Image courtesy of Celine Paul 6 Feb 2014
Mind maps came up this week in my blogging group. I love using mind maps and go to this tool whenever I need inspiration or get writer’s block. I was first introduced to this tool when my boys were in grade school. Their teachers taught them various ways of organizing information. This was one of our favorite tools.
A mind map is a diagram consisting of keywords or phrases connected with lines, shapes and colors to visually organized information. This process of mapping out a subject is another way of creating an outline of a project. For those of us who are visual learners, mind maps are a useful tool. When I prepare a presentation or written material, I often use this tool to help me focus my thoughts. It gives me small chunks of material to focus on, so that I can small step my way through what I originally thought was an overwhelming task.
As I begin the process of mind mapping, I begin to see other threads of thought that I might not have included in the original thought process. It helps me visually brainstorm new ideas. Sometimes I make multiple mind maps to flesh out one line of thought or add new ideas into existing branches. Sometimes the mind map looks like branches on a tree. Sometimes it looks like a row of prayer flags or a kite with multiple tails attached. Sometimes it is symmetrical like a wheel, and sometimes it is unbalanced with large amounts of words on multiple strands while a single slender line of thought contains only a few single words as if it were an unwanted shoot sprouting from a developed branch of the tree.
How do you start a mind map? I like to start with a question or subject in a center circle, and then think of all the different ways I might describe that subject or answer that question. Each of those ideas becomes a line of thought with it’s own circle. Sometimes I organize things by color or with different shapes for different topics. Occasionally I doodle pictures. Each topic can have additional branches, like branches of a tree, with a line for each separate thought. Many times, I start to see connections and decide to redraw the mind map with slightly different lines coming off the main topic. Search on Google or Pinterest for “mind maps” for visual ideas of how you can use mind maps.
Image courtesy of Learning Fundamentals
Let’s use the example of “Who I am?” which can be mapped in many trails of ideas. I can start with places I’ve lived, people who influenced me and books I’ve read. I might focus on just a few key areas such as body/mind/spirit, but flesh that out in more detail. I can focus on things that occupy my time with branches for passions or hobbies, roles or jobs I have, volunteer positions, social groups or other daily tasks such as self care, care for my home and family. I can look at themes of how I came to believe the things I believe, the disappointment and painful parts of my life (which probably have had the biggest influence on shaping me) or my dreams. Each of these trails of ideas could be a chapter in my memoir or a series of blog posts. It could be a way to see larger themes or roles in my life such as a helper, an artist, a caregiver or a leader.
Courtesy of John Glanvill, http://calmnessinmind.com
It takes courage sometimes to name those parts of myself I’m afraid to expose to others. I find it hard to say “I’m an artist” when I compare myself to others, but the reality is that I enjoy art and creating things, so I am learning to call myself an artist. In fact, I believe that I am becoming an even better artist every time I create something and affirm that I am an indeed an artist. Part of naming it is also claiming that dream or desire to develop those skills.
So who are you? Can you take a few minutes right now to draw a simple diagram and name the ways you or others would describe who you are? Sit with this diagram for a few moments, noticing what is missing or new lines of description that are missing. Try making multiple versions of this mind map. What do you discover about yourself!
I’d love to hear about what you discovered in this process.