The people who love and appreciate you
- What potential the future holds for you
It’s quite powerful to know these things and we ALL have this positive core – we may have elements we want to improve but it is SO much easier and more powerful to work on what works well and is positive already, rather than try and fix something that doesn’t work so well. Again, remember – “What we focus on, Grows”.
Don’t forget, although this is relevant to anyone – if we’re looking at this from a Mum perspective, we can also look for that positive core in our children and family. My little girl is going through the terrible twos at the moment, and she can be a right pain in the bum sometimes, but by looking at all the things that she does well, I can feel her strength, feel how much she is growing – it helps me focus on things I know she’ll find interest in.
I’ll end with a question, “What ONE thing could you do, no matter how small, to move you in the direction you want to go?”
*A big thanks to Jackie Kelm who a lot of this stems from. Have a nose at her website here: http://appreciativeliving.com/