Our work at XPLANE uses visual thinking to help people drive change in their organisations. In a recent Amsterdam Visual Thinking School (VTS) event we decided to explore how visual thinking could apply to personal change.

Early this year we were intrigued by a series of posts by Chris Brogan* describing his annual practice of starting each new year with a “three words” exercise. New year’s resolutions are phrased in the form of goals that are often abandoned or, when achieved, don’t give us much to strive for the rest of the year.

The three words are different—their purpose is to serve as positive triggers for daily action. In our understanding, they give us direction rather than focusing on a precise destination. They help us decide what to do and how to be as the circumstances around us change. 

Inspired by this idea we added a few steps and visual twists of our own. Here was our process, should you wish to try this at home.

  1. Draw a circle with six “slices” (we nicknamed this the “Change Pizza”)
  2. Label each slice with something you want to focus on improving in your life.
  3. Colour in each slice according to how well you’re doing in that area—the more area is filled in, the better you’re doing.
  4. Choose the three slices where you have the most white space. Maybe this is where want to focus.
  5. For each of these labels, write down any word that comes to mind. Free-associate and don’t edit.
  6. Look for patterns and overlaps. The best words carry multiple meanings.
  7. Choose the three words that “shine.” You should feel drawn to them. They should capture the essence of where you’re trying to go. Remember that these words are just for you and don’t need to make sense to anyone else.
  8. If you feel like it, try drawing the words or creating a coat of arms.
  9. Return to them daily.


Our VTS participants found the exercise very enjoyable. They felt it was a useful tool for introspection and positive change and that it raised interesting questions. Does drawing the words make them more solid and memorable, or are these words more powerful when the images we associate with them can evolve over time? How might this exercise work in a business setting to define a desired change involving many people?


We plan to further experiment with this approach and invite you to do the same.

*Original link: