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 email@example.com
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”.
Spring has come but it is all grey and cold outside where I live. We have a lot of rain with snow, and the trees are not yet ready to blossom. But I desperately need colours of Spring to feel more joy and beauty. So I decided to go out every morning in pursuit of colours with my camera.
And I found them!
I can’t find words to describe my joy and satisfaction from doing that. But when you look at my photos you will probably imagine it.
So when you need to look for the sun, for the colours of life, for beauty to feel more hope and calm, just go out with your camera and look for it. And you will find what you are looking for. Attention follows intention. Just:
“Open your eyes, enjoy what you see and be mindful to it.”
The first week of the Close-up project is behind us. It was dedicated to the virtue of Wisdom.
What were the photos taken by the participants of that project? Where did photo-walks take us? What did the old photos say to us about wisdom?
Many reflections were connected to trees and forests. Here are some of them.
Whoever you are, a man or a tree, wisdom is in all of us.
Trees teach us how to grow. The higher a tree grows, the deeper its roots go. As it grows upwards, it finds an anchor.
What’s in it for us, people? Let’s remember to ground ourselves as we move up. Find time to rest, reflect and learn from experience. Let the body-mind stay alone from time to time, far from noise, pressure and anything that prompts to move forward. Find an anchor in the breath, peace of mind, and quiet.
Go to the forest or to the park every day. Find space where you can meet yourself and listen to your inner voice in silence. The longer you listen, the more you will know.
“Spend some time alone each day.” The Dalai Lama
Below, you can see the slideshow of some of the photos taken as a reflection about Wisdom during the first week of the Close-up project and our photo walks.
And now, you can go out and take a walk yourself. Just let yourself travel. Find a moment to sit and reflect on your wisdom – how can develop and use your wisdom to live better and happier? What will you start doing, what will you continue doing and what will you stop doing based on what you know is best for you. How can you take a better care of yourself? And finally, what will you do in the the coming week in order to live wisely.
On the 17th of May, I invite to an Orientation meeting about my Course on “Photography in Coaching”. During this meeting, you will learn details about how the Course is designed and rolled out. Here is the link to the registration: LINK. Participation is free :).
This is already for the 3rd time that I invite for this insightful event!
If you consider taking part in the Course, I really recommend you to join this Orientation meeting. It takes one hour and I share a lot of details about its design and roll-out. Also, you will learn several things about Photography in Coaching!
Yesterday, I met with a group of international coaches and photographers for a workshop entitled “Powerful Start with AHA – photos, that inspire”. I was explaining the reasons behind several coaching questions which I included in this tool, called “AHA – photos that inspire”.
There are 12 questions in the AHA. One of them is about gratitude.
I asked the group “Why did I put gratitude to the questions. Why gratitude is so important that I included a question about it? How do you think?”
The answers were very good. And they helped to formulate a very special reflection on gratitude. Just read.
You see life from a completely different perspective. A new point of view.
To be positive. To see what you already have instead of what’s missing.
Gratitude is some form of strengths.
Gratitude is difficult. And some people don’t know how to express it.
Exactly, I answered.
And today, we have to learn it. We just have to learn gratitude to be happier. Consumption will not make the world happier. But gratitude can do it.
Imagine a situation when you put this question about gratitude in front of the eyes of team members or a family or a teenager who suffers from depression. It can help to change the perspective for a better one. It can help to turn the face to the sun! But not only.
Gratitude helps to understand better the resources that we have within and around us.
Photographs are the records of our life. Photos are made from light and time, but they are also made from people’s perceptions and memories.
Each photo we take has a beginning. It is an impulse from our mind as we see, feel or do something. Each photo has a unique meaning for us. It presents our achievements, relationships, dreams fulfilled. It shows what we like in the world and what inspires us. Each photo is a way to remember what we are proud of and what we create in life. While looking at our snapshots, we can talk about our motivations, values, needs and most of all, what is important for us.
There is a story behind each picture. Someone once took it. Maybe someone gave it to someone else on an occasion. Someone has kept it for some reason. Someone chose to show it to you. So, what’s so important about it?
This is the question that I ask to start a meaningful conversation when looking at a photograph.
Personal photos connect us to ourselves, our inner wisdom, what we know and learned through our lives. Using powerful coaching questions, these photos can provide unprecedented access to deep thoughts and important insights.
How did I discover the power of personal photographs in coaching?
In 2007, I started a family search project. Old family photos, portraits of people and places helped me collect information and memories about my family from relatives and friends scattered around the world. Photos helped me to connect to them. During my search, and many travels, I realized how photographs trigger long-term memories and bring the past to the present. In my work with photos I see every day how personal pictures help to start meaningful conversations. They provide us with memories and stories to tell. Once an important photo from the past lands on the table, an immediate connection is made between people, engagement is increased and very often, joy or intensity appear on people’s faces.
Through my family project, I discovered photography as a vehicle for thinking and communicating.
I remember one day when I was arranging my photos from when I was younger, a short time after I had married, and my husband entered the room. He saw my work and started telling me about his memories related to the photos lying on the floor. I was very surprised to hear that his memories and feelings about the same images were different from mine. He sat on the floor with me, and we started talking about how we remembered those moments from the past. It became clear to me that talking about old photos is a great exercise for people who need to listen to each other. It is a dialogue exercise that has transformative power. It can help people to hear and understand each other.
Working with my life and family photos was only the beginning of experiencing photography in personal development. In 2011, I started my blog on reflective photography, jerozolimskie.wordpress.com. It is a life photo-journal that I’ve been writing for 10 years which has led me to develop a practice of active photography with my clients. “One photo a day” is an example of a technique I use that supports life coaching and well-being. The idea is to go outside every morning for a walk and take one picture on a topic that is related to the client’s coaching process. It can be about seeing the positive side of life, appreciating beauty, feeling gratitude, connecting to oneself, or developing self-esteem.
All these experiences helped me to become confident about using photography as a means of communication in coaching. In the beginning, I proposed to team members to bring their own photos for ice-breaker activities. I wanted people to open up a little bit more than usual with their personal stories. Also, I wanted to create space for authenticity and appreciation of others.
When we show our personal photos to others, we show ourselves more than we do it in our everyday work. It is engaging because everyone has a story to tell. Everyone is unique. Everyone can be a “hero” for a moment. Personal photos open a gate to people’s hearts, minds and souls.
Over the years, I developed several coaching processes with photography and regularly teach them to other coaches. These include: “The Most Important Photo,” “Life Photo Album,” “Profile Photo,” “Photo Poem,” “Relationship Photo” and “Self-Portrait in the Future.”
I will be presenting one of these processes during the 27 EMCC Global Coaching, Mentoring and Supervision Conference, together with my colleague, Bara Belova, coach, mentor and manager from the Czech Republic. The title of the presentation is “Photography in Coaching. Making the Future Visible.” Here is the link to the conference: LINK
I also invite you to see us and listen to the “fireside chat interview” by the EMCC: Link to the Interview
It will be our honour to host you at our presentation. Please join us on May 12ve, at 12:45 UTC+1.
With very special thanks to my Friend, Shelley Lippman-Lewkowict, a certified professional coach, based in Montreal, Canada for reviewing and editing this article.
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’ve been reflecting a lot about the importance of Beauty in life in recent days. I found out that Beauty offers calm, serenity. Beauty is like a healer for a mind lost in a daily hustle. When I go out to the park every day, and I’m out in nature, meeting trees and birds, being immersed in the fresh air and experiencing a perfect harmony of the surroundings, I feel almost divine. As I was touching to perfection without an effort.
Also, some of my clients brought the topic of Beauty to our sessions in the last weeks. They spoke about Beauty being important for them to feel happy in life. During a deeper reflection on personal values, Beauty appeared as supporting a sense of meaning in life.
Beauty is connected to our spirituality, transcendence, ability to feel connected to the universe and bigger meaning. It is also connected to the need for Excellence.
Many of my clients take photos. Taking photos of Beauty provides them with moments of joy and hope. They say that they feel connected to their soul thanks to photography.
So maybe the importance of Beauty explains why so many people take photos of nature, nice arrangements at home, or selfies when they feel awesome.
Finally, appreciation of Beauty is about recognizing it in yourself and others.
A photo taken at sunset a few days ago while walking along a river. The beauty around helped me to be present in a moment, head empty without any thoughts or concerns.