Maps in the Mind

When I trained as an iMindmap Instructor a few years ago, I was introduced to the concept of limiting each branch of the map to a single word. At first, I didn’t go along with this idea as I thought the application of any ‘rule’ might limit the creative flow. Once I learned, however, to see it as a discipline as opposed to a draconian rule, the benefits and reasoning behind it became crystal clear.

A year or so ago, I was stuck on chapter 9 of of my book on Light Bulb Moments. It wasn’t flowing so I used Tony Buzan’s technique of free association Mind Mapping on the words “light”, “bulb” and “moment”. Now had I mapped using the phrase “light bulb moment”, my mind might have been lead to “Edison” and then “phonograph” or “Topsy the Elephant” (Google it) or to “Eureka”, “Archimedes” and “bath water”.

Instead, as you can see on the map below, “Bulb” took me to “tulip” and to “Amsterdam”. The word “Moment” in isolation made me realise we have a moment in time and the moment of a lever around a fulcrum. As a result, I started a series of podcasts called “Moments of Light” in which people talk about how they had a light bulb moment and did something with it.

The word “light” as you might imagine provided a deep and wide source of metaphor and association. Light of course can be split into a spectrum of component colours. It made me realise that quantum physicists ascribe many attributes like spin, colour and flavour to exotic particles like quarks. Then a light bulb moment came in.

Is it possible that thought itself has properties like colour or flavours?

At that point, the writer’s block vapourised and the result was a chapter called “Flavours of Thought” which I didn’t plan to write. This led to writing a whole book of the same name a month later that I didn’t plan to write either.

As chefs use a mix of flavours in their concoctions, I also combined the flavours of thought into various recipes too. As a result, about a year later a membership site appeared on the scene called “Recipes for Fresh Thinking” that I didn’t plan to build. I started training “Master Chefs of the Mind” to solve many common mind-based issues prevalent in every day life.

I then came across some esoteric material on something called the Cube of Space. I found I could map my Flavours on to the Cube. As a result, I found I had from nowhere created an amazing tool for personal evolution and advancement. This in turn lead to a new practitioner programme called the Cube of Karma that I had no plan in developing. I see it now as a gastronomic recipe of all the flavours of thought.

None of this was planned, none of it was foreseen. This all shows the power of a true Mind Map.

Related Links:

The Art and Science of Light Bulb Moments

Flavours of Thought

Mapping your Mind

Mind Maps are useful and elegantly simple devices.

In essence, Mind Maps are simple drawings or sketches of associations you hold between things in your mind. They normally start with a central topic, either in words or even better if expressed as an image. You then draw branches off from that image of the concepts that spawn from the central image.

So if you Mind Mapped something relatively trivial like a shopping list you might have a central image of a shopping trolley and branches such as fruit & veg, household, frozen food, beer & wine, dairy and desserts. You can see what my typical shopping list is like. To make it even more memorable, you can use images of products on each branch.

What makes such a trivial Mind Map so powerful is that with a little training, you can forget to take the shopping list along, yet easily memorise all of its contents. I always Mind Map any talk I give on a single sheet of paper and am then able to reproduce all the points I want to get across without any notes or slides.

How do Mind Maps work

You can just imagine the internal dialog between the hemispheres when you are Mind Mapping.

The left brain says to the right brain, “Aha, a map! I do the map reading around here, leave this to me.”

The right brain, seeing that the left brain is busying itself in the detail says, “Great, now I can be truly creative.”

The same type of ‘dialog’ occurs when we are painting or writing or when we’re typing on a computer or using a mouse or tablet.
So most of our days are spent flipping from one hemisphere to another. It used to be thought that the structure called the corpus callosum mainly passed information between both sides of the brain. Current wisdom is that it actually suppresses one side while the other carries out a task. The map gets both sides of the brain in on the action.

Their real power is unleashed when you map associatively, i.e. using one word per branch, as this takes you off in unexpected directions and mimics our neurons’ interconnective structure.

“It is my firm belief that every brain is, by nature, a Mind Mapper! The fact that a baby learns a language is evidence confirming that it must learn by multi-sensual images and their radiating associations. I also believe that everyone contains the full set of multiple intelligences.” – Tony Buzan

Although there are many good software-based Mind Mapping tools on the market, some of the best Mind Maps are done with just coloured pens, pencils and paper. The reason for this is that some people can end up in a left brained mode simply by engaging with a computer keyboard, screen and mouse. When we have a pen or pencil in our hands not only do we use different neural pathways in our brains but the map manifests into physical, as opposed to virtual, reality. This leads to a better chance of your map leading to real world results. If however you do want use computer software, make sure you print your maps out and stick them on a notice board or wall.

“Be aware that many so-called Mind Maps are really just brain maps. Only when you engage in Whole Mind Not-thinking do you truly engage with the mind as opposed to just the brain.” – Me

When it comes to whole brain thinking, the impact of Mind Maps is explosive in the context of the creativity they seem to unleash. They are also really useful for aiding memory and brilliant for anyone studying and revising. If you do have children, my advice is to get them Mind Mapping as soon as possible.

Embedding Mind Maps in your Neurology

If you have a Mind Map you’ve already completed, you can use this visualisation to help you both remember it and to better notice serendipities linked to its contents

iPad or iPhone? Listen here…

If you would you like to learn more about these techniques, make sure you get a copy of Tom’s new book to find out where ideas really come from and how you can make sure yours actually happen …

The Art and Science of Light Bulb Moments

Related blogs:

Getting in the Zone

Whole Brain Thinking

The Inspirational Breath

Cross Crawling

Food for Thought

Which side are you on?

Embedding Mind Maps in your Neurology

embedding mind mapsThis visualisation started life as one of the components of the Unleash the Book Inside workshop and home study course.

In the workshops, I found that the students started to get huge flashes of inspiration when I combined Mind Mapping with simple simple contemplative and meditative techniques.

This version of the visualisation is more generic such that you can use it on any Mind Map whether hand drawn or computer generated. Note though, if you do use software Mind Mapping, it’s a good idea to use a print out first. This visualisation takes a Mind Map and embeds it into your cellular neurology such that two things start to happen.


Firstly, you commit it to memory much better.

Secondly that you become better at noticing coincidences and serendipities associated with elements on the map. For example, if your map contains your goals and ambitions for the year, you start to become luckier. If you are writing a book, you come across information and ideas that help you in ways that seem uncanny.

I do this before I do a talk. Firstly, I Mind Map the talk some days before and I seal it in my neurology at the time. Then just before I go into the event, I repeat the visualisation – works every time.

This visualisation is part of the MP3 Guided Visualisation Pack that accompany my book Blocks …
and the Art and Science of Light Bulb Moments