Category Archives: positive thinking

Why the Visual Image is so Important in Appreciative Inquiry

Although I have been practicing Appreciative Inquiry for a number of years, and have seen a lot of amazing things, I am continuously in awe in the possibilities and opportunities that are generated from an Inquiry. My favorite part of the inquiry would have to be the dream phase, as I am sure many of you would agree. I love the creativity that emerges when you give adults permission to play and be curious.

I came across a quote recently that reaffirms why the visual image is so important in the Appreciative Inquiry process that I would like to share with you…

In an interview, Warren Bennis, an author, professor, and leadership guru stated:

“The next question people often ask is: How can I imagine exceeding my benchmarks when I have no idea of how I will actually do it? Remember that when you say you have “no idea”, you mean you have no conscious idea. However, [studies] revealed that imagery can help in several ways: In addition to helping to focus your attention by stimulating attentional networks in the brain, imagery can actually help your brain to map your path to your goal outside of conscious awareness. Imagining activates brain regions that can unconsciously map your path to success. Not knowing “how” doesn’t actually matter, since the brain will figure this out once you let it know where you want to go.”

What I also appreciated about this quote is that it talks about exceeding benchmarks. Often times I am asked what is the Return on Investment (ROI) on Appreciative Inquiry? It is hard for many people to believe that you can obtain measurable results from Appreciative Inquiry – but as we know – you absolutely can measure benchmarks before and after an inquiry.

Anyways, just thought this quote was too good not to pass on. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

P.S. isn’t the brain amazing?

You can read the rest of the HBR article here.

Pillay, S. (2014, March 10). To Reach Your Goals, Make a Mental Movie. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved March 13, 2014, from

The Importance of Sharing Your Dreams

Dreaming can be a powerful tool to create energy needed to spark change and ignite one’s passion.Don’t Hide Your Dreams illustrates the importance of sharing our dreams. It is no wonder why Dreaming is such an important phase in the Appreciative Inquiry process. From my experience facilitating AI sessions, the dream phase (the visual image specifically) is where people become most alive and engaged. The energy that is generated in this phase is contagious for all, including the facilitators.

What I enjoyed most from that article was the professor’s activity – asking each student to come up and share what their dream is for when they grow up. I valued this exercise because it disrupted the normal dialogue we would normally expect to see/experience in school. We have been taught from an early age that school is a place where we listen, not speak. Like the author wrote, the professor’s exercise was an “unexpected request”.

This article also reaffirms that we are all students (life-long learners, I hope) and we can always pursue new dreams and opportunities as they present themselves, regardless of age, status, or position. Life is not meant to be static, but requires us to remain fluid. Living Appreciatively allows us to modify our dreams when necessary and celebrate milestones along the way.

I’ll end with a quote from the article: “Dreams are part of our life’s narrative. The possibilities that sharing our dreams with trusted friends creates is probably one of the most exciting things to go through.”

Let’s Generate Positive Dialogue for 2012 Election

Words Create Worlds® (WCW)
A series of short conversations leading up to the U.S. election in 2012 meant to enliven generative dialogue with a positive intent.

This past week, during a training, a request was made of us – please send a message out to encourage people to write to the White House, to politicians, as well as to others who are interested in constructive, positive dialogue about the future of the U.S!

These four days were devoted to our internationally recognized Four Day Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator Training©, an introduction to the Power of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) and specifically to the Power of the Principles of AI — learning about the benefits of Positive focus and Positive language.

These are not trainings focused on politics; rather trainings for leaders and others who are seeking methods and models for organizational change and positive dialogue. Change that engages, seeks out the best in people and organizations, is collaborative in nature and focuses on the good in all of us. The people who attend this training want to feel good about their work; to work in organizations that they share values with; and to be in an organization that strives to do good for the world community.

This request for us to become leaders in the national dialogue is not new to this training. We are a small group of committed people seeking change and if we look to the words of Margaret Mead, we know that this is where change begins.  We are reaching out to our community now as we see the political rhetoric reach new levels of negativity.  Please write to the White House, President Obama, Governor Romney and any and all of your legislative leaders – in Washington D.C. or at the State Level. Encourage them to change the tone.

Encourage our leaders to adopt a tone of hope, possibility, and encouragement. Encourage them to share with us their vision for our country, for our future. We need no less from our current and our future leaders. For wisdom, insight and guidance, search out the words of past leaders who have inspired our nation in times of challenge and opportunity.

There is sufficient data and research supporting the benefits of positive conversation. As people we thrive when our positive to negative words are at a 3:1 ratio (Positivity Ratio). We each want to thrive and we want our country to thrive. We need leaders who can lift the conversation, take decisive action toward a future that we can visualize and live into.

We recommend a book for each of us:  We Can All Do Better, by Bill Bradley.  It is well written, honest and understandable. Bradley sets the stage that “We The People” must engage in dialogue that is for the best for the Country. To set the tone.  “People see Washington irrevocably divided into two warring camps that care more about political advantage than about the Country” (Bradley 18).

The need for positive dialogue has reached a crucial level; we cannot make the substantive changes necessary unless we do. Join us for more positive dialogue by sending a letter or email to President Obama and Governor Romney. Don’t stop there. Send a letter or email to each of your representatives at the Local, State and Federal level. We each, no matter our political affiliation, have visions and dreams for the future. What do we really want? Like athletes at the Olympics last month, each of us can look at the greater good, focus on what we want more of. What would that look like if it were happening all of the time, right here, right now?

Email is a good way to start; writing a letter is an excellent way to really get their attention! Here is some contact information for:

Our intention is to spark positive dialogue. To be part of the dialogue about Appreciative Inquiry, join us on our LinkedIn group – Discovering Appreciative Inquiry. We also invite you to visit our website at or join us on YouTubeFacebook, and Twitter #WCW2012.

Optimism and Positive Thinking

OPTIMISM!! A term that is familiar to everyone. So, let me ask, what is Optimism? What I think is most of the people would say Optimism is thinking positive and there is no harm in saying or thinking that but unfortunately there is a lot of difference between Optimism and Positive Thinking. If I state the dictionary meaning of Optimism it would be “an inclination to put the most favourable construction upon actions and events or to anticipate the best possible outcome”. I hope it is clear what Optimism is? The definition lucidly states the words inclination & anticipation. This means Optimism is just an inclination towards a particular event or a prediction of an event. But this is just the beginning or a zero-level thought. What after this? What an Optimist is doing to fructify his inclination or prediction? So, the answers to all the questions are POSITIVE THINKING. In short, Optimism is just taking the things positive and Positive Thinking is thinking positive.

Now, let me focus on the first part of the dictionary meaning “An inclination to put the most favourable construction upon actions and events”. If I say that you are a very positive & calm guy. You never argue or fight with anyone & you are just inclined to put the most favourable construction upon your actions. Now say someone criticized you and you showed no reaction to it as you are an optimist. It’s good that you were successful to avoid the skirmish. But till what time will you be able to continue doing that. Actually you are just controlling your anger and one day you will surely regurgitate all your anger upon him. But instead if you are a Positive Thinker, several questions will come into your mind as soon as you are criticized. You will think that why has this happened? Why the person did criticize me in this way? What is there in me to change? And you will change yourself so that you don’t get criticized again. Read Full Article>>

Written by Abhi Aqarwal for Change Today in September 2011

Appreciating Mindfully

In the previous blog entry, I pondered how Appreciative Inquiry (AI), as a philosophy, transcends the duality of “positive” and “negative”. On a slightly different note; however, I have been thinking how one might stay true to the principles of AI when the “going gets tough”.

Say, for example, one experiences a number of challenges in one’s life. For argument’s sake, say a loved one dies, a relationship ends, one is in an accident, one is physically hurt, one’s computer crashes days before a deadline is due, one’s apartment floods, etc. Say all of these things happen pretty much at the same time (as it did for me). Can one stay honest AND inquire appreciatively into the situation? Is AI simply a nice perspective for sunshine days or is it a real life philosophy applicable in any given situation?

My experience has taught me that AI is a powerful way to bring me into the present moment. In a way, it is a practice in mindfulness. The temptation to be lured in to the “same ol’, same ol’” story about the past, may seem overwhelming at times. We may acknowledge that the story itself serves a purpose and then gently allow it the space to be, or go – but it need no longer be given centre stage and held up as the one and only truth to be told. There is a fine, yet fundamental, discerning distinction between identifying with a construct or story as Truth, versus seeing it as a truth among many. The first implies becoming the story; the latter involves witnessing the story as a construction of the storyteller. There is no denial of the story. But there is also no need to keep telling it and revolve the rest of one’s life around it.

AI capitalises on the creative power of memories (present thoughts about the past), and anticipation (present thoughts about the future). It is designed to bring these creative forces into awareness in the present moment, and to do so in a fresh, uncontrived, “beginner’s mind” kind of way. Rather than the same old, taken-for-granted stories we routinely tell ourselves – much of the time out of our awareness as a script that runs in the background of our consciousness – it asks questions that allow us truly to become present to ourselves in an honest and surprising way.

Why do I say honest? Sometimes we fear that because we no longer perpetuate the old, thin, problem-saturated story we usually identify with, we are somehow in denial. But are the stories we tell ourselves repeatedly about who we are, who others are and what the world is, really true? And furthermore, does it have to be a truth-denial, identify-repress dichotomy? Can we be awake to something – stand in the pure flame of awareness – and do so with a light touch? Can we wholeheartedly accept something and at the same time choose not to strengthen and perpetuate it? Can we remind ourselves to become open, curious and pay attention to more than what we routinely would have? Can we inquire directly into what gives Life, even when we sometimes feel like being alive itself is a challenge?

In a paradoxical way, I think we can. There is a beautiful quote by an old late acquaintance of mine, philosopher and poet John O’Donohue, who said: “In our longing, lies our belonging”. In a nutshell, I think this is the power of an Appreciative Inquiry. It brings me in touch with my heart’s longing. It allows me to make new and significant intra-psychic and interpersonal connections that free up energy to make deliberate choices about belonging.

And sometimes the longing is simply to be kind to oneself for a while; to take time to being human and to heal a broken heart. Am I happy that a beloved died unexpectedly amidst a variety of other unfortunate events? No. Do I accept the reality of each one of these circumstances? Yes. Do I find a moment of aliveness – Life – in each instance? Absolutely.With AI, I have reflected on what has been the best moments of each relationship and experience, and why. I am learning what those instances reveal to me about who I am and what I value, and what my aspirations are as I continue. I allow myself to feel the tenderness of grief, and at the same time feel poignantly connected to Life, allowing its inherent compassion and wisdom to reveal itself to me – in me – more and more.

To me, AI is not about either-or, should-shouldn’ts, positives or negatives. It encourages an honest, present moment inquiry into what matters most and provides direction on where to go from here. I have experienced it to be an ennobling perspective and practice in mindfulness – in almost any given situation.

A few appreciative questions I have been asking myself after my aunt’s passing:

  • Thinking back on my relationship with Iris, what are my 3 clearest happy memories of us together? What happened? What did she communicate to me through her words, behaviour and / or attitude, that she felt, believed and valued about herself, life and me? What did she see in me that I did not acknowledge or know about myself yet? What do these moments say about what she valued and believed possible? What is the greatest gift she gave me in terms of an alternative perspective on life and womanhood?
  • What are the one or two key phrases she shared with me that will continue to be a life teaching for me?
  • What image or symbol connects me most powerfully with the memory of her?
  • What wish do I have for how I live my life and / or think about myself in the future, that will honour her legacy?

Author: Ezelle Theunissen, Certified Appreciative Inquiry Training and Facilitator, Center for Appreciative Inquiry – Director of Africa

To Download this article in its entirety, please click here.

Thinking Outside The Box With Our Bodies And Brains

Most of us have probably felt the rightness of a decision in our bodies as much as we have thought through the decision in our brains. Now, researchers report that bodily experience may create new ideas and new knowledge.

Sitting inside a big box made of cardboard and plastic pipe, college students were assigned to complete a word task designed to measure creativity. Sitting outside an identical box, a second group of students completed the same task.

The students who sat outside the box also thought outside the box: they offered solutions 20 percent more creative than the responses from their peers inside the box. How can this be?

To read this article in its entirety, please click here.

Source: / March 1, 2012

Know What You Need

Developing an awareness of our needs increases our ability to understand and work with others.

Most of us are not conscious of our needs. We go about our daily business living and working on auto-pilot, following habits we’ve developed in the past. We’re not always conscious of the needs that our thoughts, words and actions are attempting to meet. If we became conscious of our needs from moment to moment, and consciously chose to meet them, we would be happier and more effective—especially if we could learn from our choices and create a better world.

To read the full article, click here.

Source: / March 5, 2012