Tag Archive | Mind-Mapping

On Goals and Models

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“It’s important to set SMART goals.”

“Remind me what SMART stands for.”

“Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound.”

“We can nuance this discussion – and any discussion – by using mental models.

You can metaphorically think of them as lenses through which we examine the issue.

Several models are particularly useful in this endeavor: 
Levels of Magnification [<link; short read]

By using them, we get several more useful goals-related models.

Through the focus lens we get:
process goals – goals where you’re focused on the process (eg write for an hour)
outcome goals – goals where you’re focused on the outcome (eg write an article)

Through the length lens we get: 
– short-term goals
long-term goals
– lifelong goals

“What if I’m also interested in medium-term goals?”

“We can switch to a more granular lens:
– short/medium/long
– short/medium/long/very long

Through the size lens we get:
big goals
small goals

Through the level of magnification lens we get:
– macro goals
– micro goals

“Aren’t these last two a bit redundant?”

“Using different metaphoric models can open up radical new insights.

For instance big goals prompts the use of Big Thinking [<link; medium read], an extraordinarily powerful model.

Through the finitude lens we get:
– finite goals
– infinite goals

Through the meaning lens we get:
intrinsic goals – goals that are meaningful in themselves
extrinsic goals – goals that are instrumental to achieving other goals

The more lenses you use, the more nuanced the potential analysis.

SMART goals are outcome goals. Outcome goals are important, but only on the background of bigger goals.

You can metaphorically think of it as levels of magnification. As you keep zooming out, you see bigger and bigger goals.

The biggest most powerful goals are those you cannot reach.

“Like Mastery?”


Access / Retrieval System

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How can I access my mental resources more effectively?”

“This is an important ongoing project of mine, which I call the Access / Retrieval System. This is part of a much larger project, which I call Operationalizing Knowledge [<link; short length].

The Access / Retrieval System is essentially a mental-checklist. More specifically, it is a combination between a checklist and a mindmap – a mindmap-checklist. It looks something like this:

A mindmap-checklist

All the nodes are mental resources.

C is the central access-point.
1, 2, 3 are micro-checklists.
Together they form the macro-checklist.

If the access order of the micro-checklists matters, it is a linear-checklist. Otherwise, it is a nonlinear-checklist.”

“What’s the reasoning behind it?”

“Think how many nodes this little network has.”


“That’s a lot of information to access at once, especially when in the heat of the moment. By sequencing it, you make it more manageable, hence usable.

In case of linear-checklists, the access-order is as follows:

– 1
— a1
— b1
— c1
– 2

In case of nonlinear-checklists, the access-order is as follows:

– x
– x
– x

I like to describe this one as ‘1-3‘ – you access 1 node, followed by 3 more.

At this stage you evaluate which micro-checklist is most useful for the situation at hand, and start with accessing that.”

On dealing with negative thoughts

To give one small illustration, whenever somebody is unkind to me, I can immediately unroll the panorama of that person’s good qualities. Instantly the balance is set right. As with most skills, this is a matter of practice. When you are having trouble getting along with someone, a simple first step is to sit down quietly and recall how many times that person has given you support. You are using positive memories to drive out negative ones before they have a chance to crowd together and form a mob, which is all resentment really is.

The first strategy is literally ‘changing one thought for another’: a negative thought for a positive one, an unkind thought for a kind one. ‘Just as a carpenter uses a small peg to drive out a bigger one,’ the Buddha says, ‘you can use a right thought to drive out one that is wrong.’

(Eknath Eswaran, Conquest of Mind)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What’s your practice for dealing with negative thoughts?”

“The essence of the practice is, in Eknath Eswaran’s words,

changing one thought for another: a negative thought for a positive one, an unkind thought for a kind one.

Whenever a negative thought arises, I think/feel ‘Loving Kindness‘, and say to myself: ‘I love you Dani‘.

“You can take it one step further.

Turn negative thoughts into creative inspiration.”


“Think of the negative thought as a seed, from which you branch out to create a beautiful tree.”

“Like a mind-map?”

“Precisely. A mental mind-map focused on positivity and beauty.

You can even have a word or phrase that initiates the process.

For me it’s Connections.

What if you’re dealing with recurring negative thoughts?”

“Think of each as one more rep(etition), one more beautiful opportunity for practice.”

The Connections Game

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“If you were to choose one game that best describes you, what would it be?”

“The Connections Game.”

“What’s it about?”

I love playing with making connections between things. There’s lots of ways you can play with it, and I’m playing with discovering more.

One of my favorites is connecting the seemingly unconnected. Pick any two things, and find connections between them. I like to play it with pencil and paper, mind-mapping style. Write down the two things in the center of the page, connect them with a line, and expand in all directions.

Another of my favorites is another mind-mapping style game. This one I play mentally. Pick any object in the environment. This becomes the center of the mind-map. Now start making connections and bring to mind things that are meaningful to you. They can be anything: memories, ideas, people, quotes, etc.”

“Is the goal to focus only on things directly related to the chosen object?”

“That’s one possible game. But my preferred game is that which ultimately takes you to those things that are most deeply meaningful to you. This way, any object in the environment becomes a magical portal into your Heart.

I call this game Connections-Anchoring.”

Representational-Models 2

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“You can think of your life in many ways:

The Beautiful Game
The Beautiful Practice
The Beautiful Adventure
Your Hero Quest
Your Playful Path
Your Master’s Journey

If you were to choose ONE, what would it be?”

The Art of Learning.

“Why that one?”

“All those are representational-models [<link; medium read]. They’re also metaphoric-models. Together they complement one another [<link; short], creating a more vivid representation. Together they form one system of meaning.

You’ve listed them sequentially, but the best way to visualize them is as a network, because they’re interconnected.

As you know, the central focus of my life is implementation. So I’m interested in how to practically make use of that system of meaning, how to turn it into active-knowledge [<link; medium read].

The key is access.

Going back to the network representation of the system, you can’t consciously access the entire network at once, especially when dealing with large networks.

The solution?

You need to create a center, a node that is connected to all other nodes, whose role is retrieval. I call this node the access-point, which allows you to reconstruct the entire network.”

“Makes me think of a mind-map.”

“That’s exactly what it is. The mind-map used as a mental model.

Now, going back to your initial question:

What’s the best access-point for this system of meaning?

Since we’re dealing with representations, the best access point is the most vivid representation, and one which also inspires and gives direction.

Yet another instance of stacking.”


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How can I get better at asking questions?”

“Ask a million of them, reconnect with the Child Within.

Practice asking questions constantly. Every single day.

Think of it as an Art and a Game (Art/Game [<link; short read]).”

“How do you practice it?”

“One way I like to do it is with a little game I call connections-mapping.

Questions-mapping is basically mind-mapping with questions.”

“Do you write down the questions?”

“Mind-mapping works best when you use single-words.

One approach is identical to the normal mind-map: you start with a central idea or question in the middle of the page, and spread radially in all directions. The difference is, at every step of the process, you convert the word into a practical question.

Another approach is to start with a central idea, and radially connect it with one-word question-kernels: why, what, what if, how, etc. Starting from each first-level node, you can only expand by asking questions of that particular type. For instance from the what node you can only expand by asking what questions.

As with any game, playing with variations is a game in itself.”

The Connections Journal

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Do you use mind-maps?”

“Yes and no.

Yes, in that I love the idea behind the system.
No, because I find the system a bit restrictive.”

“Restrictive in what way?”

“The mind-mapping system represents things with a tree-like structure, starting from one central point. That is useful, but I very often find myself wanting to connect the different branches. For me, a more useful model is the network.

So I don’t use mind maps, I use what I call connections-maps.”

“You like connecting things.”

“I love connecting things. 

A recent idea of mine is to start a journal just for that. I call it the Connections Journal.