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(Mental) Space—the Final Frontier

I am in the middle of a really aggressive learning/training program.* My time is scheduled from the morning til way past sundown for 10 days. I am feeling it. 

  • Can you remember the last time when you worked with what was in front of you because that’s what you had to do, yet it felt big, good, and challenging? 

Happily, I had a break in the middle of this 10-day marathon. In that brief respite, I literally felt a sense of spaciousness in my mind. I had the opportunity to think beyond the immediate task to imagine possibilities. It was AWESOME! I felt on fire and couldn’t find a piece of paper or a device fast enough sometimes to capture my ideas… even great ideas can slip through my fingers like water if I get distracted by a phone call or even another thought.

  • When was the last time you felt the juicy expanse and immensity of space for dreaming, imagining, designing, planning, and more?
  • How did you take full advantage of the opportunity?

Now that I am returning to my practice, after the intensity of travel, work, and play in the US and abroad plus my 10-day learning extravaganza, I am seeing the elements of my work from a new perspective—I am shaking it up. It’s exciting!

I’m thinking that I need to take this insight to heart. “Dreaming time” needs to have a special place on my monthly calendar and not left to a delightful, perhaps serendipitous, alignment of the stars. It tantalizing to even think about scheduling those dates with myself! I’ll keep you posted on my progress with this new habit. And, if you want to join me, I’d be happy to have a buddy on this path. Lmk!

*Written last week… when I didn’t make a minute to post it…

The deliciousness of re-imagining work and play

The past few weeks have been flurry of activity—with travel, speaking at a conference, meetings with colleagues from around the world, a summit, and a wee bit of vacation too. The experience of doing something different every day was exhilarating.

Now that I’m back home, it’s time to dive into the work and play of crafting new aspects of my professional and personal lives. I feel a desire to find my way back into the comfort of a routine to support the changes I want to make. I wonder a bit about that feeling, though I realize that a routine can facilitate processes for me.

How are you experiencing your life right now? 

Have you had some time away from work? What did it feel like to step away? And to return?

The Visual Thinking Global Summit in Bilbao, Spain, SHAKE it to SHAPE it!, gave me the time and space to explore my world—where am I now, what will nourish, challenge, and support me going forward?

What existing and new knowledge, processes, tools, resources, and relationships can I tap into, explore, leverage, or amplify to move in the slightly new direction I am envisioning? I have ideas grounded in my reflections and insights from the summit. These questions  loom large for me:

  • What do I dream about?
  • What experiments will I design to discover the path I want to take?
  • What will I let go of?
  • What I will commit to?
  • What timeline I will create for developing these ideas, the pieces of the mosaic of my life?

Related to all this imagining is the practical piece… How will I carve out the time for this work and play of altering the course of my practice? As a maker, I need large blocks of time to work on projects — to dream, imagine, design, question, play, create, revise, and complete. As a solopreneur, I have to ”manage”/guide my business and the various projects that comprise my work.

A recent article in Upworthy on Paul Graham’s work, by Annie Reneau, describes how makers and managers perceive time (and meetings) made me pause. I felt that it explained a lot about my scheduling of myself. I am both a maker (for work and play) and a “manager” of my practice and my life.

I loved this visual by Reese Jones, it feels spot on to me. It made it so clear that I need to create blocks of time and then be certain to use them in the way I intend. It’s also critical to have those smaller chunks of time for smaller tasks. 

What’s your understanding of how you use time? Is it serving you?

I am going to recalibrate my schedule and keep an eye on whether I am using it in alignment with my intentions. A new routine seems in order for the present. When I have a new plan, I will need to assess my calendaring again—that feels right to me!

I’d be curious to hear your experiences with making the time to reflect on your business/work, how you plan for and make changes and what supports you in the process. I hope you will be in touch!

It’s about the how as much as the what, and definitely the why!

In my travels over the past few weeks, I’ve met folks who didn’t know me or my work. Answering the question of what I do, sometimes feels challenging!

Have you had that experience? What do you say? How has your response changed over time?

In the (recent) past I would briefly answer, “I teach people to think and draw so they can communicate more effectively” without getting into the details of visualization or bikablo.

My new answer is, “I help people visualize… (Wait, what does that mean?) to express, share, and capture ideas through combining drawings and words, to more effectively communicate.”

When sharing about visualization/Bikablo

It’s about the how…how to

  • hold the marker
  • draw the various types of lines
  • attend to the details
  • create layouts 
  • use color 
  • understand and use the methodology

and the what

Simple planning for the weekend.

Whether we are “talking” to ourselves (planning, strategizing, remembering, creating) or working with others (graphically recording a meeting, event or training, graphically facilitating an experience, coaching, or training) we are clear about our purpose—it is not art. We consciously do it all in service of clear communication.

When talking about Zentangle 

I share with people, “I teach a meditative art form.” (Wait, what does that mean?)

My new answer is, “I help students create beautiful designs through drawing simple, structured patterns. In the process of learning, they gain perspective about their capabilities and a new understanding of themselves.”

By learning the Zentangle method, its philosophy, and drawing techniques, I guide people in discovering their inner artists.

It’s about the how…how to 

  • use the five marks of Zentangle in a variety of combinations 
  • work within guidelines for drawing
  • integrate the philosophy so that it becomes a practice
  • become more mindful, relax and focus
  • breathe and let go when we make mistakes (as we will inevitably do… we are human)

It is an easy shift, for everyone I work with, to understand that we are the artists, the creators of our work and our lives.

As artists/people, we all face challenges— interacting with others, with materials, living within systems, learning and failing, and more. 

 

 

Why do you do what you do? What have you noticed about why you have chosen your work?

I’ve noticed patterns in my life. I have always gravitated toward transformational work—whether it is my personal growth or the needs and desires of those I want to work with or the systems that I believe need to change.

My work continues to evolve—now I seek to be more aware of the inner struggles, learning and growth of individuals… discovering and shining a light on people’s strengths, values, and capabilities, and asking people what supports them through challenges. I find that I can ask these questions no matter the content that I am sharing (or the hat I am wearing).

What is your thinking about your work… the what, the how, and the why?

If I asked you for a brief and rich description of your work and why you do it—what would you say? I’d like to know.

How do you work through hesitating, second guessing, stopping or… and embrace uncertainty?

Do you ever put off something challenging or even stop yourself… when moving forward is best, if daunting?

Tuesday was primary day in New York. My daughter was running for one of the county commissioner seats in Brooklyn. Early in the day, she sent me photos of herself and a flyer with her name on it. I loved the photos and immediately posted them on Facebook because I thought it was so great! When I told her I posted them, she asked me to take them down. I double-checked and she was firm. I felt disappointed. I so appreciated her energy and moxie, and wanted to celebrate it. She said, “I don’t want to share because if I lose I’ll have to explain that I lost.” My response was, “There is glory in the running! And, I understand and  will take them down.” I waited (impatiently) for the results and then posted the photos—because she won a seat!

When is the last time you wavered before taking a challenge or revealing that you were doing something where you might fail, lose, or feel embarrassed? What did you do?

There is no one answer for what’s right here. We are all different, circumstances vary, and we each have a continuum of comfort around risk, embarrassment, losing, and more.

Were you able to work your way through the feelings of hesitancy? 

When I pause (significantly) to ponder whether to share a new challenge with uncertain results, I work to recall my past successes. They form the foundation for moving into the endeavor.

Did you remember that there is no predicting the future? We just can’t know what will happen. Did you fortify your inner risk-taker, rally your support network or maybe reach out to an ally who continuously champions you?

I totally believe what I said to my daughter and understand her hesitancy. 

I’m about to apply for some consulting work that I would really like and I’ll be disappointed if I don’t get it. But this is the life I have chosen—to continuously put myself out there in the world and work with the results. 

More immediately, I’m about to teach a Zentangle pattern that I find particularly challenging (Rick’s Paradox). I don’t see it as easily as other patterns. So I’m taking extra time and practicing before doing the work in my beautiful book. I’ve heard the same kind of hesitation about drawing from participants in my sessions. We all wonder about the drawing we will do and whether it will meet our hopes, desires, or expectations. I always hope for the best, discover what happens in the moment, breathe deeply, and use my skills when I feel challenged.

This is what I said to one of the participants just recently, 

“Ah, it is a challenge! I believe that I will do my best to create the beautiful designs and knowing that I am human, I will probably make mistakes along the way. I work to breathe, let it go, and make it beautiful. I hear you.”

I believe it—and live it—and it isn’t always easy.

One of my most recent resources for working with my emotions and feelings is the book  Positive Intelligence by Shirzad Chamine. I am a part of his coach training program and have started to integrate some of his work into my coaching practice with clients. This work feels just like home to me, do you know what I mean? In 2004, I completed Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness Coaching Program. (His book, Authentic Happiness is great!) I also value and use Jackie Kelm’s work, The Joy of Appreciative Living: Your 28 Plan to Generate Greater Happiness. Do you know these works? If so, what do you think? I’d love to chat!

In response to the very difficult times I/we are facing, I reach out to friends and colleagues, and gather resources and methods, that will support my self-care so I can step into working to address the challenges of our lives.

What about you?

If you would like to talk about great resources or are ready to step more fully into the work and the play of your life, please reach out to me!

 

*Written on Wednesday… it’s been a full week!

When the path is clear to me, the project gets done

I’ve been musing about several projects… Why is one at completion, another a bit of stop and go, and a third feeling both exciting and daunting?

What’s your style of working?

Do you live the adage, “How you do one thing is how you do everything?”

Is your style of work the same across the variables of

  • size of project
  • timeline
  • complexity
  • need for research
  • collaboration
  • perhaps, final approval? 

While I can make generalizations about how I work, I chafe at the literal meaning of the saying.

As I complete a project today that I started in September, I am making time to reflect… as it’s my intention to teach folks how to do what I have done. I want to be able to support them through the peaks and valleys of the process and so I am taking a magnifying glass to my journey. I think it’s also helpful to me to stand back and look at how I do what I do—there are lessons in it for me. 

When I realized how many photos I had taken of the process (who doesn’t love a photo essay?) I decided to quickly make an annotated visual timeline —such fun taking this walk down memory lane!

How do you review and reflect on your projects—appreciating and celebrating what worked well and learning for the future about what might be done differently?

Honestly, I don’t always take enough time for such reflection… Note to self, build in the time!

For my other projects, I’ve discovered…

My fifty stories/sketches about experiences with patients… I have 50+ more about my reflections

The one-page visual I am creating around how chaplains work in a hospital grew out of a need I saw in (you guessed it) my chaplaincy work… In my effort to address the need, I decided to create a useful resource for patients in hospitals (and their family members). As it turns out, this is just a bit complicated to achieve in a visual storytelling style, on one page—there’s a lot I want to say! So this project is a bit of “stop and go” as I navigate my thoughts about how to share information in a fun, accessible, visually appealing style. As time marches on, (and I do love a deadline), it will be done in just over a week so that I can put it aside, review it again in 10 days or so, make any minor revisions needed, and enjoy sharing it at the Graphic Medicine conference.

Here for Good, my graphic memoir project feels a bit like reaching through the fog at times. since I started the actual work of writing and drawing. I have never told a story this big or this long nor am I very familiar with the genre. I have lots to learn and do and sometimes I am uncertain as to my path:

  • What do I do first?
  • Which tasks can be done simultaneously? 
  • Which books will support my process? 
  • How might a mentoring group work for me? *SAW—Sequential Artists Workshop
  • Shall I seek an accountability buddy?

As you muse about my stories, what have you realized about your way of working and playing with projects?

I’d love to hear how your style or styles of work both enhance your experiences and also get in the way—there’s always something to be learned!