We recently caught up with Emily Bryson, who attended Draw Out Your Future in January 2021, to ask some questions about her experience.
What motivated you to attend the programme in the first place? What problems were you experiencing that you hoped the programme would address? I signed up to Draw Out Your Future mostly because I’m a big Emer fan. I knew I’d be in good hands. I’ve attended a few of Emer’s courses and training sessions and they’re always brilliant.
I wasn’t really experiencing any particular problems, I just wanted to have a bit of fun and mess about with drawing.
What reservations, if any, did you have about joining the programme? I think the only reservation I had was about whether I really had the time to do the course. The beauty is that you can spend as little or as much time on it as you want. I found that once I got started completing Emer’s visual templates, I got totally absorbed in them. I’d be sucked in for hours sketch-noting my future. It was really therapeutic. I still have those completed visuals as a reminder of the distance I’ve travelled since then.
What elements of the programme really resonated with you? I loved the metaphors in the visual templates. When my friends are pondering their direction in life, I now ask them what they’d do in the sea of infinite possibility. I found metaphorically removing any barriers to ambitions really powerful to help me think big and have the confidence to go for what I really wanted.
What did it feel like to be a participant on Draw Out Your Future? I really loved meeting new people and being inspired by their goals and successes. It was great to discuss future planning with like minded individuals. I’m still in touch with some of the participants. They’ve become friends, unofficial mentors and accountability buddies! Emer created a really safe space for people to open up and I feel like I got to know everyone very well in a very short space of time.
What would you say have been the impacts for you in Drawing Out Your Future? (personally/professionally)? I had some ideas simmering on a back burner in a dark corner my head. I guess I’d convinced myself that they were unrealistic goals. During Emer’s course, I shared these with my peers, who encouraged me to go for them. Since then, I’ve made those ideas into reality. I now run courses in Graphic Facilitation, tailored especially for English Language Teachers. They’ve been extremely well received.
How would things be different for you now if you decided not to join Draw Out Your Future? I think my business idea of Graphic Facilitation courses for ELT Professionals would still be on that back burner if it wasn’t for Emer’s course.
What would you say to someone who is considering going on the programme? Do it. Don’t hesitate. You’ll look back on it as one of those crucial moments in your life that gently guided you in the right direction.
Anything else you’d like to add? Emer has such a welcoming and attentive coaching style. She really knows her stuff and is very inspiring. You’re in good hands.
Emily Bryson is an English language teaching professional with over twenty years experience. She has written five books and many online courses, including the Voices series for National Geographic Learning. She runs training courses which help ELT Professionals to harness the superpowers of Graphic Facilitation, and also uses her graphic recording skills to present information in an accessible and engaging format.
All the artwork in this article has been created by Emily.
Feel inspired by Emily and keen to draw out your future? Book your place now for the next Draw Out Your Future 6-week course which starts on June 1st 2022.
We spoke recently with Alexandra Sandys, who attended Draw Out Your Future in May 2021, to ask some questions about her experience.
What motivated you to attend the programme in the first place? What problems were you experiencing that you hoped the programme would address? In 2020, I had made some big changes in my life and thought I knew the direction I was heading. However, I had a difficult start to 2021 which impacted greatly on me and affected my confidence. I had previously attended some shorter sessions with Emer and had found them to be joyful and uplifting, so when the Draw Out Your Future course was offered again I jumped at the opportunity, hoping that it would rekindle my spark.
How were these problems affecting you? I had no vision for how my future would be and was feeling very lost and demotivated.
What other solutions did you consider? I considered doing some one to one coaching but felt that being in a group and engaging with the experience of drawing would be of most benefit.
What reservations, if any, did you have about joining the programme? I had some reservations about joining the programme because I knew I would not be able to attend a couple of the sessions and also because I was feeling so demotivated I was worried that I would not keep up with the tasks in between the sessions. I was reassured that I would be able to catch up by watching the session playbacks and that the amount of time spent on tasks between sessions was manageable and largely down to me.
What elements of the programme really resonated with you? I really resonated with the way Emer helped us to think about our values and what is important to us. Doing this with the visual templates was very helpful and I loved creating them and having a visual reminder.
What, if anything, surprised you about the programme? I was surprised by how much I looked forward to the sessions and by how much impact using the visual templates had.
What did it feel like to be a participant on Draw Out Your Future? Emer has a very natural, relaxed and engaging facilitation style that made me feel comfortable online in a group of people that I didn’t know to start with. It felt like we were taken on an exhilarating journey where we were invited to set aside all limitations and allow our imaginations to visualise the kind of life we wanted to create. There were then loads of practical tips and tools to enable us to take the steps to make this happen.
What would you say have been the impacts for you in Drawing Out Your Future? (personally/professionally)? The impact of attending Drawing Out Your Future on a personal level has meant that I am well on the way to achieving my goal of improving my physical fitness level. I have increased my training and entered my first triathlon event in over 5 years. On a professional level, I have identified a change in direction that I wish to follow, developing a seasonal and nature-based approach to teaching yoga. I have just applied (and been accepted) to train with the Institute of Forest Bathing to become a guide which I believe will complement this approach.
How would things be different for you now if you decided not to join Draw Out Your Future? I think if I hadn’t joined Draw Out Your Future I would not have set the clear goals that I did, or had the motivation to take the first steps to make them a reality.
What would you say to someone who is considering going on the programme? It’s a brilliant way to give yourself the time and space that you deserve to consider the direction you want your life to go. The drawing aspect is fun and creative and introduced in such a way that it never feels daunting.
Anything else you’d like to add? Thank you Emer for creating such an inspiring and nurturing course. I would highly recommend it to anyone who would like to create more joy in their life or needs some support to get back on track.
Alex Sandys is a freelance Mental Health First Aid Instructor, a Yoga Teacher and a Storyteller. Alex is working towards combining her skills to enhance people’s connection with the natural world and improving their mental wellbeing.
All the artwork in this article has been created by Alex.
Feel inspired by Alex and keen to draw out your future? Book your place now for the next Draw Out Your Future 6-week course which starts on November 9th 2021.
We caught up with Liz Moss, who attended Draw Out Your Future in January 2021, to ask some questions about her experience.
What motivated you to attend the programme in the first place? What problems were you experiencing that you hoped the programme would address? In all honesty, I signed up for the programme the day before it started with very little idea of what it was all about! The course was recommended to me by a friend and colleague during a bit of a peer coaching session. I literally took her word for it that it would be fun and good for me – so signed up on the spot without thinking about it!
I had recently left a really full-oncontract and was looking for something to do that would help me re-set and re-adjust my work-life balance and regain some control on my brain and perspective on my life which I felt like I had lost in managing major organisational changes during a pandemic!
How were these problems affecting you? I’d been working a lot of hours, supporting a lot of people for 18 months and work had become all-consuming. Having delivered the contract, I dragged myself through Christmasbut felt a bit lost as I came into the New Year. I had a few bits of work on but nothing like the workload or intensity I had been working in and I felt a bit lost without the pressure. But I didn’t really want to fill my time with more work! Whilst I was glad to have been working through the first few waves of the pandemic, I, like many people, also felt this was a bit of a wake-up call to focus on other things in life aside from work.
What other solutions did you consider? Well – I am a bit of a workaholic – so I had a nice long list of things to do whilst I was less busy at work – another qualification, catch up on my CPD, update my website, refresh my LinkedIn profile etc.. but that wasn’t what I really needed. I contemplated taking three months off and having a proper break but didn’t really know what to do with my time and options were limited as we were still locked down. I love being busy outside with my dogs – but it was pretty cold so that wasn’t too appealing at the time!
What reservations, if any, did you have about joining the programme? As I said – I didn’t really have a lot of time for reservations but my gut reaction was definitely “I can’t draw!”
Followed by, I don’t have time and this will be an evening commitment that might be restrictive.
The first reaction I decided to embrace as a bit of fun – and the second – well I couldn’t really make those excuses stand in the circumstances so just told myself to get over it and get on with it!
What elements of the programme really resonated with you? I really enjoyed the visualisation, creativity and drawing. Previously my visualisation and creativity extended to PowerPoint with a bit of clip art but seeing some of the techniques and tools for things that I use every day such as agendas, programme plans, action plans presented graphically just felt less intense, more fun and more accessible.
I also found the act of drawing incredibly powerful in helping capture concepts that are a bit hard to articulate in words. It gave me a new way of accessing and processing thoughts and communicating them that felt almost abstract because the act of drawing was distracting me from overprocessing and trying to describe things perfectly.
Whilst the drawing element was great, the overall course was very well put together and took me on a journey of just enough reflection on my life without getting in too deep – I could work at a level I was comfortable with and drawing made things seem a bit less serious. Each session provided the opportunity for a bit of self-reflection, awareness and thinking about what things I actually enjoy in life. It helped me realise that I am actually pretty happy with where I am and with a few adjustments to the work-life balance I can get the future I want. I feel like the course has given me permission to spend more time on the things that give me pleasure and energy in and out of work in a way that no other coaching or course I’ve done before has ever achieved. I’m much happier for it – although my house is not as clean and tidy as it used to be!!
What, if anything, surprised you about the programme? This shouldn’t have been a surprise but because I had been so fixated on work for so long – it took me a while to get my head around the opportunity this course provided to consider my life in the round. I’d gone in thinking it might be a good way to do my marketing strategy – instead, it gave me good ways to motivate myself to do things that were important to me – turns out that wasn’t a marketing strategy!
What has been most surprising is that I actually love drawing – not in the classical art kind of way – but this simple graphic illustration is something I can do – and I find it relaxing and something I’m actually happy to share with other people – my drawings aren’t perfect but they get the message across and create a more personal sense of engagement. I’m never buying another card again!
What did it feel like to be a participant on Draw Out Your Future? Good. I’m a bit of an introvert and not that great at joining new groups or sharing personal stuff but I didn’t really have to – I was able to participate as much or as little as I wanted to – there were opportunities to volunteer for demonstrations and opportunities to share the work we did but no pressure. The groups were friendly but professionally run and everyone was very supportive. Emer provided lots of useful information, tools and resources and always made herself available to follow up with if need be.
What would you say have been the impacts for you in Drawing Out Your Future? (personally/professionally)? Personally – I have made little changes to my daily routine which feel like big changes to my life. I have a clear picture of the future I want and it feels realistic. I have the tools I need to keep focusing on different elements of my plan and when I feel I’m getting off track or have achieved them I can re-draw the picture!
Professionally – I have introduced using graphics into my work in a number of ways. As a coach, I’m encouraging my clients to draw things and they also are benefiting from the experience. I’ve also been using graphics to promote coaching programmes in a more interesting way on social media which has got some really good feedback.
How would things be different for you now if you decided not to join Draw Out Your Future? Had I not done this course I think I would still be doing what I’d always done before –distracting myself with doing work and not really making the most of my life and being a bit frustrated about my work-life balance. Nothing majorly wrong with my before life but definitely got a new and more positive perspective on my work and life now.
What would you say to someone who is considering going on the programme? Do it. Don’t overthink it just do it. It’s a few hours of your time that you’ll enjoy and you’ll definitely get something from it. Don’t worry about not being good at drawing – it’s not really about that – it’s a really good course for reflecting on what you enjoy, what you’re good at and what you want to do more of in the future – what those things are is totally in your control and there’s no pressure to do anything you don’t want to do. It’s not scary and it’s liberating to try something new.
Anything else you’d like to add? I work with lots of different people and organisations and have a really good range of tools and skills to support different styles – I think this course has given me another set of tools and techniques to complement this.
Liz Moss is a self-employed business consultant who specialises in helping people be better than they think they can be and organisations work better together. She provides programme/project management for organisational changes and developments, coaching, learning and development, facilitation and mediation.
All the artwork in this article has been created by Liz.
Feel inspired by Liz and keen to draw out your future? Book your place now for the next Draw Out Your Future 6-week course.
Bear in mind that creative visioning is not a to-do, it’s a to-dream. It’s about as far from a tick box exercise as you can imagine. Give yourself the space to dream. Time can be a barrier so start by setting 5 minutes aside (I find it helpful to use a stopwatch). Once the 5 minutes are up you will often feel like doing more, so keep going 🙂
Take the pressure off. Creative visioning is not about setting a 5-year vision or making hard and fast decisions about your future. Nothing is set in stone. View it as simply exploring an infinite range of possibilities. You don’t have to ‘get it right.’
Start with a blank unlined page and grab some markers or pencils. If your natural tendency is to write rather than draw then go for it. You can always add drawings later if you wish.
Use prompts to shape your thinking. If you are creating a vision for your life use prompts to help you think about what your future life may look like. Who, What, Where, When are examples of useful prompts.
Remove all barriers – real and imagined. Often when creating visions (and subsequently goals and plans) we have a tendency to think about what isn’t possible, what can’t be done because of XYZ. Imagine that all such barriers are removed and really go for it, let your imagination take you beyond barriers to a life yet lived.
Revisit your vision. Pin your scribbles to the wall and add new ones when a new idea or insight occurs to you. Likewise, cross out anything that no longer feels appealing. Your vision is always growing and changing. Welcome this evolution.
Draw Out Your Future participants with Emer O’Leary January 2021
The Old’s Cool Intergenerational Project was launched in August 2015, and it supports young people to facilitate intergenerational activities with older people in their community and to record and present their work in a medium of their choice.
Why make use of drawing?
During a pandemic, it was always going to be difficult to deliver Old’s Cool. With the added challenge of having to bring together both young and older people over Zoom, it was vital we used an approach that could engage both generations successfully. As a graduate of the secrets of simple graphics course, when our young people expressed a desire to explore a creative method of capturing their Covid19 stories with older people, I knew Emer was the ideal partner to support us.
What did you do in your sessions?
Over the course of the project, Emer delivered 3 sessions exploring drawing and visual storytelling skills, with one taking place over Zoom and two in person at the Citadel. Following this, our young people interviewed the older participants primarily over Zoom using their new drawing skills to capture their Covid19 stories.
Our first session over Zoom delivered an introduction to drawing and despite some considerable technical issues, the experience provided a fun and engaging way of connecting both generations. Zoom can often feel very artificial, and this was especially true for our older participants who were new to the platform. However, by focussing on drawing we were able to provide a familiar experience, which in turn, enabled us to focus on connecting with one another.
“Zoom can be hard at times, but it’s always amazing to see the young people.” (Mary – Older Person)
For our second session, Emer trained the young people to utilise icebreaker drawing activities and visual recording techniques. The young people then used these techniques when interviewing the older participants.
“We used the ice breaker exercises to allow our brains to start thinking more creatively, as well as it being an exercise that all generations found easy and fun!” (Macie – Young Person)
For our final session with Emer, the young people were led through an interactive final graphic workshop, to collate all the stories they had captured from the older people. These stories were categorised by theme, helping to highlight the similarities and differences in how the young and older people experienced the Covid19 pandemic. Having a final graphic also provided the young people a finished project to share.
What did you learn?
The young people ended their Old’s Cool experience by delivering a presentation sharing their learning as part of the intergenerational place making Age-Friendly-Living-Ecosystem project. This included sharing their final graphic and their top 3 tips for delivering digital intergenerational work:
Don’t overcomplicate it – sometimes using the tried and tested can work just as well. On one session we struggled to get Zoom working so we interviewed the older person over the phone, and it was great!
Have a backup – when thinking about this tip, our young people all agreed when you go on holiday you should always remember to pack extra underwear! This is a funny reminder to always have a backup plan, as delivering any digital work will inevitably have unexpected challenges.
It’s not all about technology – when delivering digital intergenerational work, it can be easy to become preoccupied with technology. Remember it’s relationships that really matter and don’t forget to consider the feelings of the older people you are trying to connect with.
Anything else you would like to add?
On completing 11 sessions of Old’s Cool and over 30 hours activity our young people had this to say:
“In a nutshell, digital intergenerational work has its challenges, but it’s super rewarding and lots of fun!”
We caught up with Anat Shabi, who attended Secrets of Simple Graphics Online in June 2020, to ask some questions about her experience.
What motivated you to attend the training in the first place? What problems were you experiencing that you hoped the training would address? As a facilitator, I used to spend hours guiding and capturing group learnings on flipcharts (remember those?) I wanted to simplify the communications and believed that simple graphics would add an element of clarity and fun.
Whilst I loved the idea of graphics, I lacked confidence in my ability and had no idea how or where to begin.
How are you using what you’ve learned? Simple graphics now feature in many of my social media posts. They make for a refreshing change and get my ideas across with greater clarity. Prior to this, I used to spend ages looking for the right image to go with my post. Now I can just create it.
More recently, I have created postcards with build instructions for mindful Lego®SeriousPlay exercises. Postcards are pretty small and as such I couldn’t squeeze much information onto them. The use of graphics helped simplify the text and introduce an added element of fun.
What kind of results are you getting? What kind of feedback are you getting? It seems that people are more appreciative of a post that looks a little different. My social media posts which include graphics tend to generate more responses.
In addition, at a time when most communications occur online, the use of graphics has injected light-heartedness into my presentations, appreciated by my audience.
What would you say has been the overall impact of using visual thinking/simple graphics in your work? Simple graphics have enhanced my communications. They are a great attention grabber and have worked well to help simplify wordy narratives.
On a personal level, the use of simple graphics has boosted my confidence in my ability to draw. It is a fun, colourful and mindful exercise which has stimulated my creative thinking with surprising results.
What would you say to someone who is considering going on the training? Just do it! Emer is a wonderful guide, making the learning journey simple, exciting, and easy. You will be surprised at your own creativity!
Anything else you’d like to add? Thank you Emer for making something that seemed beyond my reach attainable, and so much fun.
Anat Shabi is a business development facilitator and coach based in London. She works closely with Healthcare managers to help build strong platforms for team growth and success. Her workshops are enriched using Lego®SeriousPlay, an innovative and creative tool that helps to explore thinking, expand on ideas, and build strong connections.
All the artwork in this article has been created by Anat.
Feel inspired by Anat and keen to get creative in 2021? Book your place now for the next Secrets of Simple Graphics Online 6-week course.
Already been on Secrets of Simple Graphics? Reignite your passion with our *brand new course* Even More Secrets of Simple Graphics starting April 26th. Find out more here >>.
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