When you were in school, did you ever use outlines? Of course, you did. You listed the main points of your subject with the capital letters. Then if you had sub-points, you listed them under the main heading using numbers. Then if you had points under that, you used lower case letters.
For example, if you had to memorize facts about various countries, you would first list the countries with capital letters. For example, A. Italy; B. France; C. England; D. Germany; E. The United States; and F. Japan.
Then you would list main cities in each country. For example, under E. United States, you list: 1. Washington, D.C.; 2. New York; 3. Los Angeles; 4. Chicago; and 5. Philadelphia. Then if you had facts about each city, you listed them under with small letters. Under Philadelphia, you would have: a. Independence Hall; B. Liberty Bell; and so forth.
In this article, we are going to learn a more visually stimulating and fun way to do this. It is Mind Mapping. You will need a piece of paper and crayons or magic markers to do this. You will need to make your own pictures, but that can be fun, and it will make more sense to you when you create your own.
Before, I gave an example of how you can do a walk-through to remember details of a speech. You picked your house or an area that you frequent and knew well. You then placed items in the different rooms or landmarks that triggered a memory of the items.
With the mind-mapping technique, you start in the middle of the page and draw something that makes you think of your main idea. Then you branch out, creating a branch for each idea. Make each branch its own color, and you can have twigs coming out that are the same color.
Here is an example of a eulogy I gave recently for my father: First, I drew a picture of him in the middle of the page. Each branch stood out from there.
The first branch was childhood memories. I used red for that branch because, as a child, red was my favorite color. There were two sub-branches. One for the fun times, and one for his high concern for our safety.
The safety branch contained a picture of a seatbelt that was so complex that the child could barely move. That triggered the thought that he was so concerned for our safety, along with an example of how we had strong seatbelts.
As you move along the childhood memory branch, the next sub-branch is a long one—childhood memories. It contained three pictures of doing different things on the beach, including diving in the water after our buckets, flying kites, and tossing a football. There was also a picture of him coming home from work and us greeting him with excitement.
The next branch was the ‘preparation for life’ branch. I made it green because it is the color of plants which grow. The first sub-branch included a book and a trumpet. He once advised me that if I became the best student and excelled in an activity, I would gain the respect of my schoolmates. With that thought, I added a picture of a kid saluting. Then there was a picture of a boy walking with pride and confidence. He taught me to walk like I own the school, with confidence.
Then as I went further up the green branch, there was the ‘difficult people’ branch. I pictured a person yelling and acting juvenile, and another person with his back turned, ignoring it. This signified: when people act with disrespect, just ignore them. The second picture of the difficult people showed an office with two people talking behind someone’s back. Then the person excluded chases the other one around. His advice was that you need to chase some people at work around so they get honest with you.
With these examples, have you noticed how you can create a picture of an abstract concept? This is one way that Mind Mapping can help you to remember something that does not lend itself to picturing. You simply create a picture and draw it.
The third branch of my mind map was silver. This was to represent psychological and spiritual development. My father taught me my first lessons in cognitive psychology. I pictured the book How to be Your Own Best Friend at one stop. Then, further along, a book on mysticism.
The final branch led downward. It was pink—we had arranged that my sister would follow me in the sequence, so it was pink to remind me of my sister.
So now you have an example of mind mapping and how you can use it to remember a speech. You could use it if you have to make a speech for work, for school, or a funeral. When you have to do something when you are upset, it is great to have a technique to guide you, especially when you are least able to think clearly.
What about mind mapping for school? You can use the same technique if you have a long detailed list of things that you need to memorize and see the connections to each other.
For example, let’s take the list of things I used at the beginning of this article. We can fast map the facts about the countries and cities.
First, since the theme is countries, you could draw a globe in the middle of your paper. Then each branch will represent a country.
For the colors of the branches, you could choose one color that is in each flag. Let’s start with an Italy Branch. Italy’s flag is green, white, and red. Let’s use green for the Italy Branch. Then you have Rome. Picture the Pope or the courtyard in the Vatican. Rome is the first branch. Then the second branch in Venice. Picture canals. Then the third branch in Florence. Picture a painting since Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance.
Then you have a branch for France. Its flag is blue, white, and red. The France branch is blue. Then you picture a building in Paris, then you can have sub-branches for anything else about Paris. Then you could have another branch for Nice and another for Lyon.
Next, we have England. We can use red for England, as the cross on the Union Jack is red. Now we have a branch for London, we can picture Big Ben. Then a picture for Manchester—a soccer ball, as the city is known for its soccer or football as they say there.
Then we have the Germany branch. Let’s use gold, as that is a color somewhat unique to their flag. A sub-branch is for Berlin. Those of us who are old enough can draw a wall to represent the old Berlin wall. Then you have a beer mug to represent Munich, Bavarian Beer.
The United States is our next branch. If you use white paper to draw your mind map, white is the only color in the American flag that is not taken. It can be difficult to draw a white branch on white paper. Let’s use Navy Blue for America, as they have a strong military. You can create pictures for Washington, D.C., maybe the White House or the Capital Building. Then for New York, the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty. For Chicago, you can picture wind. For Los Angeles, picture the Coliseum. Before, I gave examples for Philadelphia.
You can add to the branches any specific information that you need to know about the category. You have no limits to what you can use mind mapping for.
If you read this and concern yourself that you are not much of an artist, the iMindMap software is a good tool to download. Pardon the pun, but if you use the iMindMap software, you can virtually create an unlimited mind map of anything and of any size.
If you have read all the articles up to this point, you have learned several ways to improve your memory using your imagination. Mind Mapping is a visual tool. Many of us are visual learners but not all us. Some people learn better by hearing and sound. They are visual learners. Musicians, good speakers, and people with a good voice are more auditory or sound oriented than visual people. Then there are the kinesthetic learners—they learn more through touch and emotion. Athletes and massage practitioners are kinesthetic learners.
Sometimes you can change your approach by making your pictures you create to fit your style. For example, if you are an auditory learner, you could include—in the picture of the beer mug—the loud noise in a bar. If you are a kinesthetic learner, imagine how cold the glass feels when you pick it up.
You can remember anything if you adjust the technique to your style. In future articles, we will cover more ways to do it.