In the past I have discussed Chaos theory as it relates to life and careers. I recently read an insightful book on the topic by Dr. Katherine Brooks of UT Austin entitled, You Majored In What? Mapping Your Path from Chaos to Career. As we go through day to day life it can look very chaotic with a mix of happenstance events invading our life. Dr. Brooks points out as you look at the longer journey, the bigger picture of your life, connections and themes can be observed. Patterns are created by the chaotic seemingly random details.
The idea reminds me of reading Edith Schaeffer’s book, The Tapestry, years ago. It is the life of Francis and Edith Schaeffer looking back at their family line and their life together. The book is a delightful read if you can find it in a library or used bookstore. It reminds us as we go through the short periods of life, life looks like the underside of a tapestry – a chaotic mess of tied together fabric. Yet if you turn it over you can see the beautiful pattern.
Dr. Brooks in her book presents a creative exercise that helps us look at our details of life and glean from the pieces important themes and connections that reveal strengths that we can use to guide our lives and career pathways. She calls it the Wandering Map. It is a tool to help us creatively explore our talents and strengths so as to open up new possibilities; helps in savoring past events and gaining personal insight of past events; helps us view themes and patterns in our life journey. This activity will improve your self discovery which is part of Living More Than OK.
I will walk through the elements of the Wandering Map so you can try it out. I encourage you to pick up a copy of the book as it touches on so many other areas of our career life. Or if you know of a college student undergoing angst over their education and career journey recommend this book to them. You can find out more information about the book at her website www.YouMajoredInWhat.com
First of all get a blank 8 ½ x11 piece of paper or a larger poster board; and some colored markers or crayons to help you be creative with this. Set aside some quiet time to enjoy this brainstorming activity. You can use a table or desk or if your knees don’t give you trouble, you can sprawl out on the floor.
Next, think back over your life from childhood to the present for activities, places traveled, favorite classes, significant people, meaningful books ( a bookhead like me has to include books in the list), jobs, hobbies and ect. Write these items down on the paper in a random manner as they come to you. It will seem chaotic but again this stems from our thoughts on chaos theory, so just let the ideas flow. The paper or poster will soon have an appearance of a Mindmap.
As you look at all the items from your life experience you listed, start jotting down thoughts of a few key words that relate to them. Also make sure you write down key turning points in your life experience.
Now put the markers down and silently reflect or if you are musical have some favorite music on and mindfully reflect over the big picture of all that is on the paper. Begin looking for connections that may flow through your childhood activities up to the present. Then draw different colored lines that will connect the differing items on your list that have a connection.
After you have made the connections, list categories that come to mind. Try to make an initial list of 5. For example 5 that come up for my wandering map are – Spirituality, reading books ( what a surprise!), Counseling, music, studying psychology.
Then finally ponder over the categories and see if you can come up with overarching themes for the Wandering Map. You may want to write these down at the top of the map. Here is a sampling of some of the themes Dr. Brooks lists in her book on page 34. Purchase her book for the complete list or brainstorm over theme ideas:
Adventure – taking risks, trying new things
Creativity – self-expression, ideas as in art and music
Family – nurturing, children, family gatherings
Health – exercise and eating well
Independence -- freedom and autonomy
Leadership – organizing, inspiring
Learning – acquiring knowledge, life-long learning
Physical Work – using your hands, building
Security – safety, stability
Spirituality – practicing religion meditating
Wealth – acquiring money, economic security
Jot down a list of your key themes and as I mentioned the themes may make a nice title for your paper or poster if you used poster board. You can do this activity by yourself or you may want to do it as a family or with a group of friends. The important thing is have fun with it and see what new insights you can learn about yourself through the experience.
Take some time to journal about your Wandering Map. What were your primary themes and how are they important to you? What are some feelings you experienced as you wrote your initial list?