Your Map of the World

We all have a personal lens through which we see the world; yours might be bright and clear, someone else’s may be dull and gloomy, for me it may be rose tinted specs through which I view and see the world.

We each have what is known, especially in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming,)  as an internal map of reality and each of our individual map is not totally different to that of others, it is uniquely ours and ours alone.

Understanding each other’s map helps us to connect to and relate with one another. But more than that, my map is unique to me and yours unique to you.


Imagine you and I and two friends go to see a theatrical play. Each of us will have a different lens or map through which we view and critique it.

  1. Has had a bad day, feeling negative, can’t shrug it off, in fact always seems to like looking for fault in things and people. He said the play was okay then proceeded to rubbish performances, the set, the production, down to miniscule detail. But had he enjoyed it? The question took him aback.

  2. Has also had a bad day, but she intended to be present and now that she was with us, she was here to enjoy herself. She said the play was excellent, actors excelled, and the production was creative and thought provoking. She had thoroughly enjoyed the play.

  3. Has had a good day at work, but a rotten journey to the play. Now here, she kept ruminating how the traffic lights were always seemingly at red, how other drivers cut her up, how she ran out of fuel and found it difficult to find a filling station. As she watched the play, at times thinking, “This is good” her mind kept wandering to how stupid she was to let her fuel levels get low, to how stupid she felt letting other drivers cut her up, how wrong she was to have chosen the route with all the traffic lights. When asked had she enjoyed the play, she could not say because for the most part she had not been present.

  4. Looked forward to the whole evening, to seeing the play, to being with friends. He was getting himself into a good state. The journey had traffic problems but he used any delays to practise breathing and mindfulness. He met his friends and was eager to find out about them and update on their lives. He gave 100% attention to the play, enjoyed a range of emotions, accepted things as they were. When asked what he thought of the play, he could talk with detail both about the production and the performances, and his range of emotions during the play. There was no judgement of the play being good, bad, or indifferent.


Same play, four very different experiences and reactions, based on internal states, or the map of reality of each individual. This is not unlike what happens as we take in our experiences of life. Each experience is filtered through an internal lens or map of reality that already exists. They key is - it is what that reality is, what is stored on our map, that determines our experience of what happens in each and every moment of life.

In every moment, our individual map will either be enabling or limiting us as we go through life. And as you can see from the above four people, that map is governed by peoples’ experiences, their thoughts about those experiences, and their beliefs.

It is what their individual map is made up of that makes something so incredibly easy for one person and so seemingly impossible for another, so incredibly dark and negative, or so joyous, light and positive, or somewhere in between.

Our maps start forming from the day we are born – some say in the womb and even in previous lives but to keep it simple, today we begin at birth.

As we go through life, we add to our map, we adjust it – and we more than likely don’t know we (a) have a map or (b) that we are tweaking it in some way.

But with everything that happens to us, every judgement we make, everything we decide to be true (even if it isn’t a universal Truth) and every belief we’ve ever formed, we are creating an internal map of reality, of how we think the world is (some once thought it was flat, now they believe it is round.) Our map is essentially what we believe. But if I believe you are lazy – it is not necessarily true. It is simply based on my map!

Most of us if asked to draw our map without much explanation may manage to perhaps draw a line, representing a route, from point A to B and if we are creative we may add in a squiggle for a tree and perhaps a few curvy lines for mountains.

But our personal maps are so much more complex, with the fine detail of an ordnance survey map.

Our maps contain all we have ever come to know and hold to be true about ourselves—what we know about our capabilities, our gifts and talents, whether we belong and deserve in the world, and how we fit in the world. They contain our attitudes – to people, life, and living, our learned perspectives, our values, standards and then expectations of others and situations.

Some of what is on our internal map of reality we are consciously aware of, but most of it we are not and so when we are reacting to life and stop to wonder why, we are likely to find, if we dig deep enough, that somewhere in our subconscious, something has been stirred or something there – an attitude, a belief, an expectation – triggered our response.

Look at a map and you will see major and minor routes, most of which connect either to each other or to something else in the map. Our brains are routed like that too. And so our inner map is highly active, just mostly without our conscious knowing. Nonetheless the map, and what is on it, determines our experience of life and then the meaning we make of life. No matter how old you are, each new experience and new meaning gets added to your map. You may have thought you were very accepting of others that people were jolly nice. But imagine over a few weeks you have been let down, rejected, humiliated, abused by several people. You may start changing your mind and you begin to believe the world is full of nasty people, people out to get you. That is your new belief, at least for now, but that becomes your map and it forms the lens through which you view people from now on. Mapping is a constant process of adding to, refining, changing, modifying the present map, making it ever more detailed and complex.

Our mind, be it at a conscious thinking or unconscious level, has, if you like, its internal map maker, taking in, evaluating, interpreting, and assigning new data to the belief data bank. Who do I trust? Well on this basis I trusted that person before but on what basis do I trust this new person? That person just gave me a compliment but I have a major belief that says “I don’t deserve” so what do I do with the complement. I believed before that the world was a nice place filled with nice people, now I’m not so sure based on recent experiences of rejection, humiliation, being ignored and so on.

Your internal processor is hard at work whilst you are awake and when you are asleep, it gets a chance with you conscious thinking mind asleep, to keep on processing.

Without good sleep we would not have good health, and neither would we be able to process all the information that comes at us so quickly and endlessly in this information age.

And just as we know that our laptops and computers go out of date, give up the ghost, malfunction, our maps can also sat-nav us in the wrong direction; our maps can also err.

Do you need to update your map?

Is your map continuing in its automated way to negatively influence your life?

























As a young man, when I first started going out for drinks with friends, I hated it to be my turn to go to a busy London bar and order the next round. It seemed I was invisible. I couldn’t push my way in, or at least I didn’t like to. I had a map that said it was rude! So I would hold back. Until once, a friend, gasping to have his thirst quenched, approached the bar and said, “let me show you how it’s done.” He raised his hand and called, “Barman!” and was served straight away! I changed my map from “I can’t do this” to “I can!” I still didn’t like doing it, but at least I could when I wanted to. But where did that map come from originally. Well, when I was a child I was always told, “Children should be seen and not heard.” And somehow that had translated into, I can’t get noticed, I can’t get heard.


While some of you may think, “What was that about? What’s the deal?” I use it to illustrative a point. We all have our unique map, what’s mine is not necessarily yours, and certainly not for the same reason. Our maps all have errors and outdatedness that limit us in life and that prevent us from moving forward, from experiencing all of the happiness, fulfillment, and success that we would like and deserve.


How would you like your life to be better? What you would like to be different?

Perhaps you love your parents so much your pattern is always to give in to them and not speak your truth when they are trying to control you. On your map there is a belief that says, I must do as my parents tell me. It’s rude to speak back!”

Maybe there is an area of life which is just totally stuck at present. And on your map there is a belief that says, “There’s nothing I can do about it. I feel helpless.

Or there is a relationship at work or privately where you feel powerless to offer feedback so as to affect a change for the better. And on your map there is a belief that says “I have to please others.” Or “I have to put others first, before me.”

Or maybe there’s a relationship that simply no longer serves you and you need out but for a whole variety of reasons are afraid to make the first move. And the belief goes something like, “Till death do us part.” Literally too. For unless you take action, it is death to life as you would prefer it to be.

Or you are passed over for promotion time after time because on your map is this belief, “I am no good at interviews. I don’t deserve to advance, to succeed. I just don’t deserve.

So you see, it’s worth revisiting your map every now and then. Or especially when you feel you are being held back or are not moving forward. Or as you become more astute at identifying beliefs, you become more quickly aware that there are beliefs that no longer serve you.


It’s worth asking what new belief, perspective, understanding, mind-set, or attitude, would best serve you.