What Do Our Doodles Mean? 5 More Ideas for Doodling

Doodle of a man with a bow tie

Yesterday in our “What Can Doodling Do for You?” post I talked about the Nazca Lines having a greater purpose and meaning something more. This brought up questions for a lot of people: What do my doodles mean? Do they mean something deeper? If I doodle a lot, is there something wrong with me, or am I just creative?

I feel like I need to start with this: It’s best not to read too far into what your doodles are and what they mean. I say that because some people can get too caught up in the minute details of things and miss the bigger picture. The whole point of doodling is to calm yourself down, give your mind time to take a break, and to stop the overthinking that a lot of us do. If you’re looking too far into what your doodles mean then you may miss the whole point of things.

Doodling can definitely be how some people process information that is given to them quickly. It can simply be how some people learn. (Those types generally do have other creative leanings)

With all of that being said, our doodles can also tell us about our state of mind and where we’re headed in life.

If we’re drawing flowers, people smiling, and more positive type things, we are happier. If we’re in a funk or angry then we’re more likely to be drawing dark clouds with lightning bolts or people with no expression, or no face at all. If we feel out of control in a situation, we may start to draw figures that have no arms or hands (much like the one I drew above). If we feel like we don’t have any say so at the time we’re doodling, our figures may have no mouth, or the mouth may be closed/not smiling. If we’re feeling exposed, or vulnerable to the world, then we draw figures with no hair, or we draw more fragile things like flowers or birds.

The key to all of this is, those things that we associate with certain emotions, feelings, or states of being, are what we draw when we’re feeling those things. So everyone is different. If we think birds are fragile and symbolize being in a cage, then we will draw birds when we’re feeling that way. On the flip side, if we see birds as being happy and symbolizing freedom, then we draw birds when we’re feeling happy and free.

It’s often hard to tell what someone’s doodles mean without knowing that person, or knowing at least a little about them.

Another hitch is when our feelings get mixed up. For instance, when we’re sad and we’ve refused to acknowledge it for so long that it turns into anger at the world. Or when we’re so angry and we don’t know how to process it, and our anger turns inward and becomes sadness over what we don’t have.

The way that we write can tell us about ourselves as well. If we’re angry or frustrated about something then we tend to push down harder on the pen. The lines in the page will be deeper or they will show through to the next page. Or if you’re using crayons or colored pencils you may find yourself breaking the tips a lot more than normal. If you’re sad, or feeling left out or neglected, the opposite is often true; you will write and draw with a lighter touch. You’ll notice that letters may not be completely finished or lines may not connect.

These things may not be true in every single case, but they are generally true of people.

Pay attention to these little tell tell signs, but definitely don’t obsess over them. Sometimes we can spend so much time looking for the hidden meaning that we miss what is staring us in the face. For instance, if you keep drawing a house over and over again, you may just really want a new house. Or your inner knowing may be telling you that it’s time to “move” on. While you’re doodling a house and a tree, you may realize that you need to end the relationship that has been limping along for a while.

But again, don’t miss the forest for the trees. Don’t miss out on the benefit and stress yourself out more trying to figure out what it all means. Sometimes the lesson is in the doing.

For more on doodling, or if you missed our first post click here to read it.

Here are a few more doodling ideas to get you started. Just like yesterday, these could be done as a little doodling game with other people, a collective effort:

1) Have you ever tried doodle painting? It’s like what we used to do (or sometimes still do…=)) in Paint. Draw connecting lines all over a page. Once you’re finished, paint different colors inside each little section. You could also do this with colored pencils, crayons, or markers. Here’s an example. (You would paint in between the lines)

Doodle Painting Template

2) You’ve likely heard of zen tangles. But did you know how easy they are to draw? (These aren’t perfect, but hopefully you get the idea)

Zen Tangle Doodles

3) See if you can fill an entire page with the same little picture. Daisies for instance; or swirlies. Or both.

Flower and Swirl Doodles

4) Can you make a picture out of only straight lines? Or only squiggles?

Doodle on white paper

5) Can you doodle an entire picture with just one line, without raising your pen? (This one was a little more difficult, but fun)

Flower in a vase doodle

Have fun!!!!! Post pictures of your doodles on our Facebook page, or tag us on Instagram (@thenovelturtle)

What Can Doodling Do For You?

Doodle on a napkin

This week I invite you to take a little “brain break” and give your thinking mind some time off. For a few minutes each day, give yourself permission to doodle. On your notepad at work. On a napkin while waiting at a restaurant. On a pad of paper before you go to bed. When ever, where ever you get the chance, doodle.

Doodling by definition is absentmindedly drawing pictures without really knowing what you’re drawing to begin with. (dictionary.com) So it doesn’t have to be anything specific. Just doodle what pops into your head.

Doodling is something that a lot of us have gotten into trouble for over the years. This is why I said, “give yourself permission”, because we’ve come to see doodling as a bad thing. People see someone doodling and assume they aren’t paying attention. While that can sometimes be true, in my experience doodling helps people to pay more attention to what they are doing.

I was the student that was always illustrating what the teachers were talking about. I still do it to this day in classes or meetings. Not anything elaborate, just stick figures and little drawings. Illustrating things as I’m being taught helps to solidify the concepts in my head. It also helps me to pay more attention. This sounds counter intuitive, but really, it’s not. If I’m listening and drawing things out as I go, then I’m still focused on what is being said. If I’m just trying to listen then my mind will often wander and I’ll lose what the teacher is saying. This has nothing to do with the teachers, or their style of teaching, it’s just the way my mind tends to process things.

If you need to do something like this to help you pay attention, to help you learn, then I say go for it. As far as I know they don’t teach “Illustrating Your Professor’s Lessons” in any study habits classes. Maybe that’s a new idea for someone. Study habits that are outside the box. What works for each of us may be different. Honor who you are and how your mind works. You’ll learn a lot more in the long run than you would by trying to force yourself into someone else’s box.

Studying is not the only area that doodling can benefit us. It’s a simple way to relieve stress. Those little moments that we take throughout the day to relieve stress may not seem like much, but they add up. Taking these 5- or 10-minute breaks keeps all of that from piling up and exploding at some point later on.

Doodling also opens your mind up to seeing new possibilities. Where someone might just see an equal sign, you may see eyes or a mouth. I mean, this is how the whole world of emojis began…..=).

To some doodling seems pointless, but it can serve a greater purpose. Read about the Nazca Lines in Peru. Seeming doodles all over the desert. They are starting to find out that these lines had a larger purpose. Among other things, they pointed the way to water sources, which was the basis for life.

While your doodles may not point to water, they may point to a life-changing solution to a problem you’ve been trying to solve for a while. They may point to that new job that you’ve been trying to decide whether or not to take. They may point to that new dream that you’ve been attempting to pursue.

If you need a little more guidance, or if you want an extra challenge, try this: Draw two or three random lines or squiggles on a page, touching or not. Then make a picture out of those lines. (See the pictures below for doodling ideas.) If you have a hard time finding something to draw, turn the page around, shift your perspective.

You can draw several different squiggles and lines at the beginning of the day or week and then go back to it each time you see something a little different. I have doodles laying around that I will add to here and there. Or if I’m writing in a journal or notebook, I’ll have doodles in the margins that I add to when I see them again.

You could tag team with your spouse, roommates, co-workers, or friends: Put a squiggle or lines on a page, leave it in a common area, and then each person can add to it as they go by throughout the day. It’s pretty neat to watch how each person sees something different.

There are also books and postcards that you can buy to have inspiration with you if you need it.

The basic idea is that you just put your pen (pencil, crayon, marker, whatever you have handy) to your paper and start drawing. You don’t have to have any idea what you’re drawing or why.

Have fun with it, see what random things you come up with. Post pictures of your doodles on our Facebook page, or tag us in your doodle pictures on Instagram(@thenovelturtle). It’s always fun to see what others come up with.

What Does It Mean to "Lead By Example & Why Is It Important?

Silhouette of a man walking

How many times have you heard someone talking about how we need to do more to help X? (X could be the environment, the homeless, other countries, etc.) But then when you take a closer look, they are not doing anything to help that cause themselves. They are telling you that you should send money or spend time helping, but they aren’t doing it themselves.

What is missing from that equation is the fact that, if we are going to use someone as an inspiration, then we need to make sure that they are leading by example. If we are going to be an inspiration to someone else, then we need to lead by example.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Do as I say, not as I do”. It’s fun to say that. I’ve heard a lot of parents say it and mean, “Learn from my mistakes and don’t make the same mistakes yourself”. Some people though, say it and mean that they want to give advice, but not follow their own advice. They want to tell other people what to do and how to live, but they don’t actually do those things themselves.

If you are trying to do better for yourself, look for those around you that are not just talking about doing things, but that are actually doing them. When we surround ourselves with people who just sit around and talk a good game, we often fall into the trap of planning but never actually doing. We get stuck. Find those people that are moving forward, that can inspire you to move forward as well.

Really, leading by example is just each of us finding what we enjoy doing, and then inspiring others to do it too. If you love to cook healthy meals, you can do so and inspire those around you to do the same to improve their health and quality of life. If you love to sing, you can do performances to entertain people, sing at nursing homes, or just sing to your friends and family to make them smile. If you love to work out, then you can help others who may not know the best way to exercise to improve their health and body image. There are endless possibilities.

What shines through is your love for what you are doing. People will see that and it will inspire them to do better for themselves. They may not do the same thing that you do, but they will begin to find ways to move their life in a more positive direction.

People losing weight and eating healthier often inspire others around them to do the same. A lot of times they do so without saying a word. They go to the gym, they make better choices when it comes to food, and they don’t really say much about it. They do what they enjoy, what they know is good for their bodies and their health. Or there are those who make videos about getting healthier and feeling your best. The ones that have the most impact are those that are “walking the talk”. Two that inspire me, and you’ve heard me talk the most about, are Chris Shelton with Shelton Qigong and Adriene from Yoga with Adriene.

It’s not just about physical things. People who have a more positive outlook on life can influence those around them to be more positive as well. Look at the influence that people like Brandon Farris, Mark Borella, and Brendon Buchard have on people. Or those like Lewis Howes, Miles and Melanie Beckler, John from John’s Crazy Socks, Victor Oddo, or Eckhart Tolle. All of these people are making a difference, each in their own way, by being an example to those around them.

I’m sure that you can name even more people that you love to connect with. Or friends and family that you see inspiring people each and every day.

Ask yourself, who are some of the people in my life that inspire me to do better, to be better? Why are they inspiring? Is it because of what they are saying, or what they are doing?

We don’t even necessarily have to say anything to those around us to be inspiring. How many times have you watched someone work really hard at something, keep at it until they accomplish their task? Or have you seen someone who overcomes every obstacle that is placed in their path? Have you ever been around someone that makes you feel better just by being themselves? What about someone who takes the time to help those around them?

Those are people that are leading by example.

We can talk to people all we want to about how to do this or that. We can hound them about doing better, being nicer, eating right, losing weight, or any number of things, but if we’re not doing those things that we’re asking them to do, those words are likely falling on deaf ears. People are more likely to listen to what you’re saying if your actions follow your words.

To make a real difference we have to show people instead of just telling them. I’m not sure where I first heard the phrase, “Show Don’t Tell”, and I think it has to do with writing, but it’s accurate for life in general too.

People can say they are going to do this or that, but until they do it, their words don’t mean a thing. Someone can apologize, but if their actions don’t improve, then that apology seems to have less meaning in the end. You can’t tell people to be more positive, if you’re walking around in a cloud of doom all the time. You can, but it’s not going to make any difference in their lives.

Do a little self-reflection and find those places where your actions and your words may not match up. Ask yourself why they don’t match? Are you saying what you think people want to hear to impress them or so they don’t get upset? Are you trying to act tough or put on a brave face when you know you have no intention of following through with something? Are you agreeing to do things that you don’t enjoy just because you can’t say no, or because you feel obligated for some reason? Is there something you’re doing that may be having the opposite effect of what you want, because you’re setting an example of what not to do and how not to be? Don’t settle for being a cautionary tale. Set a positive example for those around you. You have a lot to offer.  

Leading by example is important because it inspires you and those around you to take action. Instead of getting stuck in the planning phase forever, we begin to move towards our goals, move towards our dreams. It is also important because it shows that we really care about something. If we are willing to “put our money where our mouth is” then we show those around us that what we are doing is meaningful. Not in a way that asks for validation from others, but in a way that will help them to find their own important thing and work for it. Leading by example allows us to truly make a difference in the world.

So tell us, what is it that you love to do? What can you lead others to do by the example that you’re setting? Where might you need to change your actions to match your words?

Reframing To See Opportunities Instead of Problems

Bridge over water

Earlier this week I talked about what reframing is and how you can do it. Using this tool we can remove a lot of junk from our bodies, our minds, and our overall energy. If we take the time to see the lesson in the “negative” things that happen in life, then we can allow ourselves to have a happier life in the long run. We don’t get stuck going over and over the same conversations in our head. We don’t get lost in the replay of not saying or doing the right thing. We keep ourselves from harboring anger and resentment, that in turn only hurts us.

The other great thing about learning how to reframe a situation is that it allows us to see the world more as a place of opportunity and freedom, rather than a place of problems and disappointment. We view the world and the people in it as helping us rather than out to get us.

The more we are able to see opportunity, the more the world opens up to us.

If we only see the world as being full of obstacles and problems, then it limits our view as to what is actually possible for us. Imagine if you were walking and you came upon a body of water. As you stand at the edge you see no possible way to cross the water and get to the other side. But then, when you start looking around, you see a bridge that crosses the water. You look in the other direction and there are 2 more bridges that you could use.

Bridges over water

This is how life works. If you try to hold onto your tunnel vision you may never see anything outside of what you think is possible. When you start to look around, look at other ways of doing things, then you start to see that the possibilities are truly endless.

When you are face with an obstacle in life, what do you do? How do you handle it? Do you stop in your tracks and refuse to move forward? Do you see it as a sign that you’re on the wrong path and divert? This can be true at times, if obstacle after obstacle keeps appearing, however most times it is the universe giving us the chance to change our way of thinking.

To change how you think about challenges, obstacles, and problems, use the same technique that you would use to reframe a situation, event, or conversation.

Take a step back and look at the perceived challenge as if you were a third party, or as if you were watching someone on a movie. Now move the camera around and see what other angles you can find.

Ask yourself the following questions: Why do I think that this is a problem? If I could see past this obstacle what would I find? How can I view this challenge as an opportunity to learn, grow, and improve myself? What skills might I need to move past this?

After answering these questions, and beginning to reframe things in your mind, say:

“I choose to see this as an opportunity rather than an obstacle. I choose to believe that the world is helping me. I choose to see the endless possibilities that are available to me on a daily basis.”

Once you do a little self-inquiry, you will start to see other ways to deal with the issue at hand, and you will begin to feel more like you can conquer this and any challenge that arises. The more you do this, the more confident you become in yourself and your abilities. The more confident you become, the more likely you are to search out and do the things that truly matter most to you. This is because you go from feeling like you’re fenced into one place, to being able to stand up and see that you can step over that fence and move out into the world.

It’s like the story of the man who thought he was drowning. He was flailing his arms and freaking out because he thought he was in water over his head. When all seemed completely lost he heard a voice say, “Stand Up”. It turns out, he was only in water up to his waist, but he wasn’t able to see it because he only saw his perceived challenge.

So I’m saying to you now, Stand Up. Take another look at those obstacles that you see in front of you. Watch the movie, question yourself, and find the bridge that crosses those waters. On the other side lies the life that you’ve always wanted.  

What is "Reframing" and How Does it Benefit Us?

Stacked window frames

Photo by Jimmy Chan

Have you ever heard of the word “Reframing”?

No, I’m not talking about taking a picture out of one frame and putting it into another one. Although, same concept.

First let’s talk about some things that reframing is not. Reframing is not glossing over a bad situation and pretending like it didn’t happen. It’s not an excuse to continuously beat ourselves up because we didn’t say or do the “right” thing. It’s not ignoring the fact that someone may have hurt us deeply and saying that we should be ok with that. Reframing is not me telling you to just smile, be positive, and everything will be great in life.

Reframing is when we think back to a situation or event that has happened in our lives, generally one that we consider negative, and we turn that situation around to see the positive. We acknowledge that the situation may have been terrible, but we find the lesson that we can learn from it. Reframing is a way to help us move on from situations, events, or conversations, where we may be going in circles.

For instance, imagine that you were at a party and your friend said something to you that hurt your feelings. For the rest of the evening you avoid her. If you do have to talk to her you’re very short and rude. When you get ready to leave, she tries to talk to you, but you just leave without saying goodbye. Later that night, as you’re getting ready for bed, you think of her comment and it upsets you all over again.

At this point, you can do one of two things: 1) You could continue to replay that conversation over and over again in your head, getting more and more upset each time. OR 2) You can take the time to think back to that situation and reframe it in your mind.

How do you do this?

The process is fairly easy, but it’s not always easy to do.

Sit and imagine the conversation that you had with your friend, but step back and view that moment as if you were an outsider looking in, or as if you were watching a movie. What was going on around you both at the time? Who was your friend just talking to? What has your friend been dealing with up to that point?

Walk through the entire conversation that way and you may just see that it was a big misunderstanding. Maybe she didn’t mean what she said in the way that she said it. Perhaps you were already feeling self-conscious and you took her comment the wrong way. Maybe she didn’t realize that what she said would have the effect that it did on you.

Or maybe she really was being inconsiderate and didn’t take your feelings into account when she said what she did. Maybe she was feeling bad about herself and she took it out on you (intentional or not). In this case, you can take this moment to try to find the lesson in what happened. Yes, she wasn’t nice. Yes, your feelings got hurt. No, this doesn’t mean that what she did was ok. But, in an effort to keep your vibration high, to keep yourself from spiraling and letting the situation harm you any further, you can take a moment to see what you can learn from the conversation.

If you see these “negative” situations as an opportunity to learn, to better yourself, then it takes the negative effects away. This also helps us to keep from getting stuck in that moment.

When we get angry, our bodies respond. Our breathing gets shallower, our heart beats faster, we clench our jaw, and ultimately, this anger is stored up in our liver and can cause all kinds of problems. The same thing happens in varying degrees when we’re sad or worrying, etc. Each time that we think of this event, our body has the same reactions that it did when the event actually happened. So even though it may be days or weeks later, when we think about the anger we felt, our body tenses up as if it is going through that same anger all over again.

When we make the effort to reframe these situations and events in our minds, we save ourselves a lot of heartache, stomach ache, and headache in the future. Instead of being stuck in those same emotions over and over again, we allow ourselves to let go of the negative of the situation, and we take the positive, the lesson, and move forward.  

With reframing it is possible to go back to things that happened years ago, and to pull ourselves out of that loop that we’ve been stuck in. Sometimes this loop is so tight that we don’t even realize we’re still in it until something triggers a memory or a reaction in us.

It’s not always the easiest thing to do. Our ego wants to stay in that moment. It wants to prove that we were right. It wants to hold onto that hurt as justification for treating the other person badly, or for having a reaction. Our ego wants to hold onto control of the situation so that it can feel important.

When something like this happens to you, take the time to sit somewhere quiet, take a few deep breaths, and ask yourself these questions:

What actually happened? Could I have reacted in a different way to make the situation/event/conversation go in a more positive direction? Was my reaction based on something that I was already worrying about, or how I was feeling at the time (overly tired, self-conscious, upset about something that happened earlier, etc.) What was the other person dealing with that may have influenced what they said/did? What can I learn from this situation?  

Once you walk back through it, reframe it in your mind, and find the lesson, you can say:

“I choose to let this situation go. I choose to take the lesson that I have learned and apply it to my life. I choose to forgive X for what they did, and I choose to forgive myself for how I allowed it to make me feel. I did the best that I could at the time with what I knew, but now I know better so I can do better. I am moving forward and no longer allowing this situation/event/conversation to affect me in a negative way.

In saying this you release all of that negative energy from yourself so that it doesn’t continue to affect you. It’s no longer stored in your mind, your body, or your energy field.

If it does pop up again and start to bug you, then you can go through the process again. There may be more than one lesson that you need to learn. There are some things that I’ve gone through multiple times, because there were multiple lessons. That’s not to discourage you, or make you feel like you’ll never get anywhere, but to encourage you. We often have to go through things several times over before we learn the lesson. We’re often a stubborn bunch. But if we keep trying, keep learning, keep releasing, we move forward and we’re much happier.

Even Baby Steps Are Forward Movement

Lighthouse Steps

Do you always have to have every step figured out before you start?

Ponder that question for a minute.

When you get ready to do a project, or start something new in general, do you always have to have all of the steps figured out before you even start? Or do you have to have a specific reason for doing everything you do? Can you do something just for the fun of doing it?

(I guess I should pause here and say, it really depends on the project. If we’re talking about building a table or a house, then yes, you should know each step that you are going to take to get to the finished product. That way you know what supplies to buy, how long to estimate that it will take, etc. While you do have to be prepared to change the plan as you go, your plan is generally set before you start.)

What I’m talking about is projects like taking a class or going back to school, starting a blog or podcast, writing a book, things like that.

So many of us think that we have to have all of our ducks in a row, and know exactly where we’re going and what we’re going to do, and how it’s going to turn out before we even start. We have to know how something will benefit us before we will entertain the idea of doing it.

This is something that I have overcome personally. For most of my life, I wouldn’t start a project at all unless I knew exactly how I was going to accomplish each step and how it was going to turn out in the end. I wouldn’t take a class or go to a workshop (especially one that I had to pay for) unless I could figure out exactly how it would benefit me in the long run.

Partially this was my perfectionism kicking into high gear. I watched a video by Brendon Buchard about perfectionism and it changed my whole perspective. He basically says that we use the term perfectionist, but what it really is, is self-doubt. We aren’t sure that we can actually accomplish what we’re wanting to do so we put off doing it and call it being a perfectionist. Click here to watch the whole video. He tells it like it is and helps us to look at ourselves and our excuses.

The other thing that stopped me in my tracks, was letting other people’s ideas and opinions decide what I was going to do with my life. If I wanted to take a class, someone would say “Why do you want to do that, how is that going to help you make any money?”. If I wanted to write a book, someone would say, “Well it better be a good one or you’re just wasting your time.” I let other people control what I did and didn’t do, rather than trusting my own intuition.

(Notice I didn’t say, other people stopped me from doing these things. I said, I LET other people stop me from doing these things. That’s a major difference that we need to acknowledge. If someone is getting in your head about something, you are letting that person do so.)

Over time I started to see these things. I slowly began to learn the art of doing things just because I want to, just because they are fun. When those same people ask, why are you doing this or that, I shrug my shoulders and say, “Because it sounded fun”. I’ve learned that sometimes the benefit is just to do the thing and have fun doing it.

If your intuition, your inner knowing, your Higher Power, is leading you to do something then there is a reason. You may not know it right away. Or maybe the reason is because you need to learn to let loose and do fun things for a change. Maybe your doing that fun thing, simply because it’s fun.

Over time you will start to see a pattern of how these things come together. If you are actively searching for your dream then you will start to see that dream revealed to you through these seemingly random things. If you already know what you would love to do in your life, but you’re having a hard time getting started, doing the things that you are led to do – even if they seem completely crazy – will help you to get to that dream faster. Doing these things will help you to refine your goals.

People walking up a sand dune

Taking baby steps is the best way to get to your goal. Yes, there will be times when you take leaps and bounds. The majority of the time though, the little things that you do each day are what set you up for success.

If you enjoy watching videos and/or reading about how to bake, or how to build a website, or how to have a beautiful garden, watch those videos, read those books. If those are things that you are drawn to, give yourself permission to not only watch and read, but to enjoy yourself and to learn. One day you may realize that you have such a love for baking or gardening that you want to open a store, sell items online, or teach your own classes.

If you have a dream of becoming a yoga teacher, start doing yoga every day. Start saving a little money here and there to take classes to become a certified teacher. Find people around you that want to learn, and teach them what you know. (safely and only teach what you know) Watch other people’s yoga videos to see how they do things and to find your own style of teaching.

With The Novel Turtle, I try to do a little something each day to make it better. Whether it’s working on a post, watching a video to learn more about what I’m doing, or posting things on social media. Sometimes, if I’m super tired, all I can get done is jotting down a few ideas. Even if I just do that, at least I’m making forward progress. Whatever it is that you can do to put you one step closer to your dream life, do it.

What can you do each and every day to get you one step closer to realizing and achieving your goal, your dream?