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Overview and purpose

‘Mapping the territory’ is an engaging way to reveal limiting beliefs associated with achieving a target, through the visual metaphor of maps. It also has special value as an evaluation tool which can be revisited to express progress.



The tool can be used in two main ways:

  • ·         Individuals can be invited to pick one of the map extracts (see MAPS) – they should choose the map that most represents the issue they are discussing
  • ·         Individuals can be invited to look at the map extracts and then draw a map of their own to show where they are now in relation to their issue.

As you work to support somebody using the tool you can use the following statements/questions:

  1.  Tell me about what you see, hear or feel right now
  2. How is this like your situation?
  3. How is this not like your situation?
  4. Where are you and where is your target?
  5. If a particular feature of the map is chosen, you could ask: ‘What kind of [feature] is this?’ This will help the person you are working with engage further with the metaphor they are developing.
  6. What is it about this [feature] that holds you back?
  7. In what ways are the solutions already on the map?

How it works

This tool benefits from the use of a metaphor, which helps individuals dissociate themselves from their challenges and the emotional aspects of these. This enables them to get a more objective view of their situation. The metaphor is also useful in helping people to start finding solutions to their challenges.


Jenny is a geography teacher who is in charge of a community wetlands project that brings together experts from a university, an environmental charity, year 11 pupils from her school and children from a local special school. Her main role has been to liaise with everyone involved in the project, but unfortunately the project is stalling. Jenny’s coach helps her explore the issues using the ‘Mapping the territory’ tool, and she explains that she feels like a lone rower in a tiny boat rowing between islands, delivering bread. By the time she reaches an island the bread is wet and useless! Exploring this idea helps Jenny realise there is no ‘mainland’ in her situation; she is exhausted and can’t row any more. She resolves to tackle the issue head-on and calls a meeting.

Follow-up work

This tool can also be used to evaluate progress by revisiting the map at a later date. Some useful questions at this stage could include the following:

  • ·         Where are you on the map now?
  • ·         What has changed since we last discussed this?
  • ·         What has stayed the same?
  • ·         How well does this map represent your journey now?
  • ·         What changes, if any, would you like to make to the map at this stage?