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Mind Maps in Action: Life Coaching

In this instalment of our 'Mind Maps in Action' series, we hear from Adam Sicinski - life coach and founder of IQ Matrix. Here, Adam speaks of his experiences with mind mapping, it's applications in his life coaching career and how it even earned him celebrity status!!

Could you tell us a little about yourself and the work you do on a daily basis?

I guess I'm a life coach who at some point converted to a passionate mind mapper. I initially started out working as a life coach helping people to work through problems, overcome obstacles and achieve their goals. The typical things that life coaches do. However, over time I discovered the incredible value of working with mind maps and began to turn my coaching knowledge and experience into maps that others could use as a primary self-coaching tool.

Today I still do some coaching, however my main focus is on developing self-coaching/self-growth mind maps that my customers and online readers can use as handy reference tools to help them overcome obstacles, eliminate self-sabotage patterns and achieve their goals.

The maps I create are not typical mind maps that follow Tony Buzan's rules of mind mapping to the letter. I've deviated somewhat from Tony Buzan's guidelines for mind mapping, however Tony Buzan has certainly been one of my greatest mentors along this journey.

I call my maps IQ Matrices. I've created over 250 IQ Matrix maps on various self-growth and life coaching topics over a period of 5 years. I sell these maps on my website as digital downloads and as physical posters.

When and how did you first come across mind mapping?

I first came across mind mapping while attending university. I was browsing the university library and I came across one of Tony Buzan's mind mapping books. Back then the concept of making a living using mind maps of course never crossed my mind, however the process of improving my ability to learn and remember information much more readily and easily using mind maps absolutely intrigued me.

I was very much an average student with an average memory. There was really nothing special about me. But using mind maps seemed to work to my strengths and allowed me to organize the information I was learning very effectively in a more visual way. Not only that, but I was also able to remember and recall that information very quickly in ways I had never imagined was possible. This was exactly what I was looking for to help me through my university exams.

And I of course made full use of mind mapping while at university. Coming into every lecture everyone would pull out their laptops or notepads. I would come in with four colored pens and large A3 sheets of paper all ready to mind map my lecture notes. It was of course weird and unusual for most who hadn't been exposed to mind mapping before. They wondered what on earth I was doing. I got some strange reactions and at times some criticism. However, I guess the perks were that I became somewhat of a celebrity thanks to my mind map making. :)

What motivated you to start the IQ Matrix site, and can you give us an overview of what it's all about?

Two events led me to the creation of the IQ Matrix concept. The first path stems back to my life coaching work. While coaching my clients there was a missing element. I felt as though I needed to provide them with a tool that they could use in between our sessions. Often we covered so much over a period of one session, but by the time they walked away from that session they didn't have anything tangible to work with. I felt I needed to give them something tangible they could take away and use as a guidance tool to help them put the points we discussed into action. Mind maps were of course that missing ingredient.

At the same time while all this was going on, an entrepreneur friend of mine saw a MindManager map I had created for my life coaching business. He absolutely loved the map and asked me if I could possibly create more of these maps for his customer base. His customers were high school students who were looking for effective study materials to help them prepare for their examinations. What he needed was for me to summarize English Literature books in a mind map format that he wanted to turn into a poster that students would hang on their wall for easy reference. I reluctantly agreed. I was reluctant because I had no idea how to create visually appealing maps that people would want to buy. MindManager was fantastic for my own personal use, but I didn't feel it was flashy enough to sell to the mass market.

After a little research, I thankfully found a way to produce these maps in a more visually appealing way using graphics type of software. I ended up producing about 20 maps for him that first year. The maps sold really well and as a result this gave me the idea to produce more maps of this type for my life coaching work. And of course this eventually led to the launch of IQmatrix.com in late 2008.

What do you perceive to be the greatest benefits of mind mapping?

Mind maps are the ultimate organization tool for my thoughts. Over the years I've read many books and collected an incredible amount of information about self-improvement, neural linguistic programming and life coaching. Mind maps, and in particular MindManager software allowed me to organize this information in a practical and helpful way. It helped me make sense of everything because when I organized this information into a mind map I got a "big picture" overview of the subject matter. I could see how one topic was connected to another and it just helped me to make sense of everything very quickly. In fact, these mind maps allowed me to see connections that I would not have otherwise spotted. As a result I was able to get a better understanding about specific topics. I subsequently gained more clarity about how to process and best use this information in my own life. Of course mind maps help with memory and recall.

However, what I value most about mind maps is that they provide me the ability to move branches/topics around freely and make new connections. It kind of feels like reaching into my brain and physically organizing my thoughts. That's really the greatest benefit I've found with using mind maps.

How would you convince a cynic to give mapping a try?

I guess it would depend on what purpose they would potentially be using mind maps for. Do they want to organize information? Are they trying to learn something? Are they working through a problem or attempting to brainstorm ideas? I think that the best way to convince someone of the value of mind mapping would be to first find out exactly what they are trying to do; secondly to break down the process they are using to do that; thirdly to get them to acknowledge the flaws in that process, and fourthly to then show them how they can do exactly that in a better way using mind maps. Of course understanding their goal, purpose and needs is the key. Without this understanding it would be difficult to convince anyone otherwise. I think it's important to first show them that you understand the value of the way they are working through things. Then get them to acknowledge the flaws in this process. Once they agree that there are flaws in the way they are working, then they will be more open to alternative suggestions coming in the form of mind mapping. And if that doesn't work, just hand them one of Tony Buzan's books. :)

What do you think could be done to encourage wider use of mapping?

I think it begins at school. At the youngest of age kids should be encouraged to use mind maps. More specifically they need to be taught about the value of using mind maps and in general visual thinking tools. We are biologically hardwired to think visually. In fact, 75 percent of the neurons in the brain are assigned to the visual processing of information. However the school system doesn't necessarily encourage visual/creative thinking. And this is the main reason why some kids struggle at school. There are better and more effective ways of learning, thinking and organizing information. But most schools just don't yet get it. They don't even teach kids how to learn and study more effectively. They just tell them what they need to learn and leave the "how to" part out of the equation. When kids are encouraged to use mind mapping and to think visually from the youngest of age, they develop habits that last a lifetime. These habits follow them into adulthood and in the long-term this will certainly encourage the wider use of mind mapping in various fields, industries and specialties.

What is the most unusual/creative use of a mind map that you've come across?

I love the idea of a mind map resume. If you do a search online you will find some fantastic examples of people who have turned their resume into a mind map. It's certainly something that can help you standout in a crowded and often very competitive job market. In fact, anything that can help us stand out can make a difference between getting an interview or getting overlooked altogether. I think these visual resume's work well because they provide a one page overview of who we are and the experience we have had. But I think the most valuable thing about them is that these mind maps provide insights into your personality and potentially into an undisclosed skill set. They show that you are a lateral thinker who might be able to bring a little creative energy into the workplace. In this day and age to get ahead you need to stand out. You need to do something different, something that's a little outside the box. Mind mapping your resume is certainly one of many creative ways to get that edge.

Would you like to add anything else?

Yes, I would like to mention the incredible value of Biggerplate and the unrivaled repository of mind mapping resources available through the site. Every mind map downloaded is like stepping into the mind of a complete stranger who has given a lot of thought about their chosen topic. You see how they have organized their thoughts and get a sense of who they are through their choice of words and through the presentation of their mind map. Every map is like having a personal conversation with that person. However, instead of listening to their words you get insights into their thoughts, ideas and perspectives. In fact, you may come across several maps exploring the same topic, and yet every one of them is presented in a unique way that expresses each individual's personality and insights. Biggerplate is like an encyclopedia of the human mind — of many minds working together in a collective way to help individuals better understand the world, and to better understand themselves through other people's thoughts. Therefore every time you share a mind map on Biggerplate you are not only sharing your thoughts with others, you are helping others to better understand their world and to better understand themselves through your mind maps. You are essentially helping people to find answers to their own pressing problems using your own thoughts and perspectives. As such the greatest gift that you could possibly give to someone you will never meet doesn't come in the form of money, but rather in the form of a mind map.

A huge thank you to Adam for sharing his insights with us! You can check out IQ Matrix by clicking here. You can also find Adam on Biggerplate and follow him on Twitter. If you have a 'Mind Maps in Action' story you would like to share with us, get in touch on Twitter or leave a comment below.

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Barney is Community Manager at Biggerplate and shares user stories, mind mapping tips, and other news and updates from our global member community!
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