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Mapping for self-development

All, Getting Started, Life Nuggets


Many people have no special method for getting their thoughts in order, for planning a new project, a home renovation, a new career or moving from where they are now to where they would like to be.

Linear list making is what most people know and use. Then there is mind mapping (termed by Tony Buzan), which allows for more cross-connections. This form of mapping will give us extra clues a list cannot. The use of colours and symbols further enhances the creative non-linear approach and this helps greatly with generating new thoughts and ideas.

Let’s take a map of Paris for example. You can see where you are and where you want to head to. We all recognise landmarks, streets and many other symbols on a map. They are usually colourful and make sense to us (well, to most of us). It’s the overview of such a complex subject (a big city) on a big sheet of paper that is so fascinating.


Non-geographic mapping, like for every day life situations, can be similar. Let’s experiment. Imagine you want to explore a possible career change but you have no clue where to start:

  1. Writing something down is far more powerful than using a computer or mobile device, so take a piece of paper and lay it horizontally.
  2. Now write the heading ‘Career change’ in the middle of the paper.
  3. Scribble down anything that comes to mind. Form clusters, try not to disrupt the flow of thought. Don’t overthink and don’t over analyse. Let your mind wonder and capture all your ideas along this piece of paper. You might make some connections, note them down. Some of the things you wrote down might take you by surprise. That’s a good thing. Keep adding new thoughts, new strands, new headings.
  4. Everything is valuable at this stage. Don’t discount anything.

This kind of mapping technique can bring great insights that you might not have had before. It gives you the freedom to place anything anywhere and connect it to the relevant ideas. It’s you who will have to come up with the answers and ways to tackle the career change, but this form of brainstorming is a fantastic framework for thinking something through and easily spotting ideas and feelings through the words you have used.

Of course, for now you don’t need to use colour and imagery. That can come further down the line. Often it’s a natural progression if the topics are more complex and need segmentation. The more you practice, the easier it will become. It’s really like exercising a muscle in our body at the gym. Foremost, have fun with it.


The next stage is to start looking at this piece of paper full (hopefully) of many ideas and connections. Now it’s time to start evaluating and seeing what actually makes sense and how you can break some of it it down into small achievable steps that you can implement quickly.

This kind of mapping approach can literally be used for anything and everything.

Why not test it with something you already are familiar with. A subject you’re very comfortable and knowledgeable in. Use this technique and see how far you can take it. Who knows you might discover some new angle, a better way to solve something.

Tina Bernstein is the founder of Mapology Guides, creating illustrated maps for life’s journey. She believes that everyone is looking to live a more fulfilled life and that bite-size, great design and illustration is always a good idea.  This problem solving maps have been created to be playful, thought-provoking and to get you from A-B. Using mapping techniques (despite the non-geographic themes), you will be inspired to travel from a dilemma or question to a helpful resolution. 

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