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Doodling My Way to Loving Mind Maps

Guadalupe Hirt, 47, Co-Founder & CCO of SecondAct|Women

Regardless of where I am, be it in a meeting, on the phone, or on a Zoom call, I can assure you I’m listening but odds are I’m also randomly drawing funky shapes, patterns or abstract sketches on my paper. Not sure when this all started, but I am a busy hands doodler.

I’m the one who sat side-saddled at her desk tapping a pencil, the one who turned in homework assignments with bonus sketches strewn about the page, the girl who loved art class but wasn’t the best at it, and is constantly playing with her face. Um yes…that last one has been sheer torture over the past several weeks! But I digress.

As an adult, I have refrained from turning in business plans or client deliverable with one-of-a-kind Lupe sketches, but if you were to have a peek at my notebook or planner, that would paint a whole different kinda picture.

So of course, I was jazzed to be part of a mind mapping session we hosted with Insider Club member Kim Riley of Living Connections & Red Sulphur this week. The workshop supply list: 1) two 11×17 sheets of paper, 2) pencils, crayons, pens and 3) a candle. Now that’s my kinda work list!

While the doodler inside was amped to take part in this session, the adult side of me was a little hesitant. You see, I’ve never done a mind map before and from what I’ve heard from others, there’s a lot of digging deep, soul searching and reveals that can happen during one of these exercises – which I guess is the point – but it was 10am and I wasn’t 100% with it.

Here goes, a little more about me…I am not a big fan of change, even though I know it’s a normal part of life. My brain went into question mode. How much would I need to “really” share? What if I learned things about myself, I didn’t want to know? What if this session forced me to change? I had to shelf those fears and just say yes to the mind map, aka art project. And so there I was, a pile of pencils scattered about my desk, two blank sheets ready to be transformed into art and a vanilla scented candle in the background to set the mood.

As we started, I was relieved to hear that I wasn’t the only newbie! Have you done one? Many of the SecondAct|Women that joined had not created a mind map either (except for my over-achiever, eager-beaver business partner Barbara, who’s done everything-literally). Instant relief. I could feel the tension easing up a little. Time to get started.

In case you don’t know (because I didn’t), a mind map is a diagram used to visually organize information. Now there’s no right or wrong way to draw your mind map, but there are five things that mind maps have in common:

  1. Central idea. This can be a word(s), phrase or question that is often written in a circle in the center of the page.
  2. Main themesSimilar to the central idea, this can be a word, phrase or question that radiates from the central idea with connecting lines or arrows and is placed inside smaller circles surrounding the central idea.
  3. Sub-theme branches. Each main theme has lines that branch outward. Each line has supporting words or phrases that support the circled theme.
  4. Repeat as needed. There is no limit to the amount of levels you can use to flush out your central idea. While there will be some cross over, the goal is to distill the central idea to a level that gives you what you need to get clarity.
  5. Colors and graphics. Use colors to help make the mind map effective and easily to identify for thought organization.

Since this workshop was about using mind maps to find your purpose, we used our name at the center of the first diagram and then used a series of questions as prompts to guide our thinking. The questions were:

At first, I didn’t know where to start but then I stopped trying to think it through and just wrote. There were a couple of instances when I was wishing for an 11×17 sheet since my 8×11 was running out of room. I was on a roll, feeling pretty effective and since I was drawing, feeling pretty happy go lucky. And then I stopped and just stared at this question: What am I here to teach? Blank. Blank thought. Blank stare. I caught myself staring at the wall, stretching for no reason, and tapping my pencil.

I was stuck. In fact, I finished the exercise with all other questions answered and that one lonely question was dotted with question marks. Why? Why was this question so hard to answer?

As we moved from the mind maps onto sharing and Q&A, I was seriously perplexed and was beginning to feel down on myself. And then the session got real. Did I mention this is why I LOVE our community so much and why I would suggest doing a mind map in a group?

Just like I wasn’t the only one who had never done a mind map, I too wasn’t the only one struggling to answer these questions. In short, we all were working through sh*t that resurfaced as we began to work through the question prompts. The questions I was beating myself up pre-session, had now turned into authentic shares by brave, willing women that stepped into this exercise with an open heart and a willingness to be vulnerable judgement free. It was magical.

Personally, I know that my issue stems from a lack of confidence in the value I bring to the table. This is something that has haunted me for as long as I can remember. But what was revealing about this exercise though was that it gave me a new tool to breakdown and work through these feelings and thoughts – kind of like peeling back the layers of an onion. I didn’t need to know the answer right away. I gave myself the grace to put a pin in this question and come back to it, but now with a new tool in hand to move through it and make real progress.

For starters, I guess I just taught you the value of a mind map! LOL.

Guadalupe Hirt (46) is the co-founder and CCO of SecondActWomen. Founded to rescript the social narrative that women 40 & 50+ are past their prime, SecondActWomen is an IRL and virtual club platform that doubles as a resource hub and community support system to spur the careers, business ventures and big ideas of women in middlescence.