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Relief, delight, spaciousness, agency—these are the feelings I experience…

when I look at my calendar this morning. No appointments, calls, or video chats, no classes or deadlines for today! While there’s lots to be done, I am the designer of my day—and I LOVE it! Sure, we all have (varying degrees) of opportunity to shape our days—this one is bliss for me, as I am feeling overstuffed of late. The chance to plan, prepare, and dive into my projects is exhilarating.

What about you? How are you feeling about your days (and evenings)? Have you figured out how to ride the waves of work, opportunity, and connection — both professional and personal?

It’s possible that I’m more in tune with appreciating this unusual circumstance because I am in the middle of taking the course, Developing an Appreciative Mindset offered by the David Cooperrider Institute, and reading, The Joy of Appreciative Living by Jacqueline Kelm. I am quite consistently conscious of making the time to imagine, reflect upon, and note/journal about what I am grateful for, what will bring me joy, and developing an appreciative eye. This work takes me back to my life-changing experience in Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness Coaching program, in 2004. His book, Authentic Happiness, and the work in the program made many of the practices integral to both my professional and personal lives. 

What do you know about your strengths? How are you leveraging them during this topsy-turvy time? If you haven’t taken the Strengths survey at The VIA Character Institute, I can’t say enough great things about it! It’s free, requires maybe 15 minutes of your time, and yields valuable and actionable information—even if it just confirms your thinking! It’s what you do with the results that can make a huge difference in your life.

I noticed that my results had changed just a wee bit since 2004…

My strengths—now and then!

A snippet from Our Family Tree of Strengths

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the EuViz 2014 Conference in Berlin, Understanding the Light and Dark Sides of Our Strengths

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the years, in my consulting, training, and volunteer board work, I have used the survey results to help people nurture greater understanding of themselves and others, to leverage strengths of teams.

The strengths survey results of the 2014 IFVP board members.

 

The strengths survey results of NPower interns

What would be possible for you, if you were to consciously and consistently, use your strengths? Can you imagine it?

I LOVE these kinds of conversations! If you take the survey and want to chat about your results—and how to work with them in your life, let’s do it! All my coaching clients complete and reflect on the survey results before we start our formal work together. Click here to join me for a complimentary coaching session.

Visual Note-Making—My Newest Self-Reflection Tool!

I came to the realization slowly… after I had written and drawn all my thoughts. The ideas, questions, concerns, and feelings of frustration, curiosity, and uncertainty were still fresh for me. Once I stepped back from my drawing and realized that I was using it as a reflection and self-coaching tool, I had to chuckle!

Templates, creating vision maps (hand-drawn, as different from visions boards {though I do that too and LOVE it}), and capturing coaching client sessions by graphically recording them (for my notes of the experience) are all in my wheelhouse… but I had never done this before. Sure, I used mindmaps and other visuals to plan or capture, but this was different. This literally helped me see my thinking and feelings, enabling me to have great clarity about my personal experience in a meeting and to begin to determine if I wanted to continue being a part of the group for future meetings. It was AWESOME! I do this all the time with clients and had NEVER done it for myself. How crazy is that?!

I want to know—do you use your visual practitioner skills for yourself? As you can tell, I am not talking about using visuals for visioning or planning or creating agendas (all great uses of our skills) instead I mean using thinking and drawing as a reflection tool?

When I got over the shock of realizing I had used my favorite tool on myself, I remember that for about three months, many years ago, instead of journaling about my days, I drew mindmaps of my days. It was super fun and fast… Alas, because I did it close to bedtime, the habit didn’t last that long… I am a morning gal and sometimes fall asleep with a coffee cup in my hand.

In practice, journaling spanning my years and experiences…

In thinking more about this, because I am excited to do more of it, I’m reminded of one of my tasks in my current coursework on Appreciative Inquiry from the David Cooperrider Institute. We just read about the importance of journaling in a Forbes article.

I have many journals, spanning from my teen years to college and graduate school requirements for my teaching credentials.

As a Points of You trainer, I journal all the time about the cards and spreads I work with from the deck.

I’m also reminded of a coaching session that I did with my colleague, Erin Randall. She was the impetus for me starting very successful bikablo programming in Austin, Texas. In the coaching session, she asked me to draw what I was thinking—and it was HARD! I was unclear about my own thinking and that made representing it particularly challenging. In the more recent instance, I’m writing about, it was so much easier because I had a jumble of thoughts, feeling, and needs that just need an avenue of expression.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, in an effort to practice both my drawing skills and integrate more of nonviolent communication into my work, I have been capturing (through drawing/in single panel/comic format) moments between people that demonstrate or indicate their feelings and the needs behind them. I have quite the little collection of files cards with drawings… I see this as another form of journaling… though maybe I am stretching the word too far?

 

 

In essence, I am fired up again about the possibility of journaling using my visual practitioner skills—what fun!

How about you? Do you use your tools for yourself, your personal reflection? Please share if you do! If you want to chat about this, let’s do it!

What was the nature of your journey to your current position?

How did you get to where you are now? Was yours a rather straight path to your current work or were there bends in the road or interesting side trips that enriched your travel to your current destination?

Over the past few weeks, I‘ve been having conversations with folks from around the world about how I found my way to being a visual practitioner. People are curious as to the path I have taken… and I get it! How did I shift from teacher to instructional designer to principal to administrator to my current foci/passions for the roles of trainer, coach, facilitator, and visual practitioner? Was it boredom, dissatisfaction, wanderlust, or the lure of new horizons? For me, it was always about a new adventure in learning, sharing what I had learned, and a greater connection with colleagues.

To tell the truth, I have had friends chide me—saying they don’t understand what I do or that every time we see each other, I have a new area of interest to share with them. I believe that my friends do understand the pieces of my puzzle, just not why I choose to have so many pieces… To me, they are all aspects of an integrated whole… I am a multipassionate or multi-hyphen {Emma Gannon, The Multi-Hyphen Method}, believing that all I do has at least one touch-point with another area of interest and expertise.)

 

Where are you now? What are you thinking and feeling about your work life? Are you connected to your vision of who you want to be and your values? Which of these feelings describe your current experience?

Which of your needs, the ones that are critically important to you, are being met by your work?

  • What’s at your core—your vision of who you are in the world and how you live your values?
  • What’s your style—staying in your comfort zone, being at your learning edge, or both at different times of the year or dependent on your workload?
  • What interests/paths are open to you, given your knowledge, skills, and attitudes?

What is your capacity right now? Are you’re feeling the desire to step into something new? How do you create harmony between where you are and where you want to be (I do wonder if there is such a thing as “balance”)?

If now is not the time, then perhaps tuck away these questions for a time that is more auspicious for such deep thinking and conversation.

What juicy insights have you gained from reflecting on these questions and your own musings about your current circumstances? What conversations might we have that would bring you greater clarity and create more possibilities for you? I hope you will reach out to me—I’d love to connect!

Lessons learned from the newest member of the family, Gus!

Just yesterday morning, while out for our morning walk, I realized that so many of my work-life realities are mirrored in my daily experiences with Gus.

Surround yourself with the people that support you.

To do our best work we need to feel grounded, with folks who understand us, and who will also challenge us in ways that make us grow.

Eat right and make time for play.

It’s basic, yet how often do we overlook our physical, mental, and emotional well-being? How can we make the habit/the time to eat in ways which nourish us (take a break at lunch, eat food that is good for us), get enough sleep and exercise, engage in experiences and interactions that stimulate us to learn and grow, and be kind to ourselves?

Take care of your toys, and they will take care of you!

Our tools and resources enable us to create in the world. Making sure that we give them the attention they need is critical to our work.

 

Be curious, explore the territory. Some things need a quick sniff and others need a thorough investigation!

The world is full of so many opportunities, yet we can’t do them all… What’s your method for deciding your priorities? How often do you check-in to see if you’re feeling in harmony with/living your values?

Set up limits and boundaries, then protect them.

Limits are what we create for ourselves—we’ll go this far and no further. Boundaries keep others out. Standing firm and yet not rigid is both an art and a science.

Make your feelings and needs known to others.

Get clear about what you’re feeling. Even if we don’t acknowledge our feelings, they’re there, right inside our bodies. Lack of awareness and attention to what we are feeling and/or lack of skill in discerning what we really need can lead to misunderstandings and disturbances (or worse) in our personal and work relationships.

When you’re not feeling great, step away for a short while or find the tasks that you can do easily.

We all have days when we’re not feeling good. We can work to discern the level of care we need to shower on ourselves… Sometimes it’s stepping back from work, other times, it’s finding simpler tasks or less demanding work.

 

Plan for challenges and yet be present to the reality (which may turn out just fine).

We experienced this last week with Gus—it was his first trip to the vet with us (his third family), and let’s just say that he’s still working on his social skills with strangers. We planned for the worst—talking with the veterinary practice in advance, putting a harness on him, and deciding our approach to the front desk, and the waiting room with so many people and animals of all kinds! We took a deep breath and walked through the front door—and he was perfectly well-behaved the whole time!

We planned, we prepared, we went in with “beginner’s mind,” and had a great experience.

How often do we go in expecting, and then precipitating the worst?

Celebrate your successes. Learn from your mistakes.

When is the last time you paused, much less savored work (a conversation, meeting or project) well done?

I can tell you that once a project is done, I check it off my list and move on to what’s next. I do better when I’m training folks, as I make the time to review and reflect on the feedback forms completed at the end of the session. I LOVE that time… I need to do more of that, how about you?

Work to change habits that don’t serve you.

Wow, I feel like Sisyphus here, continuously pushing that boulder up the hill… I have some pretty stubborn habits—that have served me rather well over time. Yet, it’s time to let go! I am making progress by reading books, ingraining new habits, getting help from my circle of supportive colleagues and friends.

Our habits are EVERYWHERE!  This is a long-term project that’s tough AND rewarding.

Reward yourself for doing the right thing.

While this piece of wise advice from Gus* is related to others, I believe that it stands alone too. How do you reward yourself? Rewards can come in so many different packages! My rewards include a walk in the afternoon, exploring a new course or connection with someone or a group that interests me, and planning for breakfast with a colleague. Some of my rewards are planned in advance (when I know the week looks challenging) and others are spontaneous.

Can you name half a dozen ways you reward yourself?

* He loves his “high value” treats when he does an especially challenging task.

Find a place that makes you feel safe and hang out there when you need to.

Take good care of yourself. Sometimes we need to literally step away from interactions or experiences, other times, we just need to be quiet and come back to ourselves. In other instances, we need to reach out for refuge in our relationships with people who understand and care about us.

How do you talk about your work?

When was the last time you faced that moment, when you knew that you would need to bridge the gap between the work you do and people’s lack of familiarity with your field?

Just the other week I was a professional association meeting (the name remains secret to protect the identity), which began with the typical unstructured networking time that I so loathe. I know some folks who attend the meetings and I feel compelled to say hello and chat for a bit. I don’t know lots of folks and want to meet them, as that is in large part, my purpose in joining the organization and attending their events. I generally do more of the former type of socializing and less of the latter—unless I go in totally focused on my objective, “Meet four new people—listen, learn about them, and discover how to be helpful.” 

So the stage is set, I am meeting new folks through connections (yay!), and I get asked the oh-so-tired question, “Who is your target market?” My (rather devilish) reply is, “Everyone who communicates!” I then feel compelled to acknowledge that I realize my partner in conversation is seeking a more focused answer, and so I ease the tension by talking about the several types of folks who most frequently attend bikablo trainings. Though I really believe that my first answer is more on target (sorry, I couldn’t help it!). I WANT to reach everyone. I believe this is a skill that can help everyone to communicate better. And to date, I just haven’t reached out beyond a few particular professions, though more are on my radar!

What do you do? How do you describe and share information about our work—and the great variety of ways it is now being used? How do you help people see what they haven’t really understood before?

My reality is, that folks generally do not know about visualization work or of the bikablo Akademie. I explain that I teach people to capture ideas, thoughts, conversations, processes, relationships and more, in icons, containers, graphic elements and words. Usually, folks are both puzzled and interested! I then pave the way for further understanding by describing graphic recorders at conferences, (“Remember a recent conference, with a keynote speaker, and perhaps someone at a wall capturing the presentation in pictures and words?”). Or, I describe the role of graphic facilitators in meetings. Soon there is a spark of recognition, often followed by the question, “Are you an artist?” They are surprised that I am not and then sadly state, “I can only draw stick figures, I could NEVER do that!” I assure them that most folks don’t feel skilled at drawing as we haven’t had the opportunity to really develop that form of language throughout our schooling. Often I share photos, to help folks make the connection to how they could use visual practitioner skills in their work.

My most recent endeavor, in my effort to simply and easily describe my work is a one page visual—it certainly makes easy work of explaining bikablo! What do you think? 

I’m working on another iteration that is solely hand-drawn… and thinking that I may create a third with a combination of drawings and photos. I’ll post those later today—so check back! Please weigh in—let me know what you thinking!

Would you cadet such a visual? How would it facilitate people’s understanding of your work? Would you share what you have created—I hope so!