A Goal Setting Tool I Taught In School – 5 Lessons Learned

While browsing in a second hand bookshop over 20 years ago, I came across Tony Buzan’s ‘Use Your Head’ book. This was my first formal introduction to the concepts and possibilities of mind mapping. I was inspired enough by the ideas in the book to experiment with them while I was a high school science teacher.

This article highlights the goal setting lessons learned from those educational
experiences.

1 – Use What Works:
Children under a heavy school workload were well accustomed to taking piles of notes. Things may have changed for the better since the 1980s but that was the reality back then. Understandably, my students were initially not quite sure how to respond to this mind mapping test period! Mind mapping therefore had to be selectively added alongside the traditional note taking experience.

Goal Setting Lesson:
Experiment with mind mapping for specific topics and use note taking as an addendum for any details you believe have been missed.

2 – Hard Habit To Break:
Copious note taking definitely needs time and energy – however, it also encourages the poor mental habits that are rote copying from a text or taking dictation from the teacher. Unfortunately, most of my students were locked into this habit.

Goal Setting Lesson:
Take your favorite personal development book and read one goal setting chapter. Then close the book and summarize the title of that chapter as one word in the middle of a piece of paper. Then let your imagination go to work and recall at least five keyword concepts from the chapter and add them as single word branches to your map.

3 – Patience:
Novice mind mappers often get annoyed with their limited ability to remember keywords from the pages they have just read. The main thing here really is having the ‘patience’ to ride out the mistakes made when learning and applying yourself to mind mapping.

Goal Setting Lesson:
Practice your nascent mapping skills on something deeply personal to you. Your imagination will feel rather like a bird might do when soaring on thermals – just let the keywords come to mind as you focus on the goal and add them to the map with a pencil. For my high school students this was a challenging skill to pick up because we had conditioned them over many years to expect to cram huge amounts of knowledge onto paper.

4- One Word:
This is perhaps the hardest task of all! It is a lot easier to write a sentence or two than condensing the meaning into just one word. Of course there are some unique challenges when applying the keyword approach to topics such as mathematical proofs or scientific formula. These don’t easily lend themselves to traditional mapping techniques – hence my advice around using what works.

Goal Setting Lesson:
Pick out the optimal summary keyword and start with that, leaving the nested sub-branches and supporting linear notes to take care of the details as and when they come to you.

5 – Review:
Could this be homework! Not really. Mind maps change in emphasis over time and will therefore have to be looked at on a regular basis. In the early 1980s, when the few available PCs had something called a 640K DOS memory limit(!!), manually erasing and updating mind map branches was a real hassle – my classes hated to do it!

What a contrast with the broadband Internet world and the specialized mind mapping applications of the early 21st century!

Goal Setting Lesson:
Investigate the functions of commercial and freeware software packages as a possible goal setting tool. Most “to buy” software usually has a free trial period where you can download it for 30 days or so at no cost.