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Mind Mapping: a tool for individual and creative goal setting

Updated: Apr 23, 2019

Whether at work or in your personal life there often comes a time when you need to plan out goals, solve a problem, plan an event, or prepare a presentation.  This can often feel overwhelming and daunting. Where do you even begin?

Maybe you choose to make a list, jot down notes on small pieces of paper, create a voice memo in your phone, or have a conversation with a friend or your team.  This is a great way to start but all of those random thoughts and ideas are disjointed. How do you put all the puzzle pieces together so you can see the big picture?

Mind Mapping is a diagram that visually organizes information by branching ideas out from a central theme to highlight connections between the whole concept and its parts. It’s a creative, wheel-and-spoke way to brainstorm goals across the different areas in your life with the whole perspective in view—and it  works.”

Mind Mapping was popularized by Tony Buzan, a British author, and educational consultant, in the 1960s.  He defined the concept of a mind map as a radial tree which includes diagramming key words in a colorful, radiant, tree-like structure. Each   is like a little exploding supernova so each one radiates out associations. He explains that mind mapping resembles more closely how your brain actually works.  Combining the analytical and artistic, this technique engages your brain in a deeper way and tapping into all of its cognitive functions. Check out this video published by iMindMap of Tony describing the mind mapping process.   

Using Mind Maps for personal goal setting

Mind Mapping doesn’t have to be used for collaborative group brainstorming.  This can be a useful tool for individual goal setting as well. The strategy is more about the overall vision and it allows you to brainstorm freely. Sometimes you just need to get things out of your head and onto paper in order to clearly visualize them.  You can use a mind map to identify life plans, interests, wishes, or goals. A mind map is fluid and allows you to continue adding concepts and make associations between key-words. Creating a mind map for personal goal setting can help you gain perspective on what is really important to you. It can help you get to the root of what you value most.  

Mind Mapping Methods

Since it is time to create my next Sole Goal, I tested the Mind Mapping strategy to help organize my thoughts. I found it fascinating! I tried out a couple of different methods of brainstorming to see which one resonated with me the most.

Handwritten Mind Maps

Pen, paper, and solitude is a lovely combination for brainstorming. I went to IKEA, ordered a cup of coffee, and sat at a table alone. I wrote whatever words came to my mind first as it related to living healthy. After reviewing my large map, I made a smaller map of possible sole goals.  I spent some time reflecting on some of these goals. The advantage of handwriting my mind map is that it is a true reflection of my first thoughts. The disadvantage to handwriting my mind map is that I can’t reorganize the map, delete or make changes.

Computer generated Mind Maps

Taking the mind mapping strategy a step further, I tried out a couple of online programs. I wanted to see if having the ability to reorganize, delete, add, use color, and make visual connects made any difference in which direction I move for my sole goal.

First I used Mind Meister to create a visual mind map. This online tool is great because I was able to be as creative as my mind allowed.  You can make three maps with the free version and there are many templates and different methods of brainstorming. For visual effect, you can add your own images, backgrounds, change fonts, adjust colors, etc.  Other functions include the ability to export an image or video of your map and create a slideshow. I enjoyed using this map but I got very caught up in the visual creativity and spend more time focusing on that then actually brainstorming my ideas.

Next, I downloaded the free version of iMindMap.  This program is great because there are six different types of maps you can create.  Like Mind Meister, you can add your own images, backgrounds, change fonts, adjust colors, export an image or video of your map and create a slideshow.  There are thirteen export options to save your information in a variety of formats including Word documents, spreadsheets, Powerpoint presentations, etc. I found the outline feature really useful because I could type my ideas in a list and it mapped it for me. Another great feature is the ability to create smaller “child” maps that zooms in to one section of your overall map. This was similar to what I did with my handwritten maps. Of the six different types of mind maps, I really liked using the radial map. I love how it clearly shows the ranking of importance for my four main categories of healthy living. My map shows that health is most important to me right now, followed by social, then emotional and lastly financial.  On my radial map, the yellow color on the outside edge are potential sole goals.

Which method is better?

I think handwritten mind maps and computer-generated maps are both useful. It ultimately comes down to personal preference. I enjoyed the functionality of the computer programs and the ability to take my brainstorming to a whole new level. But there is still something great about old school pen and paper and the rawness of first thought brainstorming.

What do my mind maps reveal?

I am planning a new goal that will be my focus for an entire year, so this was my opportunity to sit down and map out my own story.  I gave myself permission to THINK BIG. I didn’t want to be practical. I wanted to brainstorm anything that was important to me as it relates to my overall goal of learning to live healthily. All of my mind maps reveal that diet, exercise, church, and prayer are high on my priority list.  Narrowing it down further, I think diet and exercise are most important and fit naturally with my previous Booze Snooze goal.

I have decided that exercise is going to be my focus.  There are many reasons why, which I will start unpacking in future posts. What I can say right now is that exercise is extremely intimidating to me and is a big weakness of mine.

Go big or go home!

Starting on May 1, 2019, I will complete some form of exercise every day for 365 days.  

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Jessica Harris
Jessica Harris
Apr 21, 2019

Want to join me? Doesn’t need to be crazy exercise. I am going to share in a future post how I am going to set myself up for success.


Joanne Elsen
Joanne Elsen
Apr 21, 2019

Go girl!

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