I am – a deep understanding of this word can change your life. “I am” is one of the more significant words.
Notice that when you ask yourself what “I am” means, a feeling arises. You feel something inside you. Isn’t it interesting?
Of course, you know you are and it goes without saying. But try to understand and feel it more deeply.
Stand with your feet on the ground and think “I am.” Repeat the word in your mind several times. Start walking with that awareness of “I am.” You can also run or dance with “I am”. Check how you feel and what you feel when you realize the meaning of the word.
I feel joy. And gratitude.
When you understand with all your heart the meaning of “I am,” it can change your life. So, please do experience. Knowing something and experiencing it are two different things.
“I am” – with this awareness everyday life is better. You notice more around you and enjoy it more. Gratitude awakens in you, which brings positive energy. It helps you live with a lighter heart.
Hardship and pain are part of life. They cannot be avoided. Thanks to them, we make effort and achieve something. We keep developing. But we have a choice to see consciously what gives lightness, relief, comfort, and what gives a sense of power at the same time.
“I am” is a powerful word.
To understand and see it better, you can go for a walk and photograph the topic “I am”. You don’t need to know in advance how to do this. Ideas will come. Walk, look around you and you will discover an unlimited source of wisdom, creativity and joy. Below are my photos of “I am”.
About the author: Dorota Raniszewska – certified professional coach, EMCC Coach and Mentor – Senior Practitioner, accredited coach Izba Coachingu, certified trainer, author of the book “ONE IMAGE – MANY WORDS. Photography in personal development, healing and education. Notes from a personal journey”.
This article is going to be a coaching exercise for me 😉. Why? I’m pretty good at spreading ideas and sharing my knowledge but I’m less good at celebrating success and showing great feedback received 😊. Sometimes I’m too busy and run fast forward, but many times, I’m simply having this kind of inner dialogue which you might know about modesty, temperance and letting things speak for themselves.
But this time, there is a special occasion. It is about coaches feedback received after the ‘Photography in Coaching. Making the Future Visible’ presentation at the EMCC Global Coaching, Mentoring and Supervision conference that took place recently.
Together with my colleague, Bara Belova who is a manager, mentor and coach we challenged ourselves to demonstrate a live coaching session on ‘The Most Important Photo’ – which is a coaching process that I’ve been developing based on the use of client personal photos and the model of neurological levels.
And here is what some of the conference participants shared:
This sort of topic can be filed under ‘Creative Stuff’ all too often. The use of personal visuals in our lives today is part of our everyday conversation; whether that be a visual or spoken exchange. This is so relevant to all natures and approaches to coaching.
My comment: Yes, indeed. The experience shows that clients personal photos are very useful in all coaching niches, i.e.:
life coaching – think about personal resources that are visible in the photos,
executive coaching – think of values that drive behaviours and leadership style,
career coaching – think of profile photos that are our public messages about our uniqueness,
relationship coaching – think of emotions and thoughts that relationship photos can evoke,
wellbeing – think of taking photos as mindfulness practice or creative thinking,
team integration and coaching.
Also, active taking of photographs is an excellent way to facilitate people communication and exchange of ideas, especially when there is a need to think out of the box and to speak beyond language limitations.
I found this very thought-provoking and powerful. I have been incorporating pictures and art into my coaching over the last year and will use ‘The Most Important Photo’.
My comment: It’s so nice to read that other coach also uses photos. Many use ready decks of photos to stimulate thinking and communication. I’m happy that you are inspired to use this process of the Most Important Photo. The use of clients’ personal photos is something unique in terms of connecting to the true self.
Learning a new way to help the client tap into his/herself was very helpful. Especially in this day and age of “selfies.
My comment: Well, yes. Memories and emotions triggered by our personal photos remind us of parts of ourselves that we might forget in a daily race. A simple photo from holidays, work, graduation, family home or the one we took and are proud of, can be very insightful in talking about what matters to us in life generally. And authenticity is a meaningful topic today.
Great appreciation to Bara for being willing to act as a coachee and great appreciation to Dorota for taking us through the coaching exercise. Using the personal photo was very inspiring. Thank you
My comment: It was an act of openness and courage. But we also benefited a lot from it. We learned a lot. I think that the session we presented was the most reflected one I ever had. Also, we were supported by the EMCC team in all the preparatory tasks, including the pre-recorded session, conference papers, promotional interviews. The work that was done by the EMCC team to organise this conference deserves the highest admiration and gratitude.
True coaching, thus very relevant!! 🙂
Insightful, innovative, valuable. Loved this session thank you both!
One more thing to share maybe. Besides the conference presentation, we also prepared a conference paper dedicated to ‘The Most Important Photo’ and the power of photography in coaching. I will be happy to share it with you. If it is of interest to you, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are some of my quotes from the conference paper:
Photography assists us from birth on in all we create in life based on our dreams and hopes, strengths, relationships and achievements.
Photographs mirror, materialize and document the experiences of human life – our biography. They make it easier to connect to what matters to us. They trigger memories and provide a lot of material for the thinking process.
The Most Important Photo connects you to something meaningful in your life and to the essence of who you are and what is your core life experience. It is one of the important photos that are kept to remember important moments and people in life.
When you ask your coaching client to look for his or her most important photo, they will reflect on what matters to them in life.
If you wish to learn more about photography in coaching, you can reach my book ‘ONE IMAGE – MANY WORDS. Photography in personal development, healing and education. Notes from a personal journey‘. It is available here
Thank you for reading this article.
Dorota Raniszewska – certified professional coach, EMCC Coach and Mentor – Senior Practitioner, accredited coach Izba Coachingu, certified trainer, author of the book “ONE IMAGE – MANY WORDS. Photography in personal development, healing and education. Notes from a personal journey”.
I’ve been receiving questions about next edition of the Course on Photography in Coaching. So let’s make it! This is going to the 3rd online edition of the Course and I’m really very happy about it and proud.
The online version of the Course takes 8 weeks. This length improved significantly the depth of the connection between the participants and the quality of the learning experience. Connection and experience that don’t stop at the end of the course. We are still meeting, exchanging and learning from each other in a group coaching program.
„A photograph gives us a place to start, a stepping stone to continue the story.”
– a quotation from the book „ONE IMAGE – MANY WORDS”
This quote is the starting point for talking about “AHA™ – photos that inspire”. After all, words and images go hand in hand. The language of imagery is ever-present in the realm of painterly metaphors, helping us to express in words that which is difficult to name outright. For example, we have the phrase “soft as velvet.” Thanks to the visualization of something abstract, it becomes almost tangible, and thus, easier to understand, to name and to describe.
AHA™ comprises an independent collection of 48 photographs and 12 accompanying questions that I have compiled over many years of coaching and workshop sessions. I have used these images and questions to spark sincere and worthwhile exchanges, to forge creative tracks for personal development, and to inspire hope, motivation, and engagement. From the moment I published my book on photography in personal development, people began asking: “Dorota, when will you publish your own photos? They’re so remarkable, so positive.” Indeed, I collected the images for AHA™ with the goal of setting the scene for positive work that would help individuals look towards the sun, in spite of all the challenges at hand, and to discover a brighter side of life. After all, you can take nearly everything away from a person – but you can’t take away their dreams. As long as we can dream, we are free. As long as we have dreams, we can evolve. What’s more, dreams give us the power to live better, more healthfully and happily.
Still, the collection had to wait until I had a sense of clarity about my purpose and concept. I wanted to find out exactly how to compile it in a way that would achieve its goal. This goal was to set up a solid foundation for personal development built from a sense of humanism, righteousness, ecology, and a positive lifestyle. When the concept had finally crystallized, we were suddenly hit by the pandemic, which effectively made AHA™ all the more relevant. Each photograph was taken in an actual, unstaged situation. Each image is an authentic framing of a spontaneous moment captured over the course of many walks, meetings, encounters, and expeditions. A record of these experiences and the emotions brought forth in the moment. A testament to empathy, gratitude, wonder, love, friendship, courage, initiative, passion, freedom, devotion and creativity. An imprint of dreams that have come true. An image of joy.
The Dalai Lama once said: “I believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. From the moment of birth, every human being wants happiness and does not want suffering.” (1)
It is through AHA™ that I would like to inspire others to appreciate the world around us, to care for it and develop our relationship to it. To develop our own humanity, our understanding of justice, spirituality, courage, equilibrium, and wisdom. To consider notions of independence, dependency, and leadership. To encourage positive thinking, self-esteem, hope, happiness, empathy, and gratitude — all the strengths that we are not always mindful of on a daily basis because we are busy chasing a notion of happiness under the shadow that we could get left behind. When, in fact, this power and this joy already reside within us. Joy, balance, a sense of capability, and freedom are all there. Sometimes it’s enough to pause for a moment in the tumult of the everyday, to take a leisurely stroll through the woods to help us see it with our very eyes and feel it with our hearts. I want to inspire others through the sorts of pictures we all have access to on a daily basis and everything that we can all discover within ourselves in order to live well and continue to grow.
AHA™ photography isn’t set up in any particular way and isn’t meant to be suggestive. These are images seen in the real world, at different moments of the day and in different places. They spring from what is vital and desirable – a sense of humanity, nature, the here and now, peace, ecology, and attentiveness.
While I do indeed use these images in coaching sessions, they are just as useful in therapy and pedagogy. I often get emails from various people telling me that AHA™ has supported them in their work with trauma, depression, helping subjects to go deeper into an idea, to alleviate scepticism, criticism and deeper levels of despair. These images inspire people to act and engage.
AHA™ photography is muted in its colors and tones. In this way, it is capable of showing us the world as we see it. These pictures are not “edited” in any way or adjusted with colored filters. Today, we see quite a lot of photographs that are tuned up in some way, just like there are foods with a great deal of additives to intensify their smell and their taste. Meanwhile, the world around us can sometimes be colorful, but it can often be pale as well, it can be bright some days or gray on other days. It can either invite us to activate ourselves or to let ourselves sit back and relax. The fog can be captivating, even though it is certainly quite pale. At dusk, the sun can be fiery and give way to dynamic impressions.
These photographs also have a broad layer of situational significance, creating a number of possibilities for references and associations. These images aren’t weighted down with a narrow framework of symbolism, so they don’t lead the subject towards any specific association, such as a pair of red high heels might, or a gold watch. For the sorts of symbols that are central to the concept of AHA™ photography, it is important to keep in mind that:
“An image doesn’t ascribe boundaries to thought. An image doesn’t describe its context as precisely as text. For example, words describing things such as death, joy, courage, or judgment carry a specific meaning. Images don’t bring in such narrowly defined ideas. On a semantic level, all images are boundless.”
– quotation from the book „ONE IMAGE – MANY WORDS”.
AHA™ is more than just pictures. Posing questions about the pictures is just as important. The questions that accompany the pictures are just as important. These are questions that relate to who we are, for example, in the context of the roles we play, our values, character strengths, needs, and emotions, including the emotions we want to experience in our everyday lives. These questions mirror the structure of R. Dilts’ neurological levels. There are a few additional areas as well, such as the experience of gratitude or expressing our hopes and wants. The questions are not meant to be suggestive. Rather, they are quite simple and open-ended. These sorts of questions ought to be formulated in such a way that the individual is encouraged to choose a photograph and to explain how the image reflects a possible answer to that question.
We can find some sample questions in the illustration below:
The questions that are part of AHA™ make up the foundation for personal development work. They can be used in a broad range of settings by parents, career advisors, work teams, and coaches working in any area of life, work or relationships. Teachers can also find this framework useful in the classroom, particularly when dealing with social issues. Participants are also encouraged to contribute their own questions to the conversation. One side of each of these question cards has a 10×10 “post-it” sized blank space. It is designed in such a way that there is space for either a new question, a word or a full sentence.
Sample “post-it” questions are illustrated in the below:
How useful are photographs in this process? These images in particular? And do they look familiar? Here are a few clues taken from neuroscience (according to David Rock’s Your Brain at Work, Harper Collins, 2013):
The novelty effect: when our prefrontal cortex discerns something new, our sight becomes sharper, our ears perk up and we focus our attention. At that moment, dopamine is released in the brain, which allows us to improve our concentration and engagement.
Tangibility: We often find it easier to talk about something when it is right there in front of us, something we can see and even touch. When it is tangible to the senses and not simply seen or visualized. Thanks to the mechanism of projection, an image suggests its own meanings and responses to a given question.
The image as a complex source of information: A picture is composed of various elements at once. What’s more, these elements are interrelated. For example, we may see an image of a tree in the middle of a field, with a bird flying above against the background of the sun setting in the sky. This image instantly sparks a process of meaning-making and leads to a plethora of associations. Reading a description of a linear description of such an image would be a much longer process.
Economics of the brain: The neurons in the brain that deal with the visual aspects of perception are much more developed than the ones related to speech. The brain consumes less energy to think when we are looking at an image and, as a result, the thought process is carried out more swiftly.
A more pleasant response to what is familiar: When we get a glimpse of something familiar, such as a friendly face, a well-known pattern or design, the brain releases serotonin – the hormone that is responsible for feelings of well-being and security. The visual neurons in the brain take part in this process. When we see something that we know quite well, we feel secure. And this feeling of security allows us to feel more comfortable expressing ourselves, fostering a sense of spontaneity and openness.
AHA™ – Photos that inspire: Here you will find 48 inspiring photographs that will aid in eliciting emotions, deep reflections, and thoughtful responses. There are also 12 cards, each of them posing a powerful question that is meant to initiate a valuable exchange. A booklet is also included to serve as an introduction to the practical application of this tool.
Dorota Raniszewska, Accredited Coach and Mentor, EMCC, IC, teacher in the use of photography in coaching.
I would like to express my gratitude and respect to all of you who devoted your time for this meeting and co-created it by sharing the space, bringing positive energy, showing curiosity in the topic of photography in coaching, asking excellent questions, and also – sharing insights and own answers.
Here below I’m showing couple of slides from the orientation:
Coaching is about going in the direction you wish to go. It is about taking actions and following a way that includes your vision, values and strengths. Your personal photos are landmarks and good stars on this way home.
What a extraordinary activity to take your Self Portrait in the Future! The last module of the Photography in Coaching course was dedicated to the Self-Portrait in The Future.
The Self-Portrait in the future is a powerful process that invites you to imagine yourself in the future and live it now..
By arranging and taking a portrait in the future they already move into their future and dreams take physical appearances.
The future already happens. You are already there. You can see it, take a picture of it and look at it.
It is a real experience. The only thing you need to do is to start living it right now.
Self-portraits are a way to look at oneself from the outside in. The process of making a self-portrait, which includes posing and snapping the picture, is a way of getting to know oneself, to make contact, to express oneself. It’s a pursuit, examination and attempts to understand what we’re made of. It’s the start of a continuous internal dialogue, an approach to uncovering one’s secrets and getting friendly with oneself.
A self-portrait doesn’t merely consist of reproducing one’s appearance. It will never be objective in that regard. It is, rather, a representation of our ideas on how we’d like to what we’re about.
I hope you found this insight useful. If yes, you can leave your comment under this post. Thank you for reading this article and stay in touch! There will be more.
Hi, this is Dorota :). Again, this week I collect and share valuable insights from our group sessions in the ONE IMAGE – MANY WORDS course on photography in coaching with you.
Yesterday, we looked at the Life Photo Album made from a selection of 20-30 personal photos as a record of our resources. We discovered:
Character Strengths that we have – such as courage, wisdom, humanity, spirituality, and many others,
Experiences that we can use as case studies to become self-confident about our future goals,
Relationships that support us, ensure belonging, are sources of love
Positive impact on others that we have and how we serve them in life,
Sources of gratitude in life,
Doors to a sense of abundance in life.
It is a completely new way of looking at our photos and comprehending what they truly can mean for us. Those photos collected throughout our lives, stored in parents house, or on a computer.
Usually, our first reaction is to look at old photos as memory of something that happened in the past. But in coaching and especially in the Life Photo Album coaching process we contemplate photos to find elements of who we were in the past and you we are now that we can accept and treat as our strengths, and enablers of self-acceptance and growth.
We can use this process of the Life Photo Album in life coaching, career coaching, relationship coaching, when a person is losing self-esteem, self-confidence, parallel to psychometric tests, when we need to uplift spirits, gain new energy for growth., motivate.
I hope you found this insight useful. If yes, you can leave your comment under this post, please. Thank you for reading this article and stay in touch! There will be more
Hi, this is Dorota :). Last week we started the ONE IMAGE – MANY WORDS course on photography in coaching. I think that it is a great occasion to collect and share valuable insights from our group sessions with you. Today, it is about listening to the client, not watching their photos 😉
When we use client’s personal photos during a coaching session we do not comment or evaluate them based on artistic criteria. There is a better way to engage with the client. As coaches, we focus on personal meanings and insights from the photos. Not on the aesthetic qualities of the photos. For instance, we do not say that “it is a beautiful photo”. This would focus the client’s attention on what is not related to the coaching topic. Instead, ask about what is important in the photo or what was important in choosing and bringing this photo to the session, or how is it related to the goal of the coaching session.
The role of a coach is to create a safe and inspiring space for self-exploration for the client. Every second when a coach listens creates a second of self-reflection for the client.
That’s why we ask short, good questions and then, become listeners during a coaching session. And there are powerful coaching questions about photos that take people deep and far in their self-reflection. These powerful questions bring real value to the client who can find important answers. This is why people work with good coaches.
I hope you found this insight useful. If yes, you can leave your comment under this post, please. Thank you for reading this article and stay in touch! There will be more 🙂
Let me invite to a recent talk with Bara Belova from the Czech Republic. Bara is a coach and mentor, and a yoga teacher. She took part in the ONE IMAGE – MANY WORDS – Photography in Coaching course in August, 2020. I asked Bara about what fascinates her in photography and how it helps her to work with people in coaching. She shared many inspiring ideas! She also shared with generosity her insights about the course.
I’m grateful for this talk. I’m happy that I can share it with you.
Some inspiring ideas from Bara:
What fascinates me in photography is an immediate connection. Connection to the subconscious. Photography works like GPS for the mind. It allows you to go where it is safe to be. The picture that has so many things, so many stories behind. When I was preparing for the course, I looked at photo albums at home and it was funny to see how quickly I can remember things when I look at old photos. “O! gosh! I have this one. I remember it!” …
I’m a very visual person. I need to see things!
Photos also give you the time to reflect, to think. When a picture is stored in the mind, sometimes, people connect dots after a couple of weeks.
Whenever it is the right time, you connect to the right people and you take the journey. My personal situation brought me to your course right at this moment of time.
Bara joined the Polish taught edition as she can understand Polish very well. We spoke Polish and English during the course. And “we had photography – a connecting language”.
What was also great is the preparation for the course was important: I could answer many of my questions while I was preparing for the course.
A lot of beautiful processes. Great talks.
The answers are just around us. We don’t know. But our subconscious knows that already.
Dears, that you for reading this post and watching the video. Stay inspired. Listen to your inner voice, intuition, wisdom, and soul. Namaste! Dorota
😀 I’m happy about these three days spent together with you and your photos. For several years, in the last week of August, I have traditionally conducted the course on photography in coaching “ONE IMAGE – MANY WORDS”. It was a very inspiring time 💎 I’m thankful to you for your openness, courage, curiosity and mutual exchange 🔥
Some time ago, I followed my voice, dream, passion. I feel like I’ve come a long way with photography, and I’m still somewhere at the beginning.
One photo hides the whole story.
The Life Photo Album as a technique to work around your achievements, strenghts, supporting relationships in life and to plan next steps.
A photo as a Visual metaphor that helps to explain complex realities within us, such as feelings or emotions.
The Most Important Photo as a technique to work around your identity, values and current moment in life.
Taking photos as a technique to look for a new perspective on a defined coaching topic.
Our souvenir photo together. From the left: Olena, Marta, Joana, Marta, Bara and me, Dorota.