Mind maps are a great tool for creative people, in that they are a very quick, natural way for us to get whatever is in our head out of there and on paper where we can see it. But I’ve recently learned of a powerful way to increase the value of my mind maps: I use them to address how I feel.
The typical way that we do mind maps is based on topics. One topic relates to other, which relates to another, and so on. (For a good primer on how to do mind maps, check out Buzan’s How to Mind Map.)
All this cognitive mapping is fine and good when you’re not cognitively clear about the project, but the truth of the matter is that motivation has more to do with emotions than it does with thoughts (and cognitive stuff). Deep down, how you feel about something weighs more heavily than what you think about something.
Where Does This Stuff Come From?
On one particularly melancholy day a few months ago, I made a mind map to address why I was stuck. It had its normal cognitive stuff, and when I was done, I wasn’t settled. Just playing around, I added a feelings bubble along each major dimension of my life. The feelings that came up for my business were: afraid, alone, vulnerable, failure, fraud, and ineffective. Instead of trying to make myself feel something different, I just wrote what I was feeling.
Then I was able to ask some questions:
- Why was I feeling alone? What could I do about it?
- Why did I feel like a failure? What example was I using to compare my progress to?
- Why did I feel like a fraud? Who was I cheating?
And so on.
Once those feelings were out on the table, I could process them. And after I started answering the questions, I saw that those feelings were just fleeting feelings, and it was okay to have them…but they didn’t correspond to the way the world was. Once I accepted the way the world was, I understood that those feelings weren’t my own – they where just the trash, noise, and shit sandwiches that pessimistic people are all too eager to share with others.
I returned to the cognitive parts of the mind map and kept going. Unsurprisingly, I ended up with several pages of mind maps, and soon thereafter made the changes I needed to that propelled me on the path I’m on now.
The point here is that why I was stuck had nothing to do with the cognitive things like ideas, thoughts, and relationships – it had everything to do with the way I was feeling. That was they key insight then, and it had dramatic changes to the way I understood productivity. (You’ll hear much more about this soon.)
It’s Not About Making Yourself Get Unstuck – It’s About Letting Yourself Get Unstuck
If you’re currently stuck or need a liberating boost, make a mind map and add a bubble for your feelings. If you’re good for now, make a note to give it a try. Here a few key points:
- Let yourself feel and write whatever it is that you’re feeling. You don’t have to share it with anyone, and just because you feel it doesn’t mean that it matches the way the world is. Don’t try to hide or resist what you feel, as it’ll only make it worse.
- Once you have an honest assessment about your feelings, start asking why you feel that way. Don’t judge how you should feel – just ask why you feel that way. Where’s it coming from?
- After you’ve done some open question-asking, ask yourself whether that feeling had some validation from the world. If it does, what can you do to change the world? If it doesn’t, what can you do to listen to the world?
- Change the world if you need to; trust the world if you don’t.
I hope this helps you when you need it. I know it helps me.