Give (and allow others to give)

When people are described as ‘selfish’ there is usually an element of having a preference for receiving over giving. That is, they are seen as much more interested in taking than giving. In a very real sense, selfishness is the opposite of generosity. From a moral point of view, being regarded as generous would normally be perceived as better than being seen as selfish, giving as morally superior to taking.

Indeed, much of the appeal of certain jobs will be down to the opportunity to give – jobs in health care, social services, education and so on. Making a contribution to others can give us a sense of satisfaction, can boost our self-esteem and even provide a sense of spiritual fulfilment. It could be argued that many people’s lives are spiritually unfulfilled because their work does not give the opportunity to give, to contribute and to help – or perhaps the opportunities are there, but the culture, circumstances or leadership style stand in the way of capitalising on them.

Not much debate then: giving is good. But, is it that simple? Is that all there is to it? A firm ‘no’ is the short answer. The reason I say this is that there is a very real danger that focusing on our own giving can actually stand in the way of allowing others to give and to feel useful. For example, older people are often denied the opportunity to be helpful, and this can reinforce a sense of being useless, of having nothing to contribute. It is well captured in the phrase ‘killing with kindness’. Consider this (real) example from my experience that is sadly reminiscent of many such situations:

A community nurse visits an older woman in her own home. The older woman wants her guest to feel welcome, and so she says to the nurse: ‘Would you like a cup of tea?’ The nurse gets up and heads towards the kitchen, saying as she goes: ‘It’s all right love, I’ll do it. Where do you keep your teabags?’ The older woman sits fuming at the way her effort to be a welcoming hostess and to feel useful has been snatched from her. No doubt, the nurse had no intention of causing a problem. She thought that what she was doing was being helpful. It was not.

The technical term for this is ‘reciprocity’, the importance of giving as well as receiving, helping as well as being helped. Denying someone reciprocity is not helpful, even when people are doing it with good intentions. Many older people face this all the time; finding ways to feel useful becomes harder the older we get.

But it isn’t just older people that this applies to. I have come across managers who micro-manage their staff, telling them what to do at each step, rather than allowing them to work things out for themselves, grow and develop, become more confident and feel proud of the contribution they are making. There is not much pride, confidence or job satisfaction to be gained from simply doing what your boss tells you. Unfortunately, this style of management, what I call ‘backseat driving’, is common in cultures that have become risk averse. Instead of having a balanced attitude towards risk, many workplaces now have an unhealthy level of anxiety about risk. This is one of the main driving forces for ‘backseat driving’ behaviour. The irony is that ‘playing it safe’ about risk is a dangerous approach, as it means that having a balanced view becomes impossible, and that then introduces new risks because of the distortions involved.

And, of course, one of those risks is that reciprocity is denied, with all the problems that entails. So, while giving is certainly good, allowing others to give is also good, and we have to be careful that we are not unwittingly blocking this in our attempts to be kind or in our overly cautious approach to risk.

Slow down

Life can happen in a blur if we let it. Doing things quickly can easily become the norm, adding extra – generally unnecessary – pressure to our already fairly pressurised lives. As is so often the case with life’s challenges, what can easily arise is a vicious circle that we can get trapped in. We feel under pressure so we do things quickly. Our lives then become less satisfying, so we try to squeeze more in (rather than relish what we already have); to fit more in we have to do things more quickly, and that makes us feel more pressurised. The more pressurised we feel, the greater the temptation to do things quickly. And there we are, locked in, and we will then find it a struggle to get out.

A clear and important example of this is eating. Most people do not savour their food, they do not get maximum pleasure and satisfaction from it. People grab something quickly for breakfast, perhaps, in a rush to get to work or school or to get to the day’s tasks. Similarly, for many people, lunch is a quick sandwich, often while they are doing something else at the same time. And evening meals are often not as leisurely and enjoyable as they could be.

But things are beginning to change. More and more people are appreciating the benefits of eating slowly. More people are recognizing that there is little point having tasty food if it disappears from your mouth without your having had the opportunity to appreciate the flavour. Food can be swallowed without being chewed properly, which is not only a recipe for indigestion problems, but also a waste of culinary pleasure.

But food is just one example of this tendency to do things faster than necessary, just so that we can rush on to the next thing we are going to do quickly. I have earlier pointed out that rushing is not generally a wise strategy, but this does not mean that we should go to the opposite extreme of wasting time dawdling. It is, of course, a matter of achieving a helpful balance.

If you are one of the people who tends to move swiftly from one thing to another, thereby denying yourself the opportunity to savour the moment, whether that is savouring the food or any other aspects of our lives, slowing down can make a big positive difference. How often do people put music on, but not actually listen to it, because their minds are already racing on to the next thing? How often are people involved in conversations that they are not actually listening to?

Many people will claim that they have to do things quickly, because they do not have time to do them slowly: ‘I don’t have time’ is the common refrain, but, of course, in reality, time is the only thing we do have. And so the wisdom of not savouring that time is therefore very questionable. Indeed, if we ask ourselves what it is that we are so keen to get to that we can’t savour our lives in the process, the answer must be – stark though it may seem – death.

So, should you spend your life hanging around ‘savouring the moment’? No, of course not, that is certainly not what I am advocating. That would involve going from one unhelpful extreme to another. It is more a case of asking ourselves: Do we have to be doing things quite so quickly? Should we perhaps be better tuned in to the idea of ‘more haste, less speed’? Enjoy your food more; enjoy your life more. Ge the balance right.

Avoid drift

Drift is the term used for when we become unfocused, when we lose sight of what we are doing or what we are trying to achieve. Ever gone upstairs and, when you get to the top of the staircase, you have no idea why you went upstairs; your mind is blank? That’s drift. Ever been on the way to a meeting, got distracted then found yourself wondering where it was you were going? That’s drift.

But there are more serious versions of drift. For example, an important meeting can get bogged down in detail and lose track of what was supposed to be discussed. A worker can lose sight of what they are trying to achieve or what their role is. The result can be, at the least, wasted time and energy or much more serious in terms of important, perhaps crucial, things not getting done.

Drift can happen in any circumstances, but I have been able to identify three main types of drift that can so easily arise:

  • Bureaucratic drift This is where administrative requirements and procedures take over and become the most important thing. Instead of admin systems being there to support the main work of the organisation, it can easily become the case that the cart gets placed before the horse. What I mean by this is that bureaucracy becomes the main focus. For example, I have come across situations where supervision sessions have become reduced to a process of simply completing the supervision recording form. Instead of a professional process of helping the worker to be the best worker they can be, it is reduced to a series of questions being asked and the answers written down. The bureaucratic requirement has been met, but the actual benefits of supervision have been lost.
  • Pressure drift A second type of drift arises when people are under a lot of pressure. They find themselves rushing around, not taking time to think, plan or focus. Unfortunately, this tends to create a vicious circle. People under this level of pressure are likely to make more mistakes, act rashly and, importantly, lose the plot – lose the focus of what they are supposed to be doing. That then adds to the pressure levels, and so it goes on.
  • Culture drift This can be, in part at least, a result of the first two types of drift. It refers to when a culture develops where it becomes the norm to lose focus. This can be, for example, where there is a lot of unresolved conflict in a team, so the main focus becomes managing the conflict, or at least trying to avoid it. Similarly, a culture of low morale characterised by negativity and defeatism can distract people – and demoralise them – to such an extent that the main focus of the work gets lost.

So, what can be done? Well, from an individual point of view, an important step is in the direction of critically reflective practice. Drift occurs when people switch off and allow themselves to become distracted. They stop concentrating and thereby lose focus. A more mindful, reflective approach can therefore make a very positive difference. It can create a virtuous circle in which a clear focus makes us more effective, which improves morale, and which then helps us to focus and concentrate.

From an organisational point of view, this is where leadership has a role to play. Effective leaders should be able to shape a culture where reflective practice is the norm and where team members are supported in keeping a clear head and a clear focus. Drift is very costly in various ways, and so an individual and collective approach to tackling it is likely to prove most effective.

Be clear about what you value

People who suffer from depression often feel as though nothing matters any more. It is as if life has become so difficult or painful that they just want to be cut off from it. And yet, ironically, it is generally because something we value – something that is really important to us – has been offended, undermined or even destroyed that people become depressed.

This raises important issues about what we value, about what really matters to us. Values are often seen as abstract, and therefore disconnected from real life to a certain extent. However, seeing values that way is a big mistake, a very big mistake. This is because our values influence:

  • Our thoughts What we think will, of course, be shaped to a certain extent at least by our values, by our sense of priorities, for example. This isn’t just ‘abstract’ – what we think will have very concrete consequences for our lives.
  • Our feelings Likewise, our emotional reactions will depend a great deal on our values. For example, if dignity is important to us, if it is part of our value base, then witnessing somebody not being treated with dignity is likely to make us feel angry. However, if dignity were not part of our value base, then witnessing indignity would probably not evoke an emotional reaction – it would not matter to us.
  • Our actions Of course, both our thoughts and our feelings will influence our actions, so, at the very least, our values will indirectly influence our actions. However, there will also be ways in which what is important to us will also influence our actions directly. For example, if we value learning and personal growth and development, we will seek out and capitalize on learning opportunities.

 Having a clear picture of what our values are can therefore be a very useful step in the direction of developing self-awareness, such an important capability when it comes to working in any field that involves a concern for people and their problems. It can make a very significant positive difference in this regard.

Having an awareness of other people’s values can also help us to understand them, to be able to tune in to what matters to them. This can be a great asset in trying to help or support people, whether in our private or our working lives. It won’t make us mind readers, but it will give us some insights into what makes people tick.

What we also have to be aware of is that there will be times when we are in danger of losing sight of our values. These would include:

  • When we are tired, run down or under the weather At times like this we can be not thinking straight or be emotionally knocked out of our stride. We may then find ourselves behaving or speaking in ways that are not consistent with our values. For example, we may value the importance of listening to people, of paying attention to them, but find it difficult to do so when we are not feeling one hundred per cent.
  • When we are busy, overworked or even stressed This is when we can be focusing on just getting through the day – in effect, going into ‘survival mode’. This can mean that we act ‘out of character’ (although it is actually about values, rather than character). This can lead to a vicious circle in which our actions or attitudes can actually increase our workload – for example, by creating unnecessary tensions.
  • When we feel threatened At such times we are likely to focus narrowly on returning to a situation of safety, and that can, understandably, mean that we lose sight of our values, temporarily at least.

So, what is important to you? What are your values? The more aware of these issues you are, the stronger a position you will be in.


Celebrate getting older

We live in a society that seems to value youth (although not necessarily young people!). A fortune is spent on various ways of trying to make us look and feel younger. Whether or not that is money well spent is questionable, of course. Is it mainly another way of consumer capitalism getting us to spend our money? Well, it certainly fits with the idea that, if you want to make a lot of money, sell people things that they have to keep coming back for more of.

Trying to hold back ageing is like Canute trying to hold back the tide. Wouldn’t it make far more sense to just accept that every day we create a new yesterday and therefore have one less tomorrow? Is it ageing we fear and want to fend off or is it death? Or perhaps it is both? Fearing ageing reflects to a large extent our ageist society that devalues old age. Even though people are often much happier and settled in old age than in earlier life, old age tends to get stereotyped as a time of infirmity and inability. The reality, of course, is far more complex than this and, while there are clearly problems and challenges associated with old age, we hear far less about the pleasures and the achievements of old age.

Ageing is part of living, and so if we are afraid of ageing, we are afraid of living. And perhaps that is where the fear of death comes in. The idea that we live in a ‘death-denying’ society is not a new one. This again reflects our tendency to value youth so highly. And this is a pity, of course, because trying to pretend that death is not part of life is a pretty fruitless undertaking. It means living a lie and, more than that, losing out on the benefits of valuing our days, of making something of our time – as time, in the end, is all we have. Knowing that life is finite can help us treasure the time we do have, rather than fritter it away under the illusion (delusion?) that we are immortal.

Some people oversimplify this message. They try to work on the basis that you should live every day as if it your last. ‘Try’ is the key word here because, of course, you can’t live that way. Partying every day, making no plans for the future, living as if there is no tomorrow is not a recipe for quality of life. You will soon find yourself in considerable difficulties if you take this simplistic advice seriously.

What is much wiser, of course, is to be realistic. Accept that ageing is part of living and don’t let ageist stereotypes fool you into thinking that only younger people can be happy, productive, vibrant and living worthwhile lives. Ageism is, in effect, a self-fulfilling prophecy. If, as a society, we devalue ageing and older people, we create discrimination and make old age a less positive time of life, which then fuels the ageist stereotype that ageing is something to fear (hence the futile attempts to defy ageing through all sorts of pills and potions). Futile for the people buying them, but lucrative for the people selling them.

Sadly, a lot of people never reach old age. What this means is that we should celebrate getting older, because every day that we get older is a day that we have lived. The alternative to ageing is, of course, not one to be recommended. If we are constantly trying to hold back the flow of time, then we are not appreciating that time – we are wasting precious moments. Old age is supposed to be a time of wisdom, but perhaps we need the wisdom sooner than that to realise that worshipping youth is a mug’s game.

Security is the ability to cope with insecurity

It is quite common for people to be rated according to how secure they are, especially people who are perceived to be low on any such rating scale – that is, people who are viewed as ‘insecure’. But what does it mean to refer to someone as ‘insecure’? Or as ‘secure’, for that matter?

The world is a very insecure place, in the sense that, as the old saying goes, the only certainties are death and taxes. No one knows what is going to happen next. Our lives could potentially be turned upside down at any moment, with horrendous consequences. Disaster could be just round the corner.

But it probably isn’t.

Yes, it is true that many people will face disaster every day, but then there will be literally billions who do not. So, it is important to get things in perspective. We are constantly surrounded by risk. Some form of danger is ever-present. But most of the time, in most situations, we are quite safe. No one is ever going to be totally safe in all situations. The technical terms for this are ‘contingency’ and ‘flux’. Contingency means there are no guarantees – things can change at any moment (for the better or for the worse). Flux means that things are constantly changing, albeit generally at a very gradual pace. But what do these technical terms mean in practice?

Contingency means that we can’t be 100% sure that things will go according to plan. So, we need a Plan B; we need to take account of ‘contingencies’. Depending on how important and/or complex the circumstances are, we might also need a Plan C at times. Flux means that we need to be ready to adapt to change – an attitude that assumes that the way things are now is the way they will always be is one that will set us up for heartache sooner or later.

This does not mean that we should go to the opposite extreme and start panicking or over-reacting. While we don’t have much by the way of certainty to go by in our lives, probability is a very helpful friend and ally. And, just as change is all around us, so too is continuity. Indeed, change and continuity can be understood as two sides of the same coin.

So, what is called for is a balanced approach to risk – one that is realistic about the dangers we face, but also manages to keep anxiety in check. People who tend to be described as ‘insecure’ are generally the ones who focus more on the risks and less on the wider context. There is therefore a tendency to adopt a distorted approach, one that overemphasizes the dangers and thereby creates unnecessary anxiety. And, of course, anxiety has a nasty habit of creating a vicious circle in which it makes people more sensitive to risk (‘risk averse’ to use the technical term), and that it turn generates more anxiety.

So, what it boils down to, in a sense, is that a genuine feeling of security comes from being well equipped to deal with the very insecurity of life – avoiding the two extremes of being complacent about potential threats to our well-being, on the one hand, and being overanxious and over-reacting to such threats on the other. This calls for a calm and careful consideration of the risks we commonly face. What can also be useful is a degree of self-awareness, a degree of insight into how effective we are in balancing our sense of danger and ours sense of safety – in other words, how realistic we are in assessing the risks we face.

Both and, not either or

Unfortunately, there is very strong tendency for many people to think in black and white terms – a sort of ‘all or nothing’ approach. It is as if there is a strong urge to assign things to one category or another. This is what I call either/or thinking. Others have referred to it as ‘binary’ thought.

In reality, life is much more complex than that, and so either/or thinking prevents us from appreciating the subtleties of the situations we find ourselves in. It places a sort of straitjacket on our way of understanding whatever it is we are trying to make sense of.

Of course, an important thing to recognise is that thought is so often the basis of action. If we think in unhelpful, restrictive ways, there is a very real danger we will behave in unhelpful, restrictive ways too. Consider the following examples:

  • Jean had always found Bill to be honest and reliable, so when it appeared that he had behaved dishonestly, she just would not accept it. As far as Jean was concerned, Bill was to be assigned to the category of ‘trustworthy’. The idea that he could be trustworthy for the most part, but capable of acting dishonestly in certain circumstances was a possibility she was not prepared to countenance. The consequence of this was that Bill was able to get away with some pretty unpalatable things because Jean had become blind to the possibility that he could behave in anything less than a totally honest and noble way.
  • Rajeev was a very confident and competent person highly respected by his colleagues. He seemed to have an incredible capacity for getting through a heavy workload. His manager was therefore amazed when Rajeev’s wife rang in one morning to say that he was too stressed to come into work and was really struggling to cope. People had assigned Rajeev to a category of ‘highly competent’ and had not considered that even he might have a limit to how much work he could reasonably cope with. And, of course, the fact that people saw him as so competent meant that he found it really difficult to go against that perception and to ask for support or acknowledge that his workload had grown too big and was now unmanageable even for someone as competent as he was.

So, it is important to replace either/or thinking with both/and thinking – that is, to recognise that people can be honest and dishonest, depending on the circumstances, safe and dangerous, depending on the context, happy and sad according to the situation.

Is this a matter of intelligence, then? Is it the case that less intelligent people will rely on problematic either/or thinking, rather than the more productive both/and thinking? There may well be an element of this involved, but we need to be careful not to oversimplify here.  There are two issues involved. First, it isn’t simply a matter of intelligence or thinking processes – there are also emotional issues involved. In the first example, above, for Jean to change her line of thinking would not simply be a rational matter, it would also involve a change in how she felt about Bill. Even very intelligent people can fall foul of either/or thinking, especially where emotions are to the fore. Second, there is the ironic danger of falling into either/or thinking in relation to either/or thinking itself: either you rely on either/or thinking and are therefore assigned to the category of ‘unintelligent’ or you do not rely on such thinking and are assigned to the category of ‘intelligent’. Of course, the very point I am making is that it is not that simple! We need to be aware that no one is immune, but, by being tuned in to the potential problems involved, we can avoid a number of significant difficulties.

Start here and now

Sadly, I have known several people who had various things they were keen to do when they retired, but died either before being able to retire or soon after they retired. What I learned from that is that I really must make space for the things I want to do and do them sooner rather than later. Putting all the eggs in the one basket of retirement is a risky strategy.

But it isn’t just about retirement – the issue is broader than that. It is likely, for most of us, that there will be things that we are not putting on hold for retirement, but we are not getting round to them either. This is more than everyday procrastination (which is usually about things we would prefer not to do). These are generally things that we want to do, but, for whatever reason, we are filing them under ‘one day’, rather than under ‘now’.

There can be a whole range of reasons why we do this, different reasons for different people and perhaps different reasons at different times. But, what is common across the board is that there is a very pronounced tendency for people to stand in their own way when it comes to doing things they want to do.

Largely what it comes down to is getting our priorities right. A common mistake when it comes to time and workload management is to allow pressing, but relatively unimportant, matters to ‘jump the queue’ and to get done at the expense of things that are less pressing, but much more important.

This can apply to work-related issues or things that relate to our private lives. Consider these two examples:

• Sam had always wanted to have an article published: ‘It would be great to see my name in print. I would love that. I don’t see myself as having a career as a writer, but I would love to be a published author at some point’. The obvious line of questioning from this is: Why ‘at some point’? Why not now, or soon at least? If it really is something you would love, what is stopping you doing it now? What things that you don’t love are you doing instead of what you would love? What is distorting your priorities and what can you do to stop that happening?

• Chris had been very keen for a long time to spend more time in London: ‘I often go to London on business. I go in on the train and then come home again when the job is done. There are so many things I would love to see in London, but never get chance to when I am there for work reasons. I could afford to do it. I just never get round to it’. Of course the same questions apply here. In both cases, it is a matter of priorities. If this really is something that you are so keen to do, what process is happening that stops it from happening? Maybe there is a genuine and understandable reason why it isn’t happening (perhaps Chris is overwhelmed by the choice of so many things in London that could be part of the proposed trip). But perhaps it is more a case of needing to get priorities clear, take control of the situation and make it happen.

Not only will this mean that, in most cases, at least, we get the benefit of doing what we want to do, but we are also likely to feel good about having taken control of the situation – a positive and empowering experience in its own right.

Celebrate your successes

Some you win, some you lose is a well-known saying. We can’t realistically expect to succeed in everything we do, so we have to learn to take the rough with the smooth, of course. However, my concern is that life can be so pressurised much of the time that we do not take the opportunity to savour those successes; we perhaps feel we are too busy to stop and focus on what has gone well because we are too busy rushing on to the next challenge or dealing with things that aren’t going so well.

This is not just a pity to miss out on the positive feelings associated with success, it’s also a problem in at least two ways:

(i) Success breeds success – doing well can have the very positive effect of boosting motivation and strengthening confidence; this can make us both more efficient and more effective. This can then lead to a virtuous circle – that is, the further success brings further opportunities for celebrating and a further boost to motivation and confidence.

(ii) Keeping things in perspective – sometimes there can be so much pressure at work (as well as in our private lives), so many hassles to deal with that we tend to focus a great deal on the negatives. This can create a vicious circle in which the negativity depresses morale and, in turn low morale can fuel a focus on the negatives, which then has a further adverse effect on morale.

These reasons help us to understand why it is important not to lose sight of the positives and, indeed, to value those positives, to celebrate our successes and to appreciate what we have going for us.

So, what can get in the way of having such a balanced approach to life in general and work in particular? Well, there are various things, not least the following:

  • The influence of others If you find yourself living and/or working with people who do not recognise or celebrate their successes, it may simply be that you find yourself following in their footsteps – it has become the norm, part of the culture. If that is the case, that is easily sorted, as you are not a puppet with your strings being pulled by others. You can decide to go against the grain and show them the value of celebrating success (although that may seem an uncomfortable thing to do at first).
  • Habit Maybe it’s not the habits of others; perhaps it is just your own habit that has developed and led you down that path. If so, your challenge now will be to break that habit by consciously creating time and space to highlight your successes and get the full benefit of doing so. Just as you do not need to be a victim of the culture you operate in, nor do you need to be a passive victim of your own habits – they are your habits, so you can do with them what you will.
  • Anxiety Unfortunately, anxiety, which at heart is a helpful warning system of threat or danger, can often be allowed to become a problem by blocking progress. An anxious person is less likely to be confident, to be creative, to learn or, indeed, to be positive about success – they are more likely to be focusing on potential or actual threats (real or imagined) and therefore miss out.
  • Misplaced modesty Some people I have spoken to about celebrating success have told me they would feel uncomfortable doing so, because they had been brought up to be modest and unassuming. This is understandable, but there is a big difference between being immodest and quietly and calmly celebrating a well-deserved success.

None of these obstacles is insurmountable, so the scope for taking the necessary steps to get the benefits of recognising and celebrating success is quite significant.


Use mind maps

There are many occasions when it is useful, if not essential, to have a record of our thoughts and/or the events to which they relate. Some people seem never to make notes; they simply rely on their memory, which, of course, is not a wise strategy, as it involves leaving to chance what is recalled and what is not. Other people, I’m aware, make copious notes, but never refer to them again – they just file them away as if having them somewhere to hand will be of value. Yet others have no filing system, so their chances of finding any notes they may have taken are relatively slim anyway.

So, when it comes to making notes, there is no shortage of practices that are not very effective and thus do not serve us well. However, it is also fair to say that there are limitations to traditional note-taking practices, even when well used. This is because, by their very nature, traditional notes are ‘linear’ – that is, they follow a straightforward structure from point one to point two and so on. But life isn’t linear, and nor is the way our minds work. What can therefore be helpful is s process of note taking that more fully reflects our thinking processes. This is where ‘mind maps’ come in.

A mind map is constructed by putting the topic in question (whatever it is you want to make notes about) in a box in the centre of the page. From this central focus you can have other boxes (or lines) that emanate from it with subtopics, issues or reflections that relate to the central focus. From each of these secondary boxes or lines you can develop further subtopics, issues or whatever. This enables the note taker to explore different avenues, different lines of thought, while considering the topic. This makes the notes multidimensional, and this allows us to be more creative in our thinking and more holistic (by giving us an overview of a topic or theme). The example below gives a sense of what is involved.





This one was produced using mind mapping software, and there are various software options available, ranging from free to expensive (depending on the additional facilities available within the package concerned). However, software is not needed, as perfectly good mind maps can be produced with pen and paper.

Mind maps can be very useful for getting a sense of structure and control in relation to the topic in hand. In addition, its visual nature means that their contents are more likely to be recalled at any future point. So, there are quite a few benefits to using this tool.

Some people take to mind maps straight away and quickly become quite proficient in using them. Others may struggle at first to produce a useful mind map because they are so used to adopting the linear approach to note taking. For this latter group there is much to be gained from being persistent. The skills can be developed with practice and can, in due course, be taken to quite a high level of competence, if not actual expertise.

When used well, mind maps can be a great aid to understanding – for example, in highlighting interconnections and patterns that would probably not have emerged from a linear approach. They can also be useful in presenting a more coherent picture to be presented to others than conventional notes would afford. They can also be added to at a later date as circumstances change or our thoughts and understanding develop.

All in all, then, mind maps offer very real potential for a valuable and effective approach to information storage to inform our thoughts, understanding and action.