The Brain

Beliefs and

(An exercise for Years 8 or 9, to slot into PSHE/Citizenship classes)

Hello. Today we are going to talk about beliefs and behaviour. If that sounds boring, don’t worry. I think you may enjoy what I have planned for you.

Before we can start on the subject, I need to show you how to use the tool that we’re going to be employing. It’s called Mind Mapping and it’s a way of visually organizing information. It’s an incredibly useful tool and once you’ve learned how to do it (which is very easy) you’ll be able to use it in all sorts of ways. Mind Mapping is a technique invented by Tony Buzan, using linked ideas, illustrations, key words and colour to enhance recall, creativity and to streamline the taking of notes. Here’s how you do it. Take a blank piece of paper and, at the centre, make an image that represents the topic of the Mind Map. From that central image, draw the main branches. These show the topics – think of them as being like the chapter headings in a book. These branches should be thick, curved and organic. Use as much colour as you can. Write the title of each branch along the line, using only one word for each branch. Wherever possible, illustrate the topic branches with images. Then you can add a second layer of branches, showing thoughts triggered by each of the main topics. If you wish, you can add a third and fourth layer of branches as ideas occur to you.

To show you how that works, I’ve created a Mind Map called ‘Me and My World’, for an imaginary lad named John. This is a representation of the places in which John spends his time and the people with whom he spends his time. Let’s have a look at it together.



You can see that John is at the centre of the map and on each of the main branches coming out from the central image John has put the places where he spends his time: at home, at school, at a club he belongs to, at the swimming pool and so on. Then he has added a set of secondary branches showing, for each of the places where he goes, who he meets there. So we have a mind map of John’s world.

OK, now it’s time for you to do your first Mind Map. I would like you to create a ‘Me And My World’ Mind Map, as we did for John. This will be a representation of the places in which you spend your time and the people with whom you spend your time. Don’t copy John’s. Put yourself at the centre of the map, then make a branch for each of the main places you go to and at the end of each of the main branches make a new branch for each person or group of people you meet there. And don’t forget, use lots of colour and put in some drawings to illustrate the branches.

Right, all done? Good. Now we’re going to move on and do a Mind Map showing how you behave in those places and with those people. That may sound a little complicated but you’ll see how easy it is once we get started.

I want you to imagine that you wake up one morning and find an alien in your bedroom. You may be a bit frightened at first but you soon see that it’s a friendly alien. More than that, it’s a generous alien and he has brought you a present. It’s a robot. Actually, it’s a robot you – it looks like you, walks like you, talks like you. This is great, you can stay in bed today and send the robot off to school and so on. But first we have to program the robot so that it will behave like you because it will spill the beans if it behaves in a way that you wouldn’t. So how are we going to program it? Well, we’re going to tell it what you believe in and how someone who believes those things behaves. That will give it a set of rules to follow. And if we produce a mind map of that, it will show you how to behave if you want to live up to your beliefs.

To get us started, let’s draw up a list of beliefs. By a belief, I mean a feeling that something is good, right, or valuable. So examples of beliefs might be, say, faith, generosity or honour. OK, now call out other words that describe beliefs. It doesn’t matter for the moment whether any of these beliefs are important to you; I just want us to generate a list.


Faith, Love, Beauty, Health, Generosity, Patience, Gratitude, Helpfulness, Calmness, Forgiveness, Positivity, Trust, Happiness, Tolerance, Liberty, Generosity, Honesty, Intelligence, Honour, Responsibilty, Respectfulness, Success, Peacefulness, Modesty, Decency.

Now take a new sheet of paper and put yourself at the centre. Choose half a dozen or so beliefs that mean a lot to you and create a branch for each of them.

You don’t have to choose from the list that we’ve made, which was intended to get you thinking. What matters is that you choose beliefs that are important to you.

OK? Done that? Now I want us to look at behaviours. To help us get started, let’s make a list of words that describe behaviour. Examples might be hard-working, pleasant, kind. Try to avoid words that describe really bad behaviour. For the vast majority of people, bad behaviour doesn’t flow from our beliefs, it happens when, often in the heat of the moment, we forget those beliefs. Right, call out some words that describe behaviour.


Caring, Charming, Considerate, Enthusiastic, Excitable, Faithful, Funny, Hard-working, Kind, Pleasant, Polite, Sincere, Thoughtful, Active, Ambitious, Assertive, Conscientious, Creative, Curious, Extroverted, Impulsive, Introverted, Inventive, Perfectionist, Pragmatic, Reserved, Serious, Shy, Trustworthy, Adaptable, Brave, Confident, Cooperative, Decisive, Determined, Generous, Honorable, Protective, Responsible, Romantic, Self-assured, Sensitive, Shrewd.

Now, off of each of the branches where you have shown your beliefs, add subsidiary branches that show what sort of behaviour you believe would demonstrate and be consistent with that value. You don’t have to choose from our list, Choose behaviours that flow from your beliefs. So, for example, if one of your beliefs was Success, you might choose hard working and assertive as the behaviours that flow from it.

If you wish, you can also add branches showing particular areas of your life in which you want especially to show a certain behaviour. For example, if one of your beliefs was respectfulness, you might want to add branches showing that this is particularly important with, say, teachers and parents.

OK, have a go at that.

Right, if you’ve all finished, let’s have a look at the mind map of my imaginary friend John.



You can see that John is pretty competitive. He wants to win and has decided to channel that assertiveness into his sport and to focus on his training to increase his chance of victory. He wants success in life and will be ambitious and hard working. Luckily, he also intends to be modest, otherwise I fear that he could be a bit unbearable as a friend! You can read the rest of his mind map yourselves.

OK, now have a look at your own mind map. It tells you how you should behave. Who says so? You say so. They’re your beliefs and the behaviours that you think are consistent with those beliefs. You’ve created a route map that will lead to a contented life. You may have heard the expression “comfortable in his or her own skin”. This is what I think it means, knowing yourself and behaving in a way that is true to yourself. Look, we all let ourselves down from time to time – that’s life. But if you are consciously aware of the sort of person you want to be and how you want to behave, there’s a good chance that you will be that person. And if you find yourself in a situation where you can’t be that person, you’re probably in the wrong place and need to get out of it.

That concludes today’s session. Please take your two mind maps with you. You may care to look at them from time to time and see how things are working out. If you want to, you can show them to other people, to your parents, friends, etc. I would think that would be a good thing to do because the more they know about what you believe in and how you want to behave, the more help they can give you along the way.

Thank you for your participation and goodbye.

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