Map Your Heartbreak - Change the World

Grade Level: 
6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Needs Assessment
Our State of Generosity
Social Awareness
This activity helps youth discover their giving passion. The first step to meaningful philanthropy is identifying issues that really matter to us. In this activity, youth follow their hearts...or rather their heartbreaks to discover what they are passionate about.

The first step to meaningful philanthropy is uncovering an issue or cause that really matters to you. It’s important because, unless your heart is in it, unless you truly feel passionate about something, it’s difficult to stay committed and involved over time. 

“If you want to find your passion, surrender to your heartbreak.
Your heartbreak points toward a truer north…”  
– Umair Haque

Typically, budding philanthropists are told to follow their hearts in order to find their passion, to find that special cause where you feel you can make a difference. But veteran educator Angela Maiers and Buddhist teacher James Baraz suggest an alternative route. Instead of following your heart, they suggest following your heartbreak.

According to Ms. Maiers, “Finding your passion; surrendering to your heartbreak is really about finding what really moves you. Discovering what ticks you off and breaks your heart may be the first step in that direction.”

The idea is that when something truly breaks your heart, you feel compelled to do something about it. You believe the world needs what you have and are driven to take action and make a change. Doing something becomes your “calling” or “life’s purpose”. With your heartbreak as your guide, you begin to see how you can make a real difference in the lives of others.

So, What Matters to You? What Are You Passionate About?

Following your heartbreak begins with Heart Mapping, a process that can be done individually or as a group. 

1.  Start by drawing a heart on a large sheet of paper. Draw a line down the middle dividing it in half. On the left side of the heart, draw or write things you are passionate about using these questions to guide your thinking:

  • What makes you happy? Where are you happiest? Why?
  • Who do you love? Who do you admire? Why?
  • What’s the most fun you’ve ever had? What’s your favorite memory?
  • What possession or activity is most important to you? Why?
  • What possession or activity brings you the greatest joy? Why?
  • What secrets are in your heart?

2.  Next, ask yourself, what breaks your heart about any of these things? 

For example, you might be passionate about cooking, but it breaks your heart that so many children go to bed hungry each night. Or you might be passionate about reading, but it breaks your heart that some children have never owned a book. 

3.  On the right side of the heart, draw or write all the things that break your heart. 

4.  Now, in space around the outside of your heart, draw or write your ideas big and small for ways to resolve these issues. Each idea represents a step you can take to make a positive change. 

Here are a few questions to guide your thinking:

  • Who are the specific people that need your help?
  • What are the everyday things that they do? Why? To what ends?
  • What are the biggest pain points that are the root causes of their problems, unmet needs, or desires? 
  • What are the processes, tools, or activities that they have to do or have invented for themselves as “work arounds” for the way things are “supposed” to be done?
  • What workarounds cause stress or concern, dissatisfaction, or anything else that’s responsible for their pain?

Some examples of Heart Maps created by Aaron Maurer's students at Bettendorf Middleschool.

These kids turned their heartbreaks into breakthroughs:

You can, too!

Variations … Heart-to-Heart Connections

  1. Rather than mapping your heartbreak on your own, pair up with a friend or two. Then use color-coded sticky notes to add on your ideas for resolving your heartbreak issues.
  2. Extension … Turn Your Heartbreak into Breakthroughs: A practical next step would be to learn more about your heartbreak issue. Internet searches, conversations with people affected by the issue, as well as with people already working for change, are all great places to start. You will quickly find that the answer to one question leads to another, and another, but your path will soon become clear.
  3. Capture and share what you have learned about your heartbreak issue and your ideas for resolving it using one of the many on-line infographic tools, like Glogster,, or Or make a YouTube or Vine video. Upload your infographic or video to social media sites to inspire others who share your heartbreak to get involved.

Video Directions

SEL Connection via Map Your Heartbreak Activity

Share Your Hearts With Us!

We will happily share your heartbreak map and breakthroughs on the Learning to Give website. Just send them to [email protected]