Using Pictures to Solve Problems

grave1Next week I am due to accompany my eldest daughter to Buckingham Palace where she will receive her Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award – from the “Duke” himself. Without going into detail about the award itself, its a great achievement and a boost for my self esteem and self confidence, let alone hers!

It goes without saying that this is a smart rather than casual dress event. So with that in mind my wife got me to try out my suit. I’m fortunate in not having to wear a suit to work, as I did in those far off days when I worked for a bank.

To my surprise, my one suit has mysteriously shrunk since I last wore it.  Something about clothes you don’t wear often – for some reason I still keep the suit I wore for my wedding, nearly 24 years ago. The trousers on that one have “shrunk” so much they can hardly go above my knees!

Joking apart, such events do remind me that I’m gradually getting larger, especially around the waist.  My philosophy around weight loss, or health generally, isn’t to lurch onto the next diet but to review my lifestyle. I need to exercise more and be more careful about the type (and particularly quantity) of food and drink I consume.

This is a a somewhat long-winded way of introducing the topic of using metaphors.  It came up as the weeks topic at the Life Club I’ve started attending. These are relatively new weekly workshops that happen in a few places across the UK. They are aimed at:-

teaching simple tools and techniques to achieve a clearer way of thinking, helping you stay ahead of the game and remain confident and focussed.

They are quite structured and this week looked at using metaphors to help us solve problems.  porkerWe tend to use metaphors verbally such as “hitting  my head against a brick wall” to depict being unable to solve a problem. But in this case rather than using a figure of speech, or other words, we had to depict a problem visually.  Drawing  how we see a particular problem now, and comparing with how we see the problem solved.

This immensely powerful when you combine it with asking questions – or get someone else to do this with you. Seeing the problem and the answer can help the brain find links – especially if you allow yourself to explore the reality of each situation.

Interestingly, as someone who “can’t draw” its amazing how quickly you can become confident at using an unfamiliar medium to express yourself.  I cannot put my attempts at drawing on the blog. And once you have completed the exercise you don’t have to use the pictures any more, you can revert to other medium (i.e. writing) to put the “solution” into action.

But using photographs, drawings, pictures or objects can still help visually represent the solutions – or the way forward in other ways.  In my drawings I depicted myself as a bit of a “porker”, wallowing in mud.  Bit of an exaggeration, but a reminder of seeing how the problem may slide if I don’t act and continue on my current path.superman

The solution? Giving artistic licence I created a cross between Superman and Barack Obama! What is useful about metaphors or images generally is they can represent what you want. As a non American, Obama simply represents things to me like “leader”, “great orator”, “success”, “winner”, “solver of problems”, and of course “thin, charismatic man”.  I don’t see any of the political baggage that I would attach to a British politician.

What I have now got is a daily reminder that I have a choice – my actions each day will propel me towards one or other image. Unfortnately, for copyright reasons I cannot use the picture here of Mr Creosote that I am now using at home.  And I have used several different images to create a picture of what I am aspiring to become.president-confidence

The idea is not dissimilar to using vision boards. I have said before I use a computer based affirmation software that also uses images.  Most discussion on vision boards gets wrapped up in the Law of Attraction and people are encouraged to use images of their wildest dreams – flash sports car, exotic holidays – without considering how they will achieve them.

Images are powerful ways of inspiring you and motivating you towards a goal.  But that is different to using them to solve a problem, or as daily tools to make decisions and choices. Images can help you clarify an issue and find links and solutions.

I will put up a separate post to illustrate another way I have used a visual representation to help me be more efficient and build my self confidence. And its also worth reflecting how films can use visual metaphors to put over messages.  Victoria Baum has written an interesting interpretation of the Wizard of Oz, and what Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers represent.

But what of the headstone? A macarbe image – or another way of reminding ourselves of our mortality? Is your life just represented by drab bullet point? If you knew you were dying would your “last lecture” be similar to Randy Pausch‘s?

If the picture represents a “now” for you – what your headstone would look like if you continued your current path – think of what you would like it to be. Perhaps draw the two.  Now ask yourself questions, expore, compare and contrast. This may help you discover what you want to achieve with your life.

Photos by Cogdogblog, Kasper Weibel, Xurble and Richard on Flickr

Sandra Bekhor May 11, 2009 at 3:08 pm

Thanks for sharing this very clever idea for solving problems in a creative manner. Your example and photos made the technique tangible and easy to tranfer to other situations. I covered it with my blog post: http://torontomarketing.blogspot.com/2009/05/creative-problem-solving-techniques-in.html

Sandra Bekhors last blog post..Creative Problem Solving Techniques in Business

Vin | NaturalBias.com May 11, 2009 at 11:15 pm

Hi David,

Nice article! I agree that visualization is very powerful and pictures definitely help to provoke it.

I wasn’t expecting to read about weight loss in this article! If you’re serious about making changes to your diet, I’d recommend eliminating sugar, refined carbohydrates (bread, pasta, bagels, etc.), and following the Metabolic Typing diet. My blog is all about living a healthy lifestyle. Check it out if you’d like and feel free to email me if you have any questions.

Vin | NaturalBias.coms last blog post..3 Diseases You Should Fear More Than Swine Flu

Phil May 12, 2009 at 7:25 am

Hi David,

thank you for sharing your thoughts. That was quite interesting as I finished some similar topic in reading last week. It was called “The back of the napkin – solving problems and selling ideas with pictures” written by Dan Roam. It has nearly the same approach and by the way, you learn a lot on how the brain works (and that everyone (!) can draw a picture). Take a look at Amazon, I think it would fit perfectly, if you have the time.

Also very interesting that you have things like Lifeclubs in the UK, if you approach similar institutions here in Germany it always has something church-like.

Have a wonderful week

Phil

Phils last blog post..Doing matrix paper with conditional formatting

David May 12, 2009 at 6:19 pm

Sandra – thanks for your kind words and link – I have given you a Stumble!

David May 12, 2009 at 6:25 pm

Vin
Thanks for your comment and kind words. My current approach to weight loss (I now have a goal to get into my suit trousers by the end of the year!) is to start increasing my exercise levels (went swimming in the sea yesterday after work) and stopping all alcohol at home. Stage 2 is will be based around cutting sugar and generally eating less – I’ve never found subscribing to a particular diet helpful. But I’m happy for you to disagree with me?!

David May 12, 2009 at 6:34 pm

Phil
I’ll investigate the “back of the napkin” idea; like everything it comes down to adapting ideas to make them work for you.
Certainly the Life Clubs are not church like (although the one I go to is held in a church hall!) and I’m quite lucky to only live 5 miles away from where its held – I think there are only 12 in the country. There are similarities to seeing a life coach (mine is run by a life coach), but its a lot cheaper and you work with other members within the structure of the club. I’m attending for my own benefit rather than to pass on ideas here, but – as in this case – I felt the topic lent itself well to exploring on the blog.

chicago custom tuxedo May 12, 2009 at 8:33 pm

Visualization is such a great way to get motivated. When on a diet we started with a before picture, then one of my photoshop friends photoshopped a desired after picture. During the course of the diet we took more pictures and filled in the space between.

Vin | NaturalBias.com May 13, 2009 at 1:07 am

Hi David,

For most people, sugar and refined carbs are the root cause of weight gain, with or without exercise. Alcohol is a big part of this, and restricting your intake should definitely help.

If you prefer to go in stages, I’d recommend cutting out the sugar and refined carbs before adding the exercise. As long as you’re still eating the sugary processed stuff, the root problem still exists, and exercise is merely compensating for it to an extent. Because of this, many people slave away on cardio machines every day and end up exercising too much which is bad for your health. However, what’s most important is compliance, so if you feel you need to start exercise first, then go for it. Just keep this in mind. 🙂

Also, if you’re physically up for it, consider doing interval training instead of cardio. It’s much more effective for weight loss and saves a lot of time.

Vin | NaturalBias.coms last blog post..3 Diseases You Should Fear More Than Swine Flu

David May 13, 2009 at 7:16 am

Vin – Thanks for the advice – I don’t think there is any danger of me over exercising!! As its Spring here its a great time for me to get into some better habits, but I take your points about sugar & carbs.

Yogindernath May 28, 2009 at 10:23 am

Hello David,

Fantastic article I must say! I support that visualization is indeed quite powerful and moreover the pictures helps a lot in this regard.

Are you really serious about dieting? If it is, reduce your sugar intake and do proper exercises almost daily. Good luck.

Yogindernaths last blog post..Tutorial –2: Basis Path Testing – Estimation of Complexity Measure V(G)

Phil October 11, 2009 at 6:56 am

Hi David,

thank you for sharing your thoughts. That was quite interesting as I finished some similar topic in reading last week. It was called “The back of the napkin – solving problems and selling ideas with pictures” written by Dan Roam. It has nearly the same approach and by the way, you learn a lot on how the brain works (and that everyone (!) can draw a picture). Take a look at Amazon, I think it would fit perfectly, if you have the time.

Also very interesting that you have things like Lifeclubs in the UK, if you approach similar institutions here in Germany it always has something church-like.

Have a wonderful week

Phil

<abbr></abbr><abbr>Phils last blog post..Doing matrix paper with conditional formatting</abbr>

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