Rich Pictures: Literally Paint A Thousand Words

Drawing a RICH PICTURE is a method that allows you to sketch out the connections & context of a given situation.

In the picture you draw:

  •  The focus or goal
  • Key players
  • Contributing factors
  • Influences
  • Emotions
  • Feelings
  • Lines of connection
  • Abstract symbolisms
  • … include anything you feel or know to be relevant to the central theme.

The resulting picture encapsulates a model of your given situation and the process of creating a rich picture is crazily enlightening!

I’ll be honest, I thought, ‘yeah, it’s a picture”. I have to confess having been through the scenario several times I now think it’s a firm fixture in the toolbox.

Why I think it works

  • It’s slows you down. Thinking & drawing at the same time, wow!
  • The act of sketching/drawing/doodling your scenario is an active & involved process
  • You draw what you believe to be all parts of the picture
  • It allows representations of emotion & connections
  • Blockages, knots or barriers are represented, defined and even sized in relation to other parts of the picture
  • Size & overall context is given form & dimension
  • The story we inevitably construct in our heads about our situation is brought to life and illustrated. Often the illustration gives a fresh perspective. We’re able to see every aspect that is involved. This means that we can remove the focus or magnification of negatives and see the scale of other influences involved.

People might immediately think of a Visualisation Board. Unlike a Visualisation Board this method uses images that are your own and which represent your situation. In my experience, Visualisation Boards take existing images that in some way speak to you (places, people, emotions, quotations) and embody an ideal scenario. That’s absolutely valid for all those things we want and desire in life. It’s particularly relevant when a situation we’re in does not suit our needs and we’re looking at ways to start creating the situation we do want.

The Rich Picture approach takes your current situation which isn’t necessarily bad but you’re aware there is a hurdle or bind in making it the way you want it to be. It either changes the perspective, context or focus to unbind a particular issue thereby allowing you to move on.

Other Benefits

I’m a lover of jotting stuff down. Lists & mental scribbles work because they create tangible steps to progress.

Listing, logging, jotting – whichever it is, it defines what needs to happen, identifies dependences, trends or habits and monitors progress along the way. Not to forget that the act of jotting also allows us to process & re-connect with the topic itself – and that interaction allows us to re-think options or approaches.

The downside for some people is that lists can feel like an endless task in itself. Another set of actions. Yet another list. Sometimes it can be difficult to bear in mind the very objective they were intended for.

I think the combination of the Rich Picture and your regular list making creates purposeful actions with tangible episodes of review & problem solving along the way.

I often talk about “measure what matters” and I think these approaches work well for all of the above reasons.

>>> Here is my latest Rich Picture exercise <<<

My Rich Picture


My Rich Picture: Healthy Habits

Focus of Rich Picture:

  • Review of my exercise & healthy eating regimes
  • Represented by an 80/20 Pyramid
  • Question to self: “How do I make it 100%? That last 20% feels steep
  • 80% – good habits – stuff I know I’ve worked at to be healthier & more active
  • 20% – habits which are either not good, inhibitive or a sense of struggle in attaining 100%


  • I tend to do a review on a regular-ish basis. Primarily because, like many people, I go through phases when it’s difficult to maintain healthy habits or changes I want aren’t delivering what I expected. Coaches are human!
  • Having made significant changes in the last 6 years I find that these periods of frustration are short-lived but the important thing is to recognise them and work with them
  • Always knowing what to do isn’t always the answer. I increasingly find that working with the connection of why something is or isn’t working is really the key to making progress

Explanation of My Rich Picture

  • 80/20 split – was easy & quick to draw down. Things I do: gym, swim, pilates, eating well (happy plate), effect of positive people around me, eating badly (unhappy eating place) (20%)
  • The waves represent two things:
    1. The sense of floatation created by good habits and positive people. A sensation of weightless fluid support. Buoyancy
    2. The tidal behaviour of habits, exercise & emotion. Each rises & falls
  • The left hand side of the triangle is Emotion: the things that create a sense of wellbeing for me: music, eating, learning. When I connect with them I maintain my positivity. When I step away from them I realise I have taken their positive effects for granted and that I need them back. Not associating with them has created sluggish & negative behaviour. Re-associating with them reconnects me to those things that enhance me
  • On the right hand side is a Sea of Action: these are the things I participate in and the people I surround myself with. Good feelings, positive outcomes, strength, health, flexibility, trust, support & knowledge
  • The arrows represent:
    1. The rise and fall of the 80/20 tidal line
    2. The two-way traffic of positivity & negativity: self perpetuation of either
    3. The interdependency of emotional nourishment: learning, reading, exploration, music, quality food, always feeling good after exercise


I went into the exercise thinking, “Why aren’t I doing more? How do I make it 100%?

I came out of the exercise with a substantially different perspective:

  • Appreciating how much I had altered over the last 6 years
  • Appreciating how I’ve built the pillars of what I want in my life, who I want and the benefits I and others get from it

Drawing the images and connections in this way helped me realise there is far more positivity than negativity in the situation. A good step away from what I initially thought.

The 20% which I took to be a struggle or the steepest part in the mountain to climb wasn’t so at all.

It turns out to be the part where the skills and habits I’ve honed over the last few years come into play all the more.

Mapping out the Rich Pic allowed me to recognise that I know what works & when. When to deploy. How to maintain & connect. Be more intelligent about what I know & do. Simply doing isn’t enough. Call it ‘refinement’.

Knowledge of my personal tides allows me to appreciate when they rise & fall. Knowing what helps to dam negativity when it’s necessary. Utilising more ardently those aspects that boost productivity. Also accepting that if the status quo is 80/20 then tidal fluctuations aren’t so bad and can still be sailed upon.

I’ve came away from this exercise calm and having removed the frustration. I have a greater appreciation of how much is good and not over-emphasising what felt bad. My associations are more clearly positive and fuelled by greater acceptance of my knowledge. I wasn’t lacking, I simply wasn’t applying in ways that benefitted me.

Having a picture to refer to feels far more immediate, too.

Rich Pictures paint, almost literally in this case, 1000 words!