Visual template: Self Soothing System

Visual template: Self Soothing System

Originally shared via newsletter 18.03.20

And here we are. To begin please know you are in my thoughts. At no other time has a sense of community meant so much. I am grateful to you for being here and I hope you and yours are safe and well. I will continue to keep in touch over the coming weeks and months and who knows, I may even start sending emails with some kind of regularity 🙂

Today I want to share with you a visual template I have designed to help us come to terms with and manage the wave of feelings we are all experiencing right now. I don’t know about you but in times of stress I often go into ‘Doing’ mode. I fight stress with action. What I’ve been recognising though is the importance of making those action plans from a grounded, calmer place.

Introducing the Self Soothing System

When we feel stress or anxiety we often feel it in certain areas of the body. For me the first place I feel it is in my gut and then I get this sense of disconnection in my feet like I’m not fully grounded. My jaw tenses up as do my hands. I decided to use this image of the body as an acknowledgment of that sensory experience of stress and anxiety. Our aim here is to soften the intensity of those feelings and arrive at a calmer, more grounded place.


Print out the template or copy it out on paper. Beside each ‘wound mark’ note down a particular concern or worry for you right now. One concern for each wound. Let’s get those negative, stressy anxious thoughts down on paper.

Next, take each one in turn and consider what ‘ointment’ you can place on the wound to bring a sense of healing. How can you take the sting out of this worry or concern? What would a friend say to bring softness to this area?

This is not about ‘wishing the worry away’ or putting on some kind of plaster to mask the pain; this is just about viewing each concern from a compassionate, caring, positive perspective.

It is about self soothing and tapping into our innate wisdom. I’ve shared mine here by way of example.

I hope you find this useful. As always, give it a go and let me know how you get on. Here’s the template to print out. Feel free to share with your networks or anyone you think may benefit from this right now. And big thanks to Christina Merkley who was the inspiration behind this.

Yours in community spirit,


To harness the power of visual templates for reframing our thoughts, reflecting on priorities and making plans join us for Draw Out Your Future Jan 12th. Sign up here >>

Why you don’t have to be good at drawing

Why you don’t have to be good at drawing

You really don’t have to be good at drawing to be an excellent visual thinker and here are three reasons why:

1. First and foremost ‘good at drawing’ is a very subjective benchmark. It takes us down the slippery path of ‘What is art?’, the kind of question I left behind in Cork along with my MA in Philosophy.

With visual thinking and graphic facilitation our focus is not on ‘art’ or ‘good drawings’, our focus is on helping people to understand something, to share ideas and to enhance communication.

2. I always say visual thinking is 50% skill and 50% mindset. You can be the world’s greatest artist but if you’re plagued with perfectionism or never take yourself out of your comfort zone then you’ll need a real mindset shift in order to be a great visual thinker.

3. Research has shown that your drawings only need to look 30% like what they’re supposed to be. Our brains fill in the gaps. So even if you’re working with a group and your drawings are really sketchy, this sketchiness in fact increases engagement as we examine the meanings of the drawings. The drawings are not ‘done’. They allow for growth, expansion and exploration.

And who wouldn’t benefit from some of that in these changing times?

All the best,

Sketchnote: The Growth Mindset

Sketchnote: The Growth Mindset

Recently I’ve found myself immersed in Carol Dweck’s book, ‘Mindset: Change the way you think to fulfil your potential.’.

It was Dweck who came up with the notion of the growth mindset i.e. a way of thinking where you believe that you have the potential to learn how to do whatever you want. Someone with a growth mindset relishes challenges, is open to new ideas, likes to try new things and believes that the effort they put in determines their success.

I often say a visual thinking mindset is a growth mindset – with visual thinking we step out of our comfort zone, we are open to new ways of working and we test old limiting beliefs such as ‘I can’t draw’ or ‘I was never good at art at school so I’m going to be hopeless at this.’

And really, it starts with the belief. The more you believe you can do something the more effort you’ll put in and the more effort you put in the greater your sense of achievement. This achievement then reinforces your positive belief that you really can do whatever you set your mind to. And so the virtuous circle continues.

And if your starting point is a negative belief? If you genuinely believe you can’t draw/do an Ironman/solve quadratic equations?

Then look for evidence that challenges this. Recall past successes where you overcame limiting beliefs. Consider other ways of assessing your belief. Seek out evidence that supports the (true!) belief that you can do anything you set your mind to.

All the best,

How to build confidence in your drawing Part 2

In Part 1 of series this blog posts, I shared some tips around how to build confidence in your drawing, concluding with the importance of focusing on the process and not the outcome.

Because this is such an important topic – lack of confidence stops people over and over again – we’re continuing with the theme this week.

I always say drawing is 50% skill and 50% mindset. Therefore it’s important to work on both to ensure success.

  • Resist the urge to edit as you go along. I know what it’s like. You start drawing a dog and before you know it looks like a hamster horse hybrid. Continue with the hamster horse hybrid until it’s a finished drawing. It’s at that point we can assess our drawing, analyse what went right and what went wrong and start again from fresh. Otherwise you can get yourself caught up in constant correction mode, not a helpful place to be.
  • Quieten your inner critic. Recognise when it makes an appearance. Even better draw your critic! Get your worries out of your head and on to the page.
  • Use pen and paper. Switch off the phone. Give yourself 5 minutes of non tech time. Drawing on a tablet can lead to constant corrections and distractions (notifications, emails, life). Watch out for this.
  • Share your drawings. One way to both quieten the inner critic and boost your confidence is to share your drawings. Resist the temptation to wait until you’re 100% happy with them. Be proud of where you are in your drawing journey today.
  • Enjoy the process. If you’re not enjoying it, stop. Do something else. You can always come back to it later.

I hope you’ve found these tips helpful.

All the best,

How to build confidence in your drawing Part 1

How to build confidence in your drawing Part 1

Feeling a bit wobbly when it comes to putting pen to paper? You’re not alone. If we don’t flex our visual thinking muscles on a regular basis we can easily lose confidence in drawing simple images.

Perhaps you’ve been on a course or bought a book, all fired up with enthusiasm, but then life got in the way and you’ve since lost your drawing mojo.

Here are some tips to help build your confidence:

  • Draw something every single day. An apple, a sun, a tree, anything at all. Just draw.
  • Always use your favourite marker or pen, don’t just grab the nearest drawing implement within reach. It doesn’t have to be an expensive or fancy marker, just something you love.
  • Start small and break it down. Take one simple image and ask yourself, ‘What’s the first line I see?’ Copy that line down, and then the next, and the next.
  • Slow down. As my lettering mentor Heather Martinez says, ‘Form, then rhythm’. Take your time getting to know the shape, the construct of the image, the order in which you like to draw the lines. Once you’re comfortable with that, then speed up.

Emotionally disconnect from the outcome. Lean in to the process, the process of learning and discovery. This is a key component of the growth mindset which is closely connected to visual thinking.

I hope these tips encourage you to pick up the pen this week and reconnect you with your passion for all things creative.

All the best,

[Video] How to draw an icon for peace/meditation/reflection

[Video] How to draw an icon for peace/meditation/reflection

And here we are once more…

Another day, another major change, another opportunity to pause and feel grateful for a sense of community that goes beyond what we can experience in a physical sense.

And today I use this opportunity to share with you my YouTube video which I hope you enjoy.

On the theme of pausing and reflecting here is an icon I use an awful lot.

How might an icon for peace/meditation/reflection help you and your work right now?

Click on the image below to be taken to the YouTube video where you can follow along with me.

Stay well, stay positive.