As we approach the end of 2017, you may find yourself reflecting on all that you have achieved in the past year. If you set them at all, are you able to recall your resolutions? Did you achieve any? If so, amazing! Give yourself a round of applause! If not, you’re not alone. According to U.S. News & World Report 80% of new year’s resolutions fail by February[i]. What exactly goes wrong in this process?
Are we fueled by superficial intentions?
Do we lack motivation and inspiration?
Are we rushed to set a handful of glib goals?
Does our track record cause us to lose hope?
… or perhaps the idea of personal growth is a broad, vague, and intimidating concept.
I’ll admit that I believe the process of goal-setting is an exciting one. The mental health clinician in me jumps for joy at every opportunity to help an individual reflect on their values, consider their hopes and dreams, and set an intentional path of personal growth. This isn’t a process I take lightly and I do practice what I preach, so to speak. Over the years I have tried many methods of goal-setting and to help you prepare for a prosperous new year I happily share my favorite method with you, mind mapping.
What’s a mind map?
A mind map is a non-linear visual method that facilitates brainstorming. Although brainstorming has existed for centuries, the foundation for mind mapping began with Roger Sperry’s[ii] illuminating brain research which promoted linking the left and right hemispheres of the brain with words, images, colors, and direct a
ssociation. The left side pertains to sequences, analysis, lists, words, and logic whereas the right side pertains to imagination, emotion, color, and shapes.[iii] Inspired by Sperry, Tony Buzan[iv] coined the term “mind mapping” and popularized the process which activates both hemispheres and causes an increase of productivity and memory retention in the brainstorming process. In the decades since, mind mapping has gained attention for its utility in several aspects such as comprehension, creative thinking, connecting details, collecting data, and exchanging information[v], all processes that are helpful for goal-setting. So let’s go ahead and jump into that!
How to make a mind map for goal-setting
Place the title in the middle of the paper.
Examples: 2018, New Year’s Resolutions, Goals
From the title, use branches to radiate from the center. This allows you to create islands of secondary content. Consider these to be the topic areas for your general goals.
Examples: Family, Work, Health, College,
For each domain use branches to list general goals that you’d like to achieve within a year.
Examples: Maintain a 4.0, Find a new job
For each goal, consider the mini-goals that need to be in place to achieve the noted goal.
Examples: Create a study group for biochemistry, join a local networking group
Reflect, set, achieve!
Mind mapping is a helpful way for you to connect to your values, hopes, and dreams. In order to do so, you need to create some safe to reflect prior to beginning the process. Set your intentions in whatever way works for you. Some examples include listening to your favorite song, meditating prior, or using candles and/or aromatherapy to establish a purposeful ambiance.
You are not only suggested, but encouraged, to go beyond words. Utilize colors, drawings, symbols, and pictures. This helps you to connect both hemispheres of the brain and allows you to customize the mind map to your liking.
Grab a sheet of paper and whatever craft materials you would like. It might be helpful to begin with colored pens, pencils, crayons and/or markers. Feel free to use any craft items you prefer…on the spirit of New Years, gold glitter seems appropriate.
Allow your individuality to take the lead as you customize your mind map. Personally I have found that I have been more likely to revisit the mind maps that I find be aesthetically pleasing, and trust me, I’m no artist.
When considering the domains for your goals consider what is important to you. What areas are essential to put energy towards? It’s common to set physical goals and you may hear your family and friends’ aspirations, but turn up the volume on your inner voice. Of course similarities may exist with the goals of others’ however, domains should be subjective and intentional. If it isn’t an area of importance to you, consider leaving space for goals that will bring you happiness.
When brainstorming general goals, allow your mind to do its thing. Instead of pressuring your brain to focus on one domain at a time, if you set your intentions your seemingly distracting thoughts may be your mind pulling you to recognize another goal.
When considering mini-goals it is helpful to think about what you need to accomplish to get to your general goals. Sometimes these may be necessary stepping stones to use in order to achieve the final goal.
Try to be intentional with your timing. If you already have dates (e.g., graduation) go ahead and add them. If not, no need to, technically you have an entire year. However, setting aspirational dates may help to keep you motivated and focused.
If you prefer the digital method, there are several sites to help you. Here are a few examples:
[ii] Sperry, R.S. (1968). Hemispheric deconnection and the unity in conscious awareness. Scientific American, 23, 723-735.
[iii] Tucker, J. M., Armstrong, G. R., & Massad, V. J. (2010). Profiling a Mind Map User: A Descriptive Appraisal. Journal of Instructional Pedagogies, 1-13.
[iv] Buzan T. (1976). Use Both Sides of Your Brain. E.P. Dutton & Co, New York
[v] Buran, A., & Filyukov, A. (2015). Mind Mapping Technique in Language Learning. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 206(XVth International Conference "Linguistic and Cultural Studies: Traditions and Innovations"), 215-218. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.10.010