Kick-off to 2011: Mind-Maps, Passion and Pancakes

As we enter the second week of the new year, I bring you one of my favorite exercises from one of the most creative people I know – Paul Williams of Idea Sandbox.

Paul’s Pave Your Life Roadmap exercise (more below) is one that I frequently refer to coaching clients and often revisit myself. I blogged about this exercise in 2008, but wanted to remind you all in the spirit of personal exploration and intention-setting for the year ahead. As I mentioned last time, this is one of the most clear, simple (and fun!) approaches to life planning I’ve seen, and I find that no matter how many times I think “I’ve already done that” – I come up with something new.

Summary of steps from the Pave Your Life Roadmap exercise:

  1. List Your Passions – Make a list of all the things you are passionate about.
  2. Identify Values – Group your passions into themes.
  3. Set the Situation – Determine what conditions should exist for you to feel you’re fulfilling your Values.
  4. Reveal Action Steps – Identify what daily activities you should be doing to fulfill your Values.
  5. Visual Report Card – Draw a graph to visualize and assess your current status. (Don’t worry, no drafting tools required).
  6. Take Action / Follow Your Roadmap – Now that you have the keys, get behind the wheel and follow this plan to drive your life.

I’ve provided two examples as a kick-start for your own process below (check out Paul’s website for a full set of his own examples). Even though I did these two years ago, it’s surprising how many of my passions/interests remain the same. In fact, I take that as a great sign that the exercise helped me dig deep enough to get to the core of what really matters to me.

Step one: list your passions by making a no-holds-barred, whatever comes to you mind-map. Never done one? Here’s an example of mine from 2008:

Pave your life roadmap - passions

You might also check out Wikipedia’s article on Mind Mapping.

Step two: identify values by summarizing key themes. For each value or theme, write “If I had a life filled with _______________, I would . . .” and brainstorm five answers for each.

Here’s my example based on the mind-map above:

Pave your life roadmap - step two - themes

A note on Mind Maps and New Years resolutions

Mind maps can be a great way to solve problems, studyset goals and identify priorities. Instead of setting traditional New Years resolutions (though I have nothing against them despite the giant backlash that occurs every year), I create an annual goals mind-map with my friend Liz.

This year marked our third annual mind-mapping/vision session. Each time we do this, we get together over lunch and a pile of colored markers, then outline goals for every area of our lives. We also review our mind-maps from the previous year to celebrate progress.

This year I taped mine to the back of my front door, where I’m creating a vision/idea-board of sorts out of the entire door. When I see things that represent big huge goals, I tape them up to the back of my door (like the coaster from the SoHo House in NYC). I also have a blank sheet of paper with the following open questions: “How can I innovate?”, “What problems can I solve?” and “How can I bring my best self into the world?”

For those who are curious, my main goals for this year (different from the larger intentions) are:

  • Figure out how to live on both coasts and/or move to NYC for a period of time
  • Make a bestseller list!
  • Be on The Today Show (or a major morning show)
  • Exercise for at least ten minutes per day, 365 days in a row (even if it’s just a walk or a short yoga sequence in my living room)
  • Develop (semi) passive income streams (launch an online coaching program, e-book, etc)
  • Complete my Yoga Teacher Certification (requires teaching 20 group classes and 5 private sessions)
  • Stay TV free; keep up the minimal coffee/dairy/meat intake

Of course many of these are GIANT stretch goals, but I say go big or go home, baby! If I try and I fail, I know I will learn a ton in the process. And the side outcomes of pursuing such big things might surprise me :)

Merlin Mann: Stop Blaming the Pancacke

Finally, for a great article on not giving up on goals or resolutions, check-out Merlin Mann’s Resolved: Stop Blaming the Pancake. An excerpt:

No matter how good a cook you are, and no matter how hard you try, the first pancake of the batch always sucks. It comes out burnt or undercooked or weirdly shaped or just oddly inedible and aesthetically displeasing.

…And, like clockwork–usually around today or maybe tomorrow–a huge cohort of those cooks will begin to abandon their resolve and go back to thinking all their pancakes have to suck. Just because that first one failed.

…Accept that the first pancake will always suck. Hell, if you’ve never picked up a spatula before, be cool with the fact that your first hundred pancakes might suck. This is, as I’ve said, huge. Failure is the sound of beginning to suck a little less.

How about you — how do you set big goals and plan for the year ahead?
How do you stay motivated even when the first pancake sucks?


P.S. I guest-posted at Doniree’s blog for her “This is my year to ____” series: jump on over to read more about my year to FLY.

P.P.S. Reminder: I’ll be delivering a free 60-minute career strategy webinar this Thursday from 12-1 PST. Join us if you can! Here’s a brief description:

The Ladder is Out — How to Manage Your Career in the Age of the App
The era of climbing the ladder as a method of managing your career is out. We are now in the age of the app – everything you need is at your fingertips, fully customizable to your unique career dreams and aspirations. Rather than follow a linear path, learn how to explore, experiment and build a strong foundation that suits your dynamic talents and goals.
[Read more and sign-up

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Diana Antholis January 11, 2011 at 2:52 pm

I always learn new things from you. Love the mind-map – can’t wait to do it.
I wrote out my goals on a piece of paper and put them on my mirror. It is a short list – but they are the BIG goals that will take the entire year to work on. I need to write down the little ones.

As for pancakes, mine are usually all over the place. But I stay motivated because 1) they always taste good and 2) a perfect one in the batch always happens. Translation: My motivation comes from little successes, one day at a time.


jennyblake January 14, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Thanks Diana! So great that you posted your goals to the mirror – I love having mine in a place I see them every day. And what a great way to think about the pancakes too – every batch has (at least) one perfect one :)

Have an amazing weekend!


Purple Hatting January 11, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Loved the hand written examples! Thanks! :)


jennyblake January 14, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Thanks so much Purple Hatting! Good luck with your own mind-mapping :)


Brett Kunsch January 11, 2011 at 3:41 pm

You’re always pulling some awesome tools out of your hat and spreading the news :)
My mind is in need of some mapping. I think if I set out to do it very intentionally, clear off my dining room table, and get out some colored pencils, I’ll be inspired to get down to business. I can think of my creation as wall art for the soul.

Big goals – right on! I’d rather be hot on the pursuit of big, fat, fantastic goals then experience the backlash of a failed “realistic” goal. But to be honest, I see most of those goals happening for you this year, Jenny. Though there are some darn good TV shows out there…


jennyblake January 14, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Brett – thank you so much for the nice note! YES – you should totally clear everything off the table, get out some fun art supplies and make a super creative hour (or more!) out of it. I LOVE the way you described it as “wall art for the soul.” Beautiful!

And thank you for the encouragement on my big goals — it means so much!


Marcos Salazar January 11, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Awesome post Jenny! Love, love, love the exercise! You packed so much into this post! Going to be sending this out to lots of friends I know who are looking for guidance on how to kick off the new year right. Great job! =)


jennyblake January 14, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Thanks Marcos!!! So glad you liked it — it could be a great-one for team-building exercises internally too. Thanks for forwarding to your friends! Can’t wait to catch-up soon :)


Paul Williams January 11, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Jenny – so glad the Life Roadmap tools help! It is what helped me get my life together. And, I’ve received lots of positive feedback. I’m glad it has provided insight for you… and now for your readers!

So neat to see your mindmap… It gives us more insight to what you’re about… Also… I can see how you writing a book supports many of your passions!

Best to you and your readers in 2011!


jennyblake January 14, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Thanks for the comment and for so generously sharing this exercise, Paul! Always great catching up with you 😀 Have a wonderful weekend!


Meredyth Pederson January 12, 2011 at 4:16 pm

I loved this mind map exercise- I got a pen and paper out immediately after reading this post, and the values that came out of it simultaneously surprised me and made perfect sense. Thanks for passing this along, and I LOVE the pancake metaphor. So true!


jennyblake January 14, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Thanks Meredyth! That’s awesome that you started your own right away — I LOVE IT! That’s my kind of girl :) Thanks for taking the time to comment — have a wonderful weekend!


Shanna G January 13, 2011 at 1:42 am

This is great! Last year I actually made a resolution to have one new experience a month and since I thought I might chicken out, I started in December of 2009. I didn’t know if I’d make it through the whole year, but I did! I went skiing, ice skating, joined (and completed 13+ speeches) Toastmasters, volunteered for a homeless shelter, and more. It was crazy, but fun and consistently made me get out of my comfort zone. It was also a good opportunity to explore what I want to be doing and long-term goals for my life. Good luck on your New Year’s Resolutions! I enjoy stopping by your website!


jennyblake January 14, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Thanks Shanna! I LOVE the resolution of having one new experience a month – that’s so fantastic! And huge congrats on your 13+ Toastmasters speeches too – amazing. I’d actually like to do all those things you mentioned on a regular basis – they sound like a great mix of stretching, moving and contributing to the community.

Good luck on your resolutions too – and thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment!!


Emily Smith January 13, 2011 at 3:53 pm


Even though I have searched your site HIGH and LOW, I never saw this fabulous tool! I’ve done lots of goal brainstorming exercises before but this one just seems to be brilliant. I’m in the process of interviewing ( and potentially accepting offers) for 2 different jobs. A great problem to have, but I honestly have NO idea which one to choose. This is going to be a great tool to lay that out and see what will benefit in relation to my values, goals, long term ideas, themes, etc.! Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful day.


jennyblake January 14, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Hey Emily! I am SO happy this was helpful for you! Have you also seen my “Job Interview One-Sheeter” template? It’s under the templates page ( – might come in handy for your interviews. In any case, GOOD LUCK! Your gut will tell you which one to pick – and even better to be supported by a more clear idea of your values, goals, ideas, etc.

Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment — have a great weekend!


Marc Seewald January 13, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Heh it’s funny – I’d heard of these exercises and they always sounded a little familiar but I never really looked into them. Upon seeing your handwritten examples I just realized – I’ve done this before, just not for my life goals… The exercise seems to be taken from standard engineering design practice – Step 1 is essentially identical to brainstorming (I’ve got an image in my mind of a paper that looks just like your mindmap created by my group during an engineering design competition). Step 2 is also exactly what you do with your brainstormed ideas – identify commonalities between ideas to identify areas to focus the design on.

It’s telling how the best life design practices are so similar to the best product design practices. Good example of some “Green Hat” thinking.


jennyblake January 14, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Hi Marc! That makes a lot of sense that this concept would be borrowed/adapted from standard eng design practices — very telling indeed. And by “Green Hat” are you referring to True Colors or the Six Hats theory by any chance? I’m a fan of both :) I also generally love principles of agile development for life design.

In any case, thanks so much for stopping by and commenting — have a fantastic weekend, and a happy start to 2011!


Marc Seewald January 15, 2011 at 9:46 pm

Six Hats Theory – Although I gotta say that I didn’t actually find six hat all that useful for actual design work.


Scott Asai January 13, 2011 at 10:54 pm

Hmm…I feel I’ve seen this mind map before…was it a Webinar? (j/k of course it was TODAY). Great job on that and the visuals!


jennyblake January 14, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Scott — haha, you crack me up. Thanks so much for listening into the webinar!! It was so fun to see your name in my little Organizer sidebar.


suki January 18, 2011 at 6:20 am

I lived in NYC for a month right after getting out of school. I found a sublet on an apartment in Brooklyn while a girl was traveling through Thailand for a month. :) Maybe you can start there, subletting a month at a time.


Kelly L. January 22, 2011 at 3:04 am

Um, your handwriting looks exactly like mine, and it kind of creeps me out. 😉


jennyblake January 27, 2011 at 2:06 am

Kelly – LOL! You’ll have to send me a picture of your handwriting and we can compare notes…dorky pun intended! 😉


Megan @ ascension blog January 22, 2011 at 9:14 am

Thank you for the mind-map idea, Jenny. Such an fantastic tool for getting clear and letting the creative juices flow! I’m bookmarking this page :)


jennyblake January 27, 2011 at 2:06 am

Megan – so happy you found the post helpful!! Mind-mapping is great for almost anything…have fun, and have a great rest of your week!


jennyblake August 13, 2011 at 5:09 am

Thanks Toni! Glad you found this helpful — the online mind-mapping tools are great too. Thanks for sharing that link! Have a wonderful weekend :)


Pkhetpal January 8, 2012 at 9:10 pm

This is my Day 1 , learned a few things  thanks a lot jenny


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