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Envisioning the future through reflecting on my past … which is not to say that past is prologue!

Imagine me running full tilt toward the finish line… that’s how I felt on Tuesday—it’s a vision, right?

I was meeting with the students from the Baruch College Industrial and Organizational Psychology program (MSIO). My mission was to share information about talent development as a field, ATDNYC in particular (as the VP of membership), and address their questions about what the future might hold… i.e., “What if I want to switch fields now that I’ve just graduated?” “How do I narrow my focus, as I love all areas of I/O?”

I had taken on the task of creating a visual of my influences on my path as a visual practitioner. Then, I realized that I had to recognize my foundation—how I even started to think of becoming a visual practitioner—and believed that this information was even more important to the MSIO students. I created a visual of my academic background and training experiences and the key influences in each program.

Of course, I had all kinds of thoughts about the background—literal, metaphorical—and with the clock ticking (my strength of creativity getting in the way again!), I went with a simple yellow/golden pathway… reminiscent of the yellow brick road.

I have plans for the second path or stream, which will intertwine with what I have created already. It will be my journey as a visual practitioner. A third path is brewing in my mind, thanks to my buddy Julia Curtis. I am going to share an abridged list of places of work and my consulting clients to highlight the impact of my education and training. This is more complexity of design than I usually work with… and I both am enjoying it and feel challenged by it.

Over the next few weeks, I will share the ongoing process of creating this multi-path vision, which is beginning to feel like a 3-D drawing…

I hope that you will see this as an opportunity not so much to learn about me but rather an opportunity to ask the same questions of yourself and create your own answers… visually or in writing, perhaps collage. It’s the content that matters—choose a medium that calls to you. I hope you will share your creation with me!

PS: Since the event, several students have been in touch and spoken with me about the power of sharing the visual and my story to help them see possibilities for their futures. Understanding the variety of resources at their fingertips (ATD NYC and other organizations) also made them feel more relaxed and hopeful about receiving the support they want and need.

How do you feel about relaxing, focusing more easily, and having fun?

What is this thing called Zentangle?

Just last week I was sharing my love of Zentangle—a meditative art—with members of the IAF Visual Facilitation SIG. Toward the end of the session, we were talking about how relaxing and fun it was to create such beautiful designs  and I was asked, “So how would you use this in a work setting?” I live for such questions—as applicability is my jam!

So we chatted about it—and I shared a laundry list of ways. Here are a few:

* Enhancing team cohesion—focusing on how, when learning new tangles together, we use the same tools, “string” (spaces within which we work), and tangles (patterns) and our work is both similar and different. It’s a perfect place to begin conversations about how we work together as a team, to recognize areas of commonality and diversity, i.e., we have common goals, similar and different skills, approaches, communication styles, personalities, etc.

 

* making the time to explore how this method engages our minds and bodies simultaneously – creating whole body/embodied experiences.

*diving into new tangles, new combinations of patterns, and re-visiting old/well-known patterns in new ways provides us with fresh, stimulating experiences, challenging us to remain focused, in the moment, experimental.

* wrestling with our inner critic—because sometimes we can’t easily leave that little devil at the door! Learning to breathe through the mistakes we make—because we’re human and we will make mistakes—and continuing to move forward. (Notice that there’s no eraser on a Zentangle pencil!)

* living the philosophy which permeates the Zentangle method. Here are just a few of the ideas I share with folks

* learning to step away and return to our work refreshed. I tangle at night and there are times I don’t love my work as I put it away… when I see it the next morning I am always happier… perhaps it’s because my inner critic got a good night’s sleep!

* slowing down and taking multiple perspectives—feeling the beauty and surprises in seeing our work from different angles—just by rotating the tiles… and carrying the skills of pausing, becoming open to possibilities, and shifting perspectives into our work and personal lives.

* actively supporting people’s taking care of themselves—making time, from five minutes to a lunch hour —for stepping away from work and the ever-present screen, to become absorbed in the delight and the challenge of using simple tools to create beautiful patterns… emerging from the experience refreshed.

* encouraging thinking in new and different ways—not only when we approach a new tile, but also in the media that can be used… look here to see many of my “off the tile” creations—on sneakers, mugs, jewelry, pencil cases… and in instances where I engage in ZIA (Zentangle Inspired Art) most often for fundraisers/causes I support and gifts for family and friends. How can we look beyond the ways we have previously engaged in processes and developed products to literally change the foundation from which we work. (I feel a parallel here to Ben Zander’s ideas in The Art of Possibility, about changing the table on which the game is played. (If you don’t know the book, check it out, it’s one of my favorites!)

While it’s clear that I am passionate about the Zentangle method and tangling, I haven’t shared the most important element to me. When I teach folks to tangle they see themselves in new ways—in an hour’s time! My heart sings when people say at the end of our session, “I am an artist!”

Are you ready to tangle? Join me for Relax, focus, and have fun with Zentangle on Thursday, May 13th for my Creative Mornings Field Trip, learn more and register here!

How are you growing in your practice?

With spring in the air and shoots emerging from the cold, brown earth, my mind follows suit—I am thinking about growth and change! One of the ever-present areas of interest and practice is in honing my signature style…

What’s your signature style? What has been your journey in developing and refining it?

I think about this question in all areas of my work though I encounter it the most frequently when I am teaching visualization skills. Folks come into the bikablo courses I offer with the initial desire to learn how to do what they have seen in the books and online— literally the drawings and also the methodology which supports the development of their skills. As people progress, they want to make their work a reflection of themselves which to me, is a sign of their growing sophistication. When I’m asked about how they can develop their own style, I reflect on my journey.

What’s your foundation… what supports you? What are you building on?

I began drawing, for use in my training business, with the book, Beyond Words, by Millie Sonneman. As I remember it, she said if you can draw circles, squares, and triangles, you can draw just about anything well enough for people to recognize it. I took her at her word and started drawing on flip chart paper taped to the glass door separating my kitchen from the deck. I loved it—it was fresh, fun, expansive—it opened up another channel of communication for me.

Feeling that my initial work was good yet there was more to be learned, I started poking around online, (back in the late 1990’s) and discovered  Nancy Margulies. I studied how she created her drawings—to learn how she looked at things and started to imitate her style. Her approach was completely different than Millie’s in that she used swatches of color to create her figures. Nancy mentored me briefly and the experience moved me in a different direction—it was fantastic! I searched further and found Christina Merkley, ultimately taking courses with her for over a decade.

In 2016, I attended the IFVP conference and participated in two workshops delivered by the bikablo team of Frank Wesseler and Stefan Böker. I loved the simple approach supported by the structure and methodology—it made it easy to learn and achieve good results fast. Now almost 5 years later, I have become a Bikablo trainer. I’ve also worked hard, OK I have worked and played hard, to develop and use a style that is recognizable as mine in my work outside of teaching the Bikablo method. I have discovered that my digital work/play affords me better practice in sharpening and refining my style because it is so easy to make changes… though that is a double-edged sword because I’ve become more perfectionistic about my work with my Apple Pencil in hand.

How has repetition and persistent, consistent, practice helped you to evolve? In what ways, and in what situations, are you developing your signature style?

Here are a few examples of my own style over the past year or so… as you can see I am still “on the move” incorporating new ways of drawing, using color, experimenting with layouts, and lettering. It’s such fun!

How are you saying, “Yes!” to change and growth in your visualization practice?

If your future visualizing work could be any way you wanted it to be, what would it be? Maybe you’re all set with your signature style of drawing figures, icons, and graphical elements—maybe layout, new uses of color, or lettering are what’s up for you. Or maybe, there’s some other aspect of your work that you want to explore?

How will you be the agent of your own change?

If you’re looking for personalized support along the way, a partner on this journey, let’s have a cuppa coffee (or tea) and conversation over Zoom…

And, if you’re seeking a group coaching environment, to learn from others too, e-xtraklasse starts next week— I’d love to have you join this small coaching program that focuses on deepening your skills. Learn more here, reach out to me with your questions, and register here.

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.