Traditional goal-setting techniques tend to be very linear. That is, they offer a series of planning steps or questions, arranged in a logical order or hierarchy. The reader writes down any ideas or associations these questions bring to mind, again, usually in a list. Unfortunately, these exercises fail to draw upon the right hemisphere of the brain, which responds to images, symbols and pictures. For most people, living in left-brained, logical, orderly societies, this section of our thinking apparatus is something like an untapped gold mine between our ears.
Nancy Margulies, who contributed a chapter on visual mapping in Joyce Wycoff’s and Tim Richardson’s excellent book Transformation Thinking, offers a unique creative visualization exercise that can help you to utilize more of your mind’s vast potential. Rather than writing out a list of thoughts and ideas about a goal, she recommends drawing a “Mindscape” of it – a simple drawing that represents its various aspects in pictures instead of words.
Mindscapes encourage us to find visual metaphors for our situations – goals can be shown at the end of a road or in clouds overhead. We can depict roadblocks, possible dead ends, bridges, sidetracks and other challenges of journeying toward a goal,” she explains.
Once, Margulies asked executives of a major chemical company to each draw a Mindscape depicting a major objective reached at some time in their careers, using a hike to the top of a mountain as the setting – a “Trek Mindscape.” This visual model helped these executives acknowledge past successes in their lives, identify the types of resources they used and the barriers they overcame.
Anyone with rudimentary doodling skills can create compelling, thought-provoking Mindscapes. Just remember that your goal isn’t to create a work of art, but to get your brain to reveal something to you about a past success or current objective, using visual metaphors. As you draw the shapes and symbols for various elements of your Mindscape, be sure to leave room within them or draw one or two lines next to them, where you can write a few words describing what each one means to you. Here are some idea-starters for visual symbols you could include in a Trek Mindscape:
A cloud: The goal or objective.
A mountain: The journey to reach the goal. Use two parallel, curving lines to depict a path up the mountain.
Base camp (a small tent): The current situation.
Boxes and other shapes: Supplies, tools or resources needed to reach the goal or scale the mountain.
“Stick people:” Teammates, business associates, family, friends or any others who can help you to reach this goal.
Boulders blocking the path: Obstacles that must be surmounted in the attainment of your goal.
As you explore this technique, keep in mind that this Trek is just one example of a Mindscape. As you gain confidence in your mind’s latent visualization powers, let your imagination run wild and create other new settings for your goal-setting adventures – and begin tapping rich new veins in that gold mine between your ears!