Sketchnote: Three ways the brain creates meaning

Sketchnote: Three ways the brain creates meaning

As I continue to learn, develop and tweak my digital drawing workflow and style this week I thought I’d share with you a recent sketchnote I did of a Ted talk given by Tom WUJEC in 2009 entitled ‘Three Ways The Brain Creates Meaning’

1. Ventral Stream – this is the ‘what’ detector, where we recognise objects and make a connection.
2. Dorsal Stream – this helps us to locate and place objects in the space around us.
3. Limbic System – this is the gut centre of the brain where we experience feelings and emotions – what’s known as the gut brain connection

Here’s a link to the talk:

And here’s my sketchnote:

What do you think? Would you like to see more sketchnotes in the future in these emails? Let me know!

A gentle transition

A gentle transition

So here we are. Mid way through January and it’s my first email of the year.

It was Wednesday of last week before I realised I had completely forgotten to send out my regular Tuesday email. 

And normally at this time of year I share something like a Vision Board technique or a coaching template. For some reason when 2019 dawned I didn’t feel hugely compelled to make grand plans, analyse 2018 or focus on a ‘new me’.

Instead I’ve opted for a gentle transition. I wonder what it would be like, I thought to myself, if I just, y’know got on with things for a while. I wonder what it would be like if I waited until I had a genuine desire and energy to map out my goals for 2019. 

This is a very unusual methodology for me. I like plans. I like mapping out things. But a quiet voice inside invited me to pause a little. 

At this juncture I was very much cheered by a piece by Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian in which he suggests ‘If you must retain a New Year resolution, resolve not to beat yourself up for failing to do more.’

‘In reality,’ he says, ‘Once you’ve taken care of life’s non-negotiables, you’ll have a smallish sliver of time to devote to improving yourself and/or the world.’

He’s got a point. I don’t know know about you but right now I’m sensing into the being and not just the doing. 

This week I invite you to let yourself off the hook for not doing as much as you like/feel/want/need to do. Give it a go and as always let me know how you get on.

Mental health at Christmas

Mental health at Christmas

At what can be an intense time of year it’s important to pause for a moment and assess how to ensure good mental health over the festive period. 

Caveat: I am by no means a mental health expert, however by sharing what works for me hopefully you’ll start to think about what works well for you too. 

1. Start by writing out all the things you need to have in place to ensure good mental health. It may take a bit of digging to assess what these are if you’re not currently consciously aware of them. So for me my list will look something like:

– yoga
– drawing
– sense of achievement
– being with friends and family 
– meditation
– CBT techniques for managing unwanted thoughts
– running 
– listening to the Blindboy podcast(highly recommended, comes with colourful language warning) 

2. The next step is to actually schedule these things into your diary. At a busy time like Christmas it’s easy to get swept up in all the ‘do-ing’ and neglect ourselves as a result.
Think of the oxygen mask analogy – you can’t help anyone with their mask unless yours is sorted first.
It may be useful to have your list taped on the inside of your wardrobe door, scribbled on a note in your phone or some other prominent place to serve as a reminder to you. 

3. Future pace – have a think about what personal triggers may emerge over the festive period and plan a strategy for dealing with these – for example if you know your aunt is likely to wind you up (because she always does) then think about limiting your time in her company, writing out some stock responses to her insistent questions or simply ensuring the two of you are never alone together for longer than five minutes. 

Just a little bit of pre planning can make all the difference.

How to stay sane in a digital world

How to stay sane in a digital world

One of the most inspiring books that came across my path this year is ‘How to Break Up With Your Phone’ by Catherine Price.

I am increasingly attuned to the nature of our relationships with our phones and how this affects our relationships not only with each other, but with ourselves. 

Look up from this email for a moment and take a glance around you. How many people can you see staring into their phones?

It has become the new normal. 

During the summer I did an exercise where I was asked to examine when I felt most stressed or anxious and when I felt most calm and at peace. 

I was already aware of it in a dim sense but having to really think about it and commit pen to paper concretised things for me – my phone stresses me out – the constant check check checking for something, the quest for the hit that all too often leaves you flat and frustrated.

Here are some of things I’ve changed which have brought a greater sense of calm and acceptance:

* Switching off notifications – texts and Whatsapps are the only things I’ve set notifications for.
* Not taking my phone into my office – the temptation is too great to ‘give myself a break from work’ by checking my phone
* Batching my correspondence – for the most part I’ll do my texting at lunchtimes and after dinner. 
* Deliberately not checking my phone when in ‘down time’ such as sitting in a taxi or at the doctor’s waiting area. 

I took emails and social media apps off my phone about a year and a half ago and have not looked back – sure there’ve been one or two times when it would’ve been useful to have them on my phone but for 99.5% of time I don’t miss them at all. 

I highly recommend this book. In fact I can see it being an extremely important reference in years to come.

Before closing this email I invite you to pause for a moment and ask yourself, ‘What can I do differently this week to bring a sense of calm and peace into my world?’

I can’t do this

I can’t do this

‘I guess I’m just not a visual person’

Many demons emerge when we step out of our comfort zone and learn something completely different.

It’ like our subconscious goes into overdrive telling us all the reasons we can’t or shouldn’t do something. ‘Don’t bother’,  it whispers, ‘Look, you gave it a go and it’s not you’, ‘Come back to what’s familiar and safe’.

When we learn something new we go through what’s known as the learning ladder. The learning ladder explains why we experience these moments of resistance, of pulling back, and offers us a new perspective.

What if we chose not to give voice to our negative mind chatter? What if we recognised it for what it is, a sign that we’re learning, a sign that it’s all part of the learning process.

  • The stage at the bottom of the ladder is known as Unconscious Incompetence – well before you learned how to drive for example, driving wasn’t even on your radar.
  • The next stage is Conscious Incompetence – you start learning and suddenly it feels quite difficult – think kangaroo hops. It’s the same when we start drawing for the first time in years – our star people have giant heads, we can’t quite get our lettering to fit on the page, our sheep look like clouds etc. But fear not…. we then reach the next stage.
  • Conscious Competence – Hey we can do it. Somehow the whole clutch/steering, braking, mirrors thing all comes together. Our drawings look less child like and more recognisable. We can do it but it takes a lot of concentration.
  • The final stage on the learning ladder is Unconscious Competence – we can do it without even thinking. It’s easy, it’s effortless, heck it’s even fun. You find yourself jotting down simple images quickly and easily. It’s become second nature. You’ve quietened the critical voice.

So the next time you hear those subconscious murmurings remember it’s not the case that you’re no good, it simply means you’re on a certain stage of the learning ladder and with a little practice and self compassion, you’ll soon reach the next stage.As my yoga teacher said recently, ‘If you believe it will work out, you’ll see opportunities. If you believe it won’t, you’ll see obstacles.’ Oh hang on, I think she was quoting Wayne Dyer. Wise words at any rate!

To experience exciting learning opportunities for yourself why not book a place on the next Secrets of Simple Graphics open course. Book now >>

Drawing to express emotion

In my line of work I am very much focussed on the ROI of graphics. What return will people get as a result of using these tools? What change will occur and what’s important about that?

Graphics is still new to many organisations and as such I have a role in educating others about the meaning of graphics and graphic facilitation as well as extoling the many benefits.

Sometimes though, we simply need to draw for drawing’s sake.

I find drawing particularly useful when it comes to dealing with and processing emotions. When you wake up to sad news, when your head is fuzzy with overthinking, when you just can’t face logging into your computer.

Conversely drawing is powerful when you are at the other end of the emotional spectrum. Ever find yourself giddy with excitement, bursting with love, hyper with enthusiasm?

Grab your marker and start doodling. Tune into the first image that comes into your mind and draw that. Keep drawing. Draw some more. Add words and colour. Get messy, get neat, find freedom and space on the blank in front of you.

What follows is a sense of connection and clarity, a tuning in, a refinement of your emotions.

Above are my scribbles for a Tuesday lunchtime.

What are yours?