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Time for TLC!

How are you taking exceptional care of yourself?

How do you feel about that question? Does it seem over the top, just a little too much? Would you be more comfortable with me asking about taking good care of yourself?

Perhaps, because of the pandemic, most of us have finally accepted the idea that taking care of ourselves is critical to our well-being and success in every aspect of our lives. I’ve been saying it for years and I propose that we elevate our self-care to an exceptional level because these are extraordinary times… these times though can make it even more challenging to meet our needs.

A part of taking exceptional care of myself is reflecting on and choosing wisely about how I want to devote my time. I’ve found that time feels different—I’m realizing that some tasks just take longer than in the past. While I could spend precious minutes parsing out the reasons, I will just live with the reality for now. I have the sneaking suspicion it’s the state of the world, our country, my business, and my concerns for family, friends, and colleagues that lurks in the back of my mind day and night. There’s good reason for it, so I am moving on.

I’ve found that engaging in the activities I love and love to share has been a joy during this time.

What are you doing to soothe yourself, work with your emotions (they’re there all the time whether we’re paying attention to them or not), and be kind to yourself so that you can engage with all the aspects of your world in the ways that you desire? 

Late last month and earlier this week, I had opportunities to teach Zentangle, a meditative art form that I learned back in 2013. I LOVE tangling—whether I am creating designs myself or teaching others.

Truth be told, tangling is fun AND challenging. It involves using new tools —tiles of Italian paper, Micron pen, a tortillion/smudger, and a pencil without an erase— and

  • learning new skills
  • working mindfully
  • enjoying the slow pace of aspects of the process
  • viewing our work from a variety of perspectives (turning the tile as we work on it)
  • breathing deeply
  • leaving our inner critic “at the door” (when we make an unintended stroke or two).

When plorking (playing and working) with others I slip into a side of myself that is delightful to experience. I can always find something beautiful in everyone’s work. Folks are amazed at the flow of compliments throughout the session. This exchange encourages them to see their work and themselves in new ways.

This “work” is a delight that I have shared all over the world with children as young as 3 years old in Nepal (at House with Heart, for abandoned children) and folks in their 80’s at nursing homes and senior centers. While it’s different over Zoom (though I have been teaching it for years in that way), I still find ways to see and discuss each person’s tiles.

These experiences feed my soul and refresh me.

 

What nourishes you?

In what ways are you carving out time to take special care of yourself?

How are you finding peace, calm, and beauty or whatever emotions and experiences you need to sustain you?

If you’re interested in Zentangle, let me know! If finding ways to take exceptional because these are unprecedented times is too challenging on your own you, reach out to me for a conversation.

I believe we need to start with ourselves, and then, if we can, help others. We are in this together.

Appreciating Life!

I’ll be honest, last week was a tough one for me, my family and friends, for our nation, and for the world.

How did you cope effectively last week?

What tools do you have at the ready for times of challenge or distress?

Were you able to find glimmers of joy in your days?

I found that I needed to really lean into my Appreciative Inquiry practice. One of my favorite tools from the Appreciative Living Learning Circle I am hosting is the creation and use of “Goodness Glasses.” (I created my very tangible reminder with a pair of extra glasses, a hot glue gun, and beads.)

My glasses remind me and help me to choose where I focus my attention. While I acknowledge what is, I consciously decide to look for the positive or the good that may be well-hidden in the situation, challenge, or feeling that I am experiencing.

I’ve been sure to keep up with my gratitude list too. I devote five to seven minutes each morning to reflecting on the previous day. My list-making and contemplation keep me feeling grounded and fortunate. These are simple, quite easily accomplished, and relatively quick techniques—that is, in part, the charm of them. They buoy me up when things start feeling difficult, heavy or on the verge of overwhelming.

 

What do you do to re-direct your attention to awareness of what is going well for you?

In this new week, I’m doing a lot of visioning work and play. Whether it’s trying to imagine the future of this country and my place in it, the next 18 months of my business or the integration of AI into the lives of the women in the Appreciative Living Learning Circle, as we have our last session this week. The five principles of AI are almost always in my mind. I’ve been inspired to create visuals of each of the principles, to keep them foremost in our minds. Here are a few of those drawings.

Where are you in this moment?

Are you searching for more joy in your life, realizing that we find what we look for… and maybe there’s something to be learned about that seeking process? If so, I hope you will join the next circle I am hosting, beginning December 7th.

Here are the comments from participants in one of the circles…

I had no idea what to expect from the Appreciative Living Learning Circle, but I certainly wasn’t anticipating a material impact on my well-being so quickly. In just a few short weeks I find myself far better equipped (and likely) to access the power of gratitude even in challenging moments. It’s a game-changer!      L. Clark

These Appreciative Living learning circles have been delightful. It’s almost magical how this simple process illuminates the many moments of joy that otherwise easily go unnoticed. I realize now that I’ve generally thought of joy and happiness as something to achieve – a destination to reach – rather than a state of mind/body feeling that is genuinely accessible in almost any moment of my day. Thank you, Jill, for facilitating this transformative experience for us!       S. Steigerwaldt

You can find details about the circle on my calendar. And please, reach out to me with your questions about Appreciative Living, the circles, and the AI coaching that I offer.

The Double-Edged Sword of Our Strengths

Ahhhh, It’s happened again! My strength of creativity* had wreaked a wee bit of havoc in my schedule… because it’s also my weakness.

As I am seeking to continuously enhance and add value to how I deliver my bikablo trainings, I decided to explore some new mobile elements. We use that term for items that can be added, moved, and removed when creating charts for graphic recording, graphic facilitating, and training. The elements might be sticky notes that are rather ordinary, such as squares or circles, or cute, such as thought bubbles or punctuation marks, or that might be handcrafted.

What’s your process for augmenting or refining your existing processes or materials?

In all transparency, when I made a color error choice on my mobile elements explanatory chart, making the giant hands yellow instead of creamy beige. (Note to self, pay close attention to colors when working at night.) I felt compelled to fix my chart rather than begin again as I LOVED the hands I had drawn. So the hands were transformed from lemon yellow to Hulk green. In my defense, it IS almost Halloween…

What do you do when you’ve made a significant error? Does it depend on the project and/or the error? Or do you have a general way of responding to a challenge?

The next morning, just a few hours before the training, I looked at my chart and decided that it lacked a certain “something”… I wandered down another path. I started thinking of witches and spider webs, bats, and broomsticks. I wondered about what other mobile elements I could create quickly and easily. I began thinking of the bikablo icons that I teach all the time and got down to work! Ultimately my chart gained a spiderweb and a third hand—a little creepy, no? I did have visions of creating a witch on a broomstick but I never got there because I got sidetracked again!The creativity bug had bitten me once more and I was thinking, “Oh I love what I’ve seen a few other people within the bikablo community, and Brandy Agerback do with mobile elements/collateral. And, that’s something that I can create quickly and easily. My deadline for the class was looming!

My mind went back to the 2017 IFVP conference in Decatur, Georgia, when Greg Whicker taught me how to make giant structures with foam core, a hot knife, and tape. We had so much fun! I dug out some foam core, then started thinking, well, while this will be fun, it’s going to take more time than if I could use a different backing material for my large hand-drawn icons. I started thinking of posterboard or cardstock , and of course, found some easily in my stash of paper supplies. I thought a little further, using my creativity and logical skills together, as I watched the clock tick, and realized that I didn’t need to make exactly the same forms of the backing material but I could use something smaller and faster.

How do you assess the value of the changes you make—whether that’s starting from scratch again or finding ways to work with the mistakes made?

I am totally delighted with the goodies and I have created and I can’t wait to make more. They bring me joy just looking at them! They are so fun and easily express what I want to get across.

So as you can imagine, I used these new darlings in class and shared short stories of when and how I had seen others use these tools, such as my colleague, Iulian Olariu from bikablo. He uses simple file cards to write and draw messages, and then shows them to people during online trainings. They’re fresh, encouraging, and really boost the energy.

How do you make time to reflect on the entire process you have used (whether actively chosen or fallen into)?

While I felt pressure to complete my task in time for the session, the steps of imagining, designing, developing, and delivering were exhilarating. The fact that I could step back long enough to alter my design and shorten the development process was unusual for me—I usually dive into pursuing my first idea. This experience felt like a step forward in my own development. I created time and mental space to pause so that I could reconsider and adjust—when the deadline was quickly approaching. I will remember this experience and consciously work to replicate it!

It was so much FUN and very effective!

What do you know about your strengths and how they show up in your life?

If you’re interested in exploring your strengths and learning more about how to use them to make your life easier, contact me. As a graduate of Dr. Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness Coaching Program, I LOVE to work with people to leverage their strengths to meet their needs, desires, and challenges.

* (as revealed by the Brief Strengths test at www.authentichappiness.com). It’s one of my favorite resources!

Musings on descriptions, labels, and identity in the early morning

As I was thinking ahead to my session on Appreciative Inquiry this morning for FacWeek, I reflected on my plan to ask people about their understanding of the term, AI, as it would become the foundation for the work we were going to do together.

The Back Story

At Positive Pivot: A Global Virtual AI Jam, the conference I attended over the weekend with over 170 people from around the world, we were all asked that question, what does Appreciative Inquiry mean to each of us. The answers formed a giant Venn diagram with both overlapping circles and some concentric circles too. Some people saw it exactly the same way, other people saw it rather differently.

As I thought more about this experience, I wondered,

  • How do people come to know who we are—really understand us?
  • What do we reveal about ourselves (consciously and unconsciously) through words, stories, drawings, and pictures?

I remembered an activity from a class I had taken earlier in the week. We were asked to make a list of adjectives that described ourselves. I kept wanting to add nouns to my list of adjectives, which included, sunny, cheerful, determined, persistent, creative, thoughtful, reflective, caring, enthusiastic, high energy…

So, of course, I began a list of nouns that give quite a full picture of who I believe myself to be. I then started to think of representations of myself that I have used in my work—in drawings, on websites, and more.

 

  • What do you understand about me from the pictures you see here?
  • What more do you learn about me by reading the labels I have given myself?
  • You can see that I have smudged out some words… Are you curious about that?
  • What if you only saw half these words… or just one or two? What would you think?

Depending on how we meet, what will I choose to reveal to you? What might I leave out of our conversation because I’m unsure about the stories you’ll imagine about me, or maybe I don’t (yet?) have the trust or relationship to share more fully (remember those smudged words)?

I’m nuanced and complex not just complicated. And so is everyone else.

How do I ensure that you understand that? Maybe more importantly, how do I make sure that I remember that about others?

How does what we share with each other create our conversations and relationships? Are labels ever helpful to us?  In what ways might they get in the way of our understanding of each other ? I have ideas and opinions about this. What’s your thinking? Please let me know!

Stepping into the Unexpected… Almost Reluctantly

Please take a walk down memory lane with me. Reflect, for a moment, on your professional and personal growth experiences over the years. Have you ever felt that you weren’t quite sure you wanted to do an activity or exercise suggested by a trainer, facilitator, or coach? It doesn’t happen to me too often. (What happens more often is having done the activity, I wonder about its purpose, importance, and usefulness.)

I’m currently taking an online course in learning how to draw in new and different new ways. I am really enjoying it and I think the teacher is very good. Those of you that know me, know that that is high praise indeed, as course design, development, delivery, and evaluation are my bailiwicks, and it tends to make me a hypersensitive (hypercritical?) participant.

In the second lesson of the course, we were asked to do an exercise and I hesitated. No doubt this is due, in part to my curious nature/the realization that I am a “Questioner” in Gretchen Rubin’s work on Four Tendencies. And, while I could conceptually see the POSSIBLE use of the task, it was stepping into a process I don’t often do—pure fantasy product creation.

So I hemmed and I hawed, and yet I didn’t want to step into the next lesson because if a course has a good design, I shouldn’t be skipping anything along the way, is my thinking. So I abandoned myself to the experience and I am glad I did! The exercise asked me to engage in thinking totally differently—and that was the beauty of it! The assignment was to make my ideal pan. I do love pens though I have never imagined what the perfect pen would be. I made the time to delight in a bit of whimsy and brainstorming… after the initial doubts about whether I could actually do it. This darling is the result! It is fun, practical, and incorporates my love of the undersea world.

So what about you?

How do you engage with your learning? Do you (generally) trust in what has been designed and developed or do you question throughout the experience? I do both! And I will tell you with no shame, that I will never say, and do not appreciate hearing, “Trust in the process.” If a teacher, trainer, facilitator, or coach can’t tell me why I’m doing what I’m doing, where it came from (tied to what earlier content and/or processes or the overall gestalt of the learning), and how I can integrate what I’m learning into the present or future learning of the course, work or life, I outta there!

What’s your thinking about your learning experiences?

With the shift to so much learning online there’s been a proliferation, if not a glut, of opportunities… some are worth their weight in gold (so to speak) and others are mere imposters of what learning is meant to be… I have learned to be in touch with the creators and ask the questions  I need answered/do my due diligence because I know how I learn best. What about you?

My time, energy, and resources are too precious—I guard them well.