author: Matthijs Cornelissen
last revision: 10 July, 2015

Mindmaps are useful to get insight in complex situations where the various aspects or elements you intend to explore differ from each other on many different dimensions and are inter-connected in a non-linear fashion.

An example may make the basic issues clear quickly.

Suppose you want to get a better understanding about all the different relationships you have.

The first step is always a "brainstorm", in which you jot down everything that comes up. During this phase you should not be critical. Nothing is too trivial, obvious, unlikely, impossible, evil, saintly, whatever: anything that comes up is worth jotting down.

In the second stage it is best first to become silent, and then see what you want give expression to in your map and how. In the case of "relationships" most people put themselves — surprise! — right in the centre. So who come next? Those you see most often? Those you like most? Those who have the most profound influence on you? If you indicate frequency of contact by nearness on the map, you could indicate those you see daily directly around you, those you see rarely closer to the edges of the paper. You could then indicate "influence" perhaps by the size of the letters or circles which you use to indicate the individuals concerned (or the groups: you could club, say, colleagues, family, peers together). You could also use line-thickness to indicate frequency or importance, and arrows to indicate whether the others are more important to you or vice versa. The right side of the paper could indicate the future, the left the past; the top half of the paper those who have a positive influence, the bottom the negative. Colours or shapes could be used for the type of relationship (work, family, sports, culture, inner growth, ...). Are the people you relate to also interconnected? Don't hesitate to add new people or issues in this stage that you did not think of during the brainstorm.

The more creative you are, the more open to the unexpected, the more precise the map is, the more chance you have of finding new insights about yourself.

Be ready to start fresh and start allover again!

If you keep your maps and do them again say a year later, or perhaps once every five years, you may find it interesting how you change...