Magazine article Success

Reality Call: Notice the Areas of Your Life That May Not Get the Attention They Deserve

Magazine article Success

Reality Call: Notice the Areas of Your Life That May Not Get the Attention They Deserve

Article excerpt

While working as a teaching fellow for one of my psychology professors at Harvard University, I often conducted an insightful experiment called mental mapping in which students created a map of the world around them. The experiment was simple--students had three minutes to draw a map of Harvard Yard and Harvard Square.

Although the maps students drew differed, the basic result was the same: The students always drew the most important piece of their world at the center of the map. If the student loved hanging out in his dorm, he placed it right in the middle. If the student frequented the same pub every night, you can guess what building appeared smack dab in the center of his map.

Even more fascinating was the areas of campus that were clearly not at the center of the students' emotional universes. On the less-studious students' maps, the largest university library in the world was minuscule or even absent. And not a single student drew any of the non-student housing around Harvard Square.

The things that matter most to us loom large and center, while the less important things are small and peripheral, if included at all. Although it's wise to set goals and chart paths based on things that hold meaning to us, sometimes--such as those Harvard students who never set foot in the library--we may fail to assign meaning to significant things. By focusing on the seemingly unimportant parts of our world, we can make improvements in areas where we might be lacking.

What you don't map can be as essential as what you do. …

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