As part of my recent sabbatical from the online world, I've been spending more time looking at how visual strategies can help me do a better job with career and professional development. I've typically been very verbal, expressing myself and exploring ideas through the written and spoken word. But I've come to appreciate the power of the visual as part of this process.
For over a year, I've been working with Christine Martell on a project to bring her powerful VisualsSpeak tools online and to use them in new ways for personal and professional development. I strongly believe that you should never use a tool with a client that you wouldn't use yourself, so I've also worked with Christine to try the Image Center out for myself.
In December, she and I did a session where I was able to use the Exploring New Options online Image Center to take a deeper look at my ideal work. Christine recorded and documented the session here.
The way that the process works is that you go with your facilitator into the Image Center and are given 5 minutes to select and arrange a collection of images into a collage of sorts. Once finished, you then look at the "story" your images tell. The particular images you select, the ways in which you arrange them, and the story that emerges are all powerful ways of getting past your left brain/logical side to get at a deeper understanding of whatever question you're exploring.
Having that deeper understanding is, of course, all well and good. But in the end, you want action. What was particularly fascinating to me about the process that I experienced with the Exploring New Options Image Center was how action grew out of that initial session.
After Christine and I discussed what I wanted in my ideal work, she asked me to come up with a list of "next steps," things I felt I should do to get closer to that ideal. I wrote down the items, discussed them with her in my session . . . and then promptly forgot everything I'd said. But over the course of the next few months, I felt strange compulsions to do certain things--to set aside more time in my busy work schedule for writing and reflection, to seek out new ideas and new venues for working. I was starting to change how I operated and it all felt very organic and necessary.
Fast forward a few months to another session I did with Christine last week. We decided to look at the progress I'd made since the first session, but I told Christine I didn't know that I'd really followed through on the items we discussed, mostly because I couldn't really remember the details of the conversation. Imagine my suprise (and delight) when I listened again to what I'd told her I planned to do and realized that I'd actually been doing these things! But rather than experiencing them as a slogging through a "to-do" list, they had come from inside me, as tasks I felt compelled to do in a natural and important way.
My experience of this was vastly different from any goal-setting activities I'd done in the past, where I was constantly looking at my list of promised tasks and berating myself for not having done them. By using this more right brain, intuitive and visual process, I actually succeeded in embedding into my mind the things I needed to do and just started doing them with no sense of "I HAVE to get this done." How awesome! No guilt, no back-sliding--just a steady progress forward!
Christine is pulling together a charter group of facilitators to learn how to use the Image Center with their clients and you can bet I will be on board for this. I'm seeing how the visual really enhances the verbal and how both are needed to make professional progress.
As I look at ways to develop my work in new directions, focusing on professional and career development specificially for women, I'm seeing how powerful these tools can be in taking us beyond our usual checklists and goal-setting charts. The visuals are particularly effective at getting beyond our usual stories and ideas and can open up some new internal territory we haven't yet explored. Visuals activate our brains in ways that words alone do not--and the combination of the two is even more powerful, I'm finding.