During my high school and college years I loved to bicycle around the scenic hills and gorges of my home town, Ithaca, in the Finger Lakes region of New York. I studied topographical maps to plan my day’s route. This helped me judge in advance how strenuous a given section would be and what the alternatives were, and during the ride, allowed me to anticipate what intersections or turns were coming up, and whether my next turn was near or far. I could plan a long ride or a short one, strenuous or relaxing. Familiarity with the map allowed me to make choices according to my goals, and let me make adjustments in real time if conditions changed, such as weather or my energy level.
Mapping the landscape of our ideas provides similar benefits. Representing the current and desired situations visually allows us to imagine possibilities, comprehend options and trade-offs, make plans, and adjust them as we go.