Mindmapping to plan your life

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By Hershey Wier

If “transitioning” is a talent, then perhaps quite a few of us can add that to our little bag of tricks. In my life, I went through several interstate moves during my childhood in the U.S. I’ve been through a few of life’s traumas and deaths of family members, I have cumulatively lived with over 60 roommates, have moved over 22 times, have lived in nine different cities, and now, as most of you reading this, live in what has become my second homeland, Japan.

I have made so many transitions, in fact, that I now incorporate the title “transitionist” on my e-mail signature line. That’s who I am. I know transition. One day, though, I realized that I had accumulated almost too many experiences, too many transitions. It was time to pare down and decide what it is I wanted to do from here on. Or, at least for the next six years. Maybe longer if it’s fulfilling, or for fewer years if it’s not. In looking back on my life thus far, I noticed that about every sixth year, I had gone through a life change. Perhaps I moved, or entered or finished some program or major project, but each change lasted for six years.

It has been said that to understand is to perceive patterns. So, I note this six year pattern, and try to incorporate that into my future plans. Then the question for myself became, “What would you like to try out for the next six years?” Now, to answer that question, I journaled and I soul searched. One of the concepts that came out of this is what I’m going to tell you below.

Do you ever pine away thinking “If only I had done such and such… my life would have turned out differently.” Yes, differently, but better? You don’t know that. Remember that you got to the point you are at today because of who you are. If you had a difficult home life, you may have left home early on and struck out on your own. If you were pampered by your parents with a cozy home life, perhaps you’re an adult who is still living there. Is that any better? If not, it’s time to make a move.

Each of us made decisions at each point in time that seemed right to us at that time. Have you done the “right” thing with your life? Yes, because you did the only thing you felt you could have done at that time. Rather than kicking yourself for choices that you see now, in retrospect, could have been more wisely made, recall the circumstances that led to them. Recall the players and the options in your world at that time. Then give yourself credit for bravely facing each crux in time and making the best choice that was available to you.

Be proud of the fact that you have a lifetime of experience that is like no other. You have developed a unique set of skills and talents. A huge bank account of experiences. How can you draw from it?

Finding Your Life Path Using a Mind Map

My newest seminar “Creative Paths to Finding Your Life Path,” coming out Autumn 2001, includes a mind map activity. Mind Maps are a tremendously useful brainstorming tool in just about any arena, and especially so if you’re trying to glean precious pearls from your past in order to display them for your future.

What I mean by finding your “life path” is finding a vocation or avocation which makes you feel fulfilled. This does not necessarily mean it makes a lot of money. It is something you enjoy doing, and that you feel is one of your life’s callings. As my life has been marked by many transitions, I decided to develop work that involves writing and speaking about transition, and it is very fulfilling to me.

The Central Hub of My Mind Map: Theatre

In order to track how I came onto my own life path, I started out with my first and true love in life, which is the theatre.

I drew a big circle around the word “theatre” and drew several spokes around it. This is the central hub of my mind map. At the end of each spoke, I wrote a word or phrase that was significant in my experiences in theatre. One phrase was “5th grade,” because that is when I wrote my first skit. Another was “9th grade” because that is when I wrote and performed in a “hit” skit that toured my hometown. Around this central hub, I continued to write more phrases that related to theatre experiences throughout high school, university and beyond.

Major Hub #1: Minneapolis A major hub that came out of my central hub is “Minneapolis” because the study of theatre is the reason why I decided to move there for university. Eventually, I got an undergraduate degree in Education in the field of Theatre, Speech, and English, which led to Major Hub #2.

Major Hub #2: Japan While I had contemplated going off to New York City to do more theatre, the door opened for me to work in Japan, which was one of my long term dreams. I wanted to be well-rounded, and sure enough, I was on my way to doing that. In Japan, I taught English, which is what I had studied to do, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The phrases that I wrote around this Japan hub helped me to realize what led me to Major Hub #3.

Major Hub #3: Business / Consulting / Writing I went back to the US to graduate school to study business. What ensued in those years included cross cultural and diversity consulting, and paid writing for a newspaper.

Major Hub #4: Japan, Part II

Back to Japan. Why? Marriage. Back to the drawing board? Well, not exactly. Here is the time I had to look back on my life and say “What is it I would really like to do?” Having very few acquaintances in Japan at the time, I decided just to start, and I did so by starting an information exchange group called ANEW. Via the hubs and spokes I put together in my mind map, I gleaned the following: performance, writing, service, speaking. These are the areas that are significant and enjoyable in my life history. Then I came up with ANEW, which allows me to perform in all of these capacities in some way.

I am far from finished with my life path – in fact, I’ve only just begun. The series of synchronicities that have occurred since I decided to pursue ANEW is the miracle that comes from taking the time to know oneself. It comes from being in one’s element and from the willingness to take the time to find out what makes one’s heart sing.

Happy map-making to all…

Hershey Wier, MBA, speaks, writes and coaches on personal and professional development.

She founded ANEWIST Personal & Professional Development Services in order to offer fresh insight, guidance and support to people in achieving more fulfillment in their life path. Her unique blend of creative techniques and down-to-earth principles gives a balanced, enjoyable approach to creating synergistic, positive outcomes in life.

Visit http://www.HersheyWier.com

Deb 2008-05-24 06:38:56
Thank you – I just did this exercise and as a result, had a whopping AH HA moment that has given me clarity about my future direction.

vic at mind-mapping dot org 2008-05-24 12:07:24
That’s really good to hear Deb. Mind mapping can truly open up the thinking. Do let us know how things work out, and thanks for commenting.


Andy 2011-03-12 07:49:57
This page is remarkable for those struggling in life. I was on a rollercoaster ride for years but decided to make a few changes. I like to view others perspectives on such matters to see what positive changes they made and the outcome it had. I mind mapped parts of my life and knew one day when I am ready changes would be made and I would never look back.

Once again great advice to all who read, excellent stuff.

The primary collection of articles about mind mapping and concept mapping techniques and many different types of graphical organizers is in WikIT, the mindmapper’s wiki which you should definitely visit now!

For free information about visual thinking techniques, visit the
Visual Thinking Center