The Growth Gap Map: Visualization and Metaphor as Tools of Thought

I was just scanning my Facebook feed when I came across a link to an old TED talk by a Statistician named Hans Rosling titled “The Best Stats You’ve Ever Seen.” I was inspired by his data presentation… those little clusters moved so fast, and in such an animated way, like players on a field; each bubble representing a thought, a fact, an idea, and it got me thinking about how useful visualizations can be as tools of thought, outside the realm of data, to help us conceptualize meaning and clarify our understanding of it.

I thought about my personal growth (which is the ground level where all my pondering takes place) and came up with this little drawing. Basic drawing, basic idea. The point isn’t so much what it illustrates, but THAT it does. I am fascinated by the idea that all thoughts are analogous , that is to say, metaphorical, and can be represented by symbols or variables (metaphor is merely x=y) and then inserted into a a wide variety of scenarios to become allegories, (ah, another tool for understanding and thus, growth).  Ok, so here is a rudimentary view of personal growth depicted on a Cartesian Plane:

personal growth

The Gap, The Fall, and the Climb To Higher Ground.

The story goes like this. Along the X axis are planes of wellbeing, like the roads we travel along in our daily lives when the terrain is relatively smooth. The Y axis represents the journey in time.

As we grow, we reach higher and higher “planes” of wellbeing. How do we get there? As we travel along, we go the best way we know how; sometimes there are signs, and sometimes the path we choose is based upon our best guesses, or perhaps by “guiding principles” that we’ve committed to go by. But, inevitably, we reach a point on our journey, where we are challenged to go higher, but there is no road to get there. It is…a gap. What do we do?

We eat dirt. Yep! Down you go!

In the growth map, the bottom plane represents the lowest level of wellbeing you can stand before  beginning to build the tools you need to climb your way out. Some people call a “bottom”, a  “hell” or… whatever.

And then you build your ladder to the sky, rung by rung, by steady rung… soiled and tired, but – you can see the other side!

Then this little stick figure guy (you) dusts himself off and off he goes down this new, higher road. Until he reaches yet another gap. And this time maybe he can use the ladder he’s built before, or maybe the gap this time is to high, or too wide, and again, he falls to the bottom. I think the bottoms become less low, and, ultimately, he arrives at an even higher destination than he was before…

Is this post about visualization, metaphor, growth, communication? I’m not sure it has a clear focus, but the act of merely expressing it is the point, which goes back to the very purpose of this blog. (Which I will write about and link to in a future post).

Shout out to Catherine H., who mentioned during our phone call this afternoon how much she liked to visualize things. If I were to visualize THIS entire idea as stellar constellation, then that statement would be certainly be star in it’s outline :)



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