Most people are quite familiar with road maps, especially if they do any sort of traveling that entails driving in unfamiliar territory. These maps help them to know which direction to take in order to end up at a certain location. You could consider a road map as a sort of instruction manual for driving, as a large segment of the population could not manage to travel more than 20 or 30 miles without one.
Our brains have been compared to computers by many researchers. To a certain extent, this is very true. When you buy a new computer, most of the time it comes to you with some sort of operating system already installed. Included in this operating system are various types of software.
Each software program does something different. A word processor is for typing letters and reports. A web browser is used for going online. Your email program downloads your email from the server. The programs that are on a computer when you purchase it are usually just the basics.
When using your computer, what do you do if by chance you need to complete a task, and you find you do not have the proper software? You either download or purchase a program that will help you to do the task.
What are Mind Maps?
Your brain is your operating system. Even though everyone thinks in a different way, you use the same techniques that the majority of the people in the world also use. When you were born, you had certain ‘programs’ already ‘installed’ in your brain that are there to help you learn and memorize the things that are going to happen to you during your entire lifetime.
You have a program that remembers images, a program that remembers how things link together in order to form a system, and a program that remembers words and what they mean. Does this sound a bit like your home computer?
When you use mind mapping, your brain is working like your computer! Mind mapping is a moniker coined by none other than best-selling author Tony Buzan, who has taught this concept to people all over the world for the past 30 years.
Mind maps are a very effective way to get information that you want or need to remember, in and out of your brain. The brain has certain basic ways of doing things, just like a computer does. The difference is that the brain can take these basic ‘programs’ that it entered the world with, and refine them to help make the most of your memory and your sense of creativity.
You already have this power latent in your mind. Mind mapping simply takes advantage of the power within you in an innovative way.
Mind mapping has its own basic elements. The one that are absolutely necessary to harness the power of this amazing method are as follows:
The Use of Pictures and Images
When children are learning to read, most systems which were made to teach them the basics of reading use many pictures. This is because our brains have an awesome capability in that they can recall pictures and images very easily. It is as if you have a huge hard drive in your head that has a limitless capacity for ‘ brain shots’.
Brain shots are ‘photos’ of your life that you can bring to the forefront of your mind whenever you want to see them. This is a big part of using mind mapping! Since it is easier for us to remember an image than it is a group of words, mind mapping takes advantage of this capability.
Headings and Captions
The brain has a much easier time remembering words that stand alone, short groups of words, and short sentences such as captions. Headings are also very easy to remember. Take the front page of a newspaper for example. You could make the attempt to memorize the entire front page. You would have to do an awful lot of studying to be able to quote it verbatim, and it is doubtful that you could accomplish this task without making any mistakes.
A much easier method of remembering the information would be to write down the headlines and headers for each story, and then commit those to memory. This way, the headlines and headers would help you to remember probably 95% of each newspaper story, as long as you had read them thoroughly and thoughtfully.
Making a Connection
One of the things that your brain does best is analysis. It is an automatic occurrence that is similar to logic. It is natural for the brain to analyze how events, situations, actions, and more are connected to each other. Once your brain has figured this out, it will then create a picture that will bring to mind that structure. Much of the work that our mind does has to do with things being connected together in our memory. These associations work together to create a system.
Your memory is at its best when it is allowed to work the way that it was meant to. If you try to force yourself to remember things in a way that goes against the brain’s natural ability, you will find it tough going, indeed. Doesn’t it make more sense to work with your brain, instead of trying to go against it? Mind mapping is so advantageous because it falls right in line with the way that the brain works. Research has proven that the basic way man remembers things is by using his imagination and associating it with images.
When you think of a horse, does your mind see the letters H O R S E in neon lights? Of course not. It sees the image, or picture of a horse. We think in images! When we remember things, they appear in our mind as images first. The images then trigger words.
Mind mapping takes advantage of this. It is a way of taking notes that will enable you to learn things faster and easier than ever before. When you need to come up with an idea for something quickly, mind mapping is the way to go. Mind mapping can help you to take a complicated idea, and give it structure so that it is much easier to understand.
How Does It Work?
People who are relatively new to mind mapping say that after completing a few of them, they feel that they actually think in a different way. When you consider that mind mapping is the way our brains were originally designed to work, you can better understand why they would say this.
An idea map is a visual picture of the problem, topic, question or issue that you need a solution to. It is eye catching and colorful, and fits on just one sheet of paper. It is a different method from the usual step-by-step, linear method that most people use! When you have a picture of what is going on right there in front of you, it somehow makes you feel energized, and more capable of handling the project or problem at hand. With a visual ‘map’, the brain can think and plan in a different way – the way it was meant to think.
Mind mapping is a lot easier to learn than you might think from reading about it. It is a great deal like brainstorming, where a group gets together and shares their individual ideas and solutions for a common goal. Once you have learned the basics of mind mapping, you won’t want to think or learn new things in any other way. Your efficiency will be a peak level at work and at home, and you will be using more of your brain power than ever before.
The Inner Core Central to Mind Mapping
Mind mapping uses basic logic, and the brain’s proclivity for association to create a structure to build upon. Since our thoughts start off in the center of our mental state, mind mapping starts in the middle of a sheet of paper. Here, you will place a word or an image that will represent the idea/subject that you are thinking about. You will use colors to make this image, so as to make it stand out both on the paper and in your mind.
Think of this center image as the title of a book. What comes next in a book on the first few pages? The table of contents, which as you know is a listing of the chapters of a book. You want the main themes of your idea/subject to branch out from around this center image, just like the chapters of a book seem to flow outwards from a table of contents.
You have the option of printing (the brain reads printed letters more quickly) a word or words for this main theme, or you can create another image if you prefer. These central lines are the first level of thought, much like the main branches of a tree join to the tree’s trunk. You want the colors to match the ones on the middle image, and draw lines that are the same length, and curve toward the outer edge of the paper.
The Second Map Level and Beyond
Now you will begin to create your second thought level. The words or images on this level will be linked to the central branch that they are an offshoot of. Your lines will be thinner, but of the same color as the main branch they started from. Use single words if possible, and make sure you arrange each image or word on its own individual line. The lines show the association between the main center image or word, and the ideas that are represented by the single words and/or images.
See how your thoughts flow? They go from the main idea and branch off into more ideas, which are all related to one another in some way. Keep in mind that if you are doing mind mapping as a group exercise, no two mind maps are going to look alike. Everyone’s brain will use different words and images to associate ideas and plans.
What Mind Mapping Can Do For You
Mind mapping allows your creativity free reign. You are creating a diagram in a sense – a diagram that represents the main idea you are thinking about, and arranges other ideas and activities relevant to the main idea around it. Mind maps arrange these ideas in such a way that represents the connections they have to each other.
People have found mind mapping to be very useful in their business, personal life, family life, and to help them to learn large amounts of information is a relatively short period of time. Anytime you want to be able to think and remember better, you should consider drawing a mind map to help you see the big picture of what you want to achieve.
Basic Principles and Major Benefits of Mind Mapping
In summary, the basic principles of mind mapping are:
- Express ideas through the use of single, key words or by drawing colorful images
- Associate these ideas
- Structure these ideas into a group
- Group ideas in order of importance
- See your ideas by creating them in image form
- Use colors and images to further stimulate your mind
The major benefits of mind mapping include:
- Creative thought is stimulated by the use of colors and images
- Creative thought is further stimulate by the use of associations and power words
- Thinking in depth about what it is you are trying to learn or accomplish
- Time and paper saved versus taking notes the old-fashioned way