How Our Best Selves Can Move Us Forward

Martha Beahm, Pinnacle Associate

I have found in my practice as a life coach and mental health therapist that so many of us get caught in what is not working in our lives. We feel tired, vulnerable, stressed and burned-out. Sometimes it helps to be reminded to slow down enough and mindfully remember what is good and strong in our lives.

This is not a “Pollyanna” view of life. In fact, the works of Martin Seligman, Barbara Fredrickson and others studying Positive Psychology have found clear evidence that focusing on strengths and what is positive in our lives help us to change not only our attitudes, but our successes in life, as well.

In the past week, I have enjoyed some training in beautiful southern California preparing me to be certified in Wellness Coaching. One of the courses was on Appreciative Inquiry (AI).

AI was first developed at Case Western Reserve University's department of organizational behavior, starting with a 1987 article by David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva. Even though AI may not be familiar to some folks, the concept of focusing on strengths in developing a strong team, or building a business, or enhancing one’s own well-being, is not unknown.

Patricia Rachel Schwartz, a professional certified coach and our training instructor for this course, guided us through a process based on the AI theory. Her process gives guidance in how you can intentionally work with strengths in moving forward to grow into becoming your best self.

AI is defined as “the art of discovering and valuing the factors that give life to a person or group.” It’s a means to develop positive energy for an individual or an organization to create a sustainable preferred future. It follows the 4D Process:

Discovery: It starts with asking yourself to remember a time in your life, or in your organization, when you were at your best. You felt strong, your experience was going just as you would want it to, perhaps finances and/or relationships were especially strong. You felt fully alive!

Dream/Possibilities: Now, as you remember that time or moment, reflect on what your particular strengths were that allowed you to be in that moment and time of your life. What values guided you during that time? Perhaps as you think of yourself at your best, or a time when you worked with a team that was working together especially well, you can think of a metaphor that fits that situation.

Design: As you reflect on your strengths, your values, your metaphor, what does that tell you about what you need and desire to be strong, happy and hopeful? What actions are options for you to move forward? Which of these options would you like to take as a step to move ahead?

Destiny: What is your goal, desired outcome? What does it look like? Taste like? Feel like? Smell like? Sound like? Who do you want to keep you accountable to your plan for your desired outcome?

Whether you are reflecting on a time within your own personal experience or a time when your congregation or workplace was thriving and strong, these moments can be our teachers as they guide you to move into directions where you can feel more whole, happy and, well, appreciative!

I invite you to spend some time in reflection of your positive moments. Think about what made them strong and a positive memory for you. How would you like to bring those strengths and experiences into developing your desired future?

Contact Martha at