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  • Writer's pictureSurapsari Fujimaru


Have you ever wondered what makes people successful?

Effort, talent, skills, persistence, resilience — there are many success factors. One of them — which comes from outside the person — is resources.

Successful people are resourceful. They got people with the resources — tangible or intangible — they need to achieve their goals. If not, they know where to search for those. Locating resources and recognizing obstacles is essential to accomplishing a vision.

We are never alone. Even when we suffer from isolation or enjoy solitude, we are always influenced by people and organizations around us. Like constellations in the clear winter sky, some elements of society cluster and illuminate each other. By examining your relationships, you can clarify which ones brighten you and help you navigate your journey.

What is an eco-map? An eco-map is a diagram that shows a person’s important relationships with people, groups, and organizations. Ann Hartman, a social work researcher, introduced the eco-map (a.k.a. ecogram) in 1978. It is the tool social workers and psychotherapists use to identify resources and challenges for their clients.

From star maps to the GPS, human beings have used a variety of maps to reach their destinations since ancient times. You can use your eco-map to navigate your way to a more peaceful, joyful, and fulfilled life.

Benefits of an eco-map

We are multisensory learners. Learning through visual and hands-on activities enhances our understanding and leads to more discovery. Creating and meditating on your eco-map will help you explore your social environment and find ways to improve the quality of your life. Your eco-map will show the followings:

  • People, groups, and organizations that support, benefit, nurture, or empower you. They are the resources that help you achieve your goal.

  • People, groups, and organizations that discourage, hurt, oppose, or undermine you. They are the obstacles that prevent you from achieving your goal.

  • Your level of social connectedness and quality of your connections.

  • Areas of service duplication or abundance.

  • Areas of disconnection or isolation.

  • Potentials for new resources.

  • Hidden obstacles.

  • Effectiveness of your current strategy for goal achieving

I draw an eco-map when I feel stuck or recognize the need for growth. My recent eco-map (see the diagram above) showed the lack of strong friendships that are mutually supportive and beneficial, while my marital relationship is greater than ever. Once intimate friendships ebbed during my quiet transformation. I had been aware of it, but a visual presentation of the weakening friendships urged me to strengthen them. I also realized I needed people with strong marketing skills in my social network if I wanted to grow professionally.

How to make your eco-map You will need:

  • a white poster board or large sheet of paper

  • pencil and eraser,

  • pen or marker

  • coloring materials (optional).


  1. Draw a circle in the center of the paper. Write your name inside.

  2. Draw circles around yours to represent the people, groups, and organizations that interact with and influence you in person and virtually.

  3. Express the quality of your connection with each social element using the lines below:

___________ a solid or thick line for strong, important, supportive, or positive connection - — — — — a broken line for a weak connection /\/\/\/\/\/ a zigzag line for a stressful relationship →→→→→ an arrow for direction or flow of energy, influence, or resources.

Optional You can make your eco-map more visually striking to express your relations better and have fun.

  • Vary the size of circles to show different levels of influence. For example, you can draw a bigger circle for your helpful mentor and a smaller circle for your distant family member who might know an organization that could provide you with a resource.

  • Color-code the lines to represent the nature of connections (e.g., red for conflict, green for nurturing)

  • Modify the lines or add different ones to express your relationships more clearly.

  • Use different shapes, motifs, and colors to represent the elements of your social connections. You could draw a bright yellow star for your supporter whom you look up to or gray clouds for people who don’t believe in your potential.

Reflect on your eco-map Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • How do you feel about your eco-map?

  • What does your eco-map tell you about your support system? Does it satisfy your needs?

  • What resources are you currently receiving or could you receive more?

  • What do you need to maintain your current support level?

  • How can you increase your resources? Who or what organizations can you approach?

  • Which relationships are stressful or not effective?

  • Are there any elements that have the potential to become your obstacles?

  • What can you do to improve your relationships?

  • How can you positively affect the direction or energy flow between you and your social elements?

  • Any other discoveries?

. . .

Eco-mapping lets us see our relationships from a panoramic view. I learned and benefitted from it, and so did the people I helped. A good map is a reliable and necessary travel companion. Try eco-mapping if you want to achieve a goal or find a better way to navigate the complex world.


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