A couple of years ago I visited Kelvingrove Museum with my daughter to see an exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci’s work. I was intrigued to see the brushstrokes and pencil drawings in person, imagining him creating them all that time ago… little did I know it would spark my curiosity way beyond that.

There are many similarities in the style and form of his work, but these two stood out when I realised what’s different and unique about them.

The first is an anatomically correct study of a human spine, with every vertebra meticulously studied and set out on the page. Nothing like this had ever been done before, yet look at how the shape and form is precise, with structured notes and uniformity. Imagine the tenacity and attention to detail which went into such a piece of work, and how this helped physicians and scientists at the time.

The other picture is a map of an area in Italy which was entirely created through studying from ground level and IMAGINING what the aerial view would be. There was no aerial photography, no means of flying (yet… although he was a pioneer in that too), and yet he was able to create a map which is representative of the real landscape.

The mind which created these fascinates me, and especially the belief and determination which he must have had to boldly go where – literally – no one had gone before.

“The most important places on a map are the places we haven’t been yet.” ~ Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar

During a planning meeting last week, Carolyn and I were talking about ‘maps of the world’. It’s an expression used in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and it helps to describe how we each have a unique perception of the world which shapes our experiences. In metaphorical terms, this internal representation could be likened to a ‘map’, with all the features set according to what we have experienced, our beliefs, values, memories, conditioning… and everything we have taken in through our senses. And yet this internal map which us humans have is only a representation – it’s not the whole truth, it’s not factual, and it has missing bits!

Just like Leonardo da Vinci we have created a map based on a sub-set of information, although perhaps less consciously.

As one of the Beliefs of Excellence (or pre-suppositions) in NLP says:

“The map is not the territory.”

What this is saying, in human terms, is that we have our map imprinted and integrated with all we know and have experienced, and yet there is no single version of the truth. We filter from subjective experience, which is essentially what NLP is about – the study of subjective experience, focusing on excellence and ‘doing what works’. Even having been in the same place at the same time as someone, there will be two versions of events. I am a twin and my sister and I recall different things from the same situations sometimes, either remembering different things or describing the same thing but not in the same way.

At next month’s NLP Club on 10th December, we will be exploring maps of the world, the impact it can have when we are perceiving situations only from our own world, and how to expand awareness and choice by being flexible, asking questions, and holding curiosity about other people’s experiences. Safe to say, there will be significant learning from the uniqueness and richness of each person’s ‘map’.

If you’d like to know more about the Beliefs of Excellence, and how they can significantly impact on our thinking – and the results we get – Carolyn has written a great blog about it.

And if you’re curious about developing different perspectives and progressing personally and professionally, take a look at various events coming up in the New Year.