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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.

Have an affair with your creativity!

How do you find the time, really, make the time to be creative?

I think we all define or describe creativity differently—from diving into new opportunities at work, to drawing, painting, building, cooking, sewing, knitting, singing, to playing instruments, and more.

As I think about creativity in my work or in my play, it means total immersion, commitment to process,  and oftentimes to product, too.

  • What about you?
  • What does creativity mean to you?
  • In what ways are you creative?

If you’re not in a formal program that gives you some structure and freedom to nurture your creativity, how do you do it? This is the question I have wrestled with over time and perhaps even more recently because of I am noticing that time feels WONKY in this pandemic— both so compressed AND so endless.

As I make time for getting out to walk daily, I’m currently listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic. She raises the same question, about making time for creativity, in a fun and provocative way, she says,

“Have an affair with your creativity!”

I love that! Gilbert went on at quite some length about the ways that we find time to have an affair/make time for what matters to us. So that might be a big slice of time but more likely, it’s tiny pockets of time—15 minutes here, 30 minutes there, because life is busy. I find 10-15 minutes too short and unsatisfying to me… What about you?

So that’s my question to you today and I want to hear your answers. How do you make time in your life to nurture your creativity?

Here are half a dozen ways in which I do it, I hope you’ll share yours too.

1. I carve out an hour every evening after dinner before watching a bit of Netflix.

2. When I’m working on a project, a passion project to be exact, I start my workday an hour earlier and I devote the first hour of my day to that project. I put on some music for 60 minutes, I love the app, focus@will, and I do nothing but that work for that time. It is exhilarating!

3. I buddy up with someone who has an interest in pursuing a particular aspect of creativity—we might take a course together or am just be checking in with each other. My favorite example of doing this right now is partnering with my friend Julia Curtis in Tasmania. We spend every Thursday, in the late afternoon for me, and early Friday morning for her, working our way through Lynda Barry’s book Making Comics.

4. I’m also curious to see what other people are doing. A friend told me about a class she was taking online. I thought it sounded like fun. I then remembered that I had bought that class a few weeks earlier and had put it on the back burner for a while. Her mentioning it made me dive back in and now that’s what I’m doing every evening.

5. Making space for learning about art is so important to me and so once a week I do a deep dive into someone’s art/craft. These days that might mean a virtual art tour, pulling a book from my shelf and drawing or creating from it… I’ve also started combing magazines for images and creating files for inspiration so that’s like stealing/finding the time when I’m doing other things (organizing).

6. I like to engage in challenges, like the 100 Day Project or Inktober because I love seeing what other people have done. It is so inspiring for me… so I have to admit that I generally keep these projects short (meaning how long I devote to them each day). It’s not that it’s not worth it, it’s just that there are so many interesting things to do in this world, I often wonder who how to schedule them!

I hope you share your ideas in the comments so that I may learn further ways to nourish my creativity.

And, if you want to buddy-up to get more creative, or you’d like encouragement in the process, reach out to me, I’d love to chat!

Postscript: I hope you will take me up on my offer!

I created a product over a dozen years ago, Plan Your Fun! In essence, it’s a self-coaching program with an evergreen, week’s calendar. In the booklet, I share ideas for making space in your life to engage in play. The wall calendar is the place to post your plans for play, in this case, creativity, during the week—so that you can anticipate the events and then savor them… While the product is still on sale at www.coachingtoys.com, I am happy to offer it for free to anyone who contacts me (free shipping in the US, let’s chat about shipping outside the US).