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Mind Maps in Action: "Mind mapping made me a better coach, and even a better person."

In this latest instalment of our 'Mind Maps in Action' blog post series, we talk to Marina De Roover about her work with students with learning difficulties and how mind maps have helped to change their lives, and hers!

Could you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?

I’m a firm believer in ‘justice’. Because of my studies, background and personal experiences, I believe there are no ‘boxes’ that we fit in. But society is all about ‘boxes’. If you can’t read quick enough, you are dyslexic. If you aren’t social enough, you’re autistic. Don’t get me wrong, these diagnoses are very important, but they sometimes ‘restrict’ people to follow their instincts. That’s a shame. The sky is the limit; if you believe you can, you CAN. It can be difficult and different from ‘what is expected’, but it’s worth it!

In 2012 I started as a self-employed coach for pupils and students with learning difficulties. Their self-esteem problems often overshadowed their great possibilities. I started to coach them in studying techniques and tried to give them back some trust and self-esteem. This started very small but grew fast thanks to word-of-mouth advertising. My background (I studied Speech and Language therapy) helped to build a good foundation for this coaching. I kept on learning by reading books, following magazines and attending open courses.

I like to quote Einstein, because it hits the mark:
"Everybody is a Genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid." (Albert Einstein)

Everybody is a Genius, if you allow them to use the right tools. Therefore I named my website ‘climbing fish’. This is my personal business in which I provide specialised coaching for students of all ages, but also specialised Mind Map workshops and training.

I started to cooperate with other therapists to provide lectures about visual thinking. Together with my Flemish TLI – partner (Think Buzan Licensed Instructor), we provide public workshops and in house courses.

How were you first introduced to mind mapping?

I followed a theoretical Bachelor degree as a speech and language therapist. I couldn’t find myself in some educational systems or techniques, because I think we judge people by emphasizing their disabilities. I want to start with their abilities.

Then, in 2011, I met Bernard Lernout, a great Mind Map Instructor in Belgium. I learned a lot from him and I wanted to follow his lead. After two years I decided it was time to meet the inventor of Mind Mapping and my greatest example, Tony Buzan. That’s how I decided to get accredited. So I became a TLI (Think Buzan Licensed Instructor).

What do you think are the greatest benefits of mapping?

Use your creativity to unlock the power of your brain, as Tony Buzan says. That’s wonderful! And it’s true. Mind mapping is very efficient and fun at the same time. It inspires me in so many ways. But maybe I can start with Tony’s line: a Mind Map is the Swiss army knife for the brain.

Mind mapping made me a better coach, and even a better person. I’m more aware of my own abilities myself. Imagination and association: keywords in mind mapping as in life as well…

What prompted you to start your current business?

The key moment just came half a year ago (may 2014). A student with Autism e-mailed me the quote of Einstein with these words: ‘Marina, this is what you did to me’. That was an eye-opener. It moved me emotionally. I was able to help her grow, to finish university, and now she said thanks to me in this very special personal way. It made me glow in the dark ;-).

I plan to open doors for all the students, all the people interested in lifelong learning and companies who want to learn to think outside the box and be creative. I want to continue personal coaching but I would like to combine this with organising Mind Map courses myself.

What sort of response do you get from students, clients and colleagues when you introduce them to mapping?

Most students already learned about Mind Maps in school. BUT… These are mostly ‘proto-mind maps’, black and white, very few icons and pictures… So it doesn’t really hit the mark.

I always start out with reading techniques so they learn to detect key words. Then I let them use their imagination. ‘Which picture do you see?’ ‘What color does this remind you off?’. We start doodling, experimenting and before they even know, they made their first real Mind Map! Most adults are reluctant to use many colors and figures, but when they start…they can’t stop anymore. So the reactions are very positive.

How would you encourage people to try mind mapping for the first time?

It is VERY important to use topics close to their hearts. Students use their own schoolbooks, adults chose topics they encounter in their work or personal live.

This means I always have to keep studying myself. I try to know as much as possible about all the topics learned in high school for an optimal result. I also use speed-reading techniques to keep up with the things that are new to me. I always try to stay a step ahead, so I can better coach my students.

For companies, I do research in advance. I ask them what they want to accomplish in the course, and prepare exercises to keep the training as realistic as possible, close to the reality at work.

How to encourage those who aren’t interested? Ask them a real day-to-day topic they can’t tackle as easily as they would. Start brainstorming in a Mind Map. You’ll be surprised how soon they get curious about what the heck you are doing ;-).

A huge thank you to Marina for sharing her story with us! You can find Marina's website by clicking here, as well as her Biggerplate profile here.

If you have a 'Mind Maps in Action' story you would like to share, we would love to hear it! Get in touch via Twitter or by commenting 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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