If you’ve not thought about it before, here is Jay Wright Forrester’s definition:
“The image of the world around us, which we carry in our head, is just a model. Nobody in his head imagines all the world, government or country. He has only selected concepts, and relationships between them, and uses those to represent the real system.”
Basically, our reality (if it remains unchallenged) is constructed from assumptions based on our and importantly, other people’s experiences. This means that our behaviour and decisions are shaped by assumptions instead of reality. A bit like we’ve constructed our own version of The Matrix in our heads… actually that sounds pretty cool
Personally, this means that when you’re down on yourself, you’re not seeing the reality of your situation. You’re seeing a situation based on skewed assumptions built on past experiences and the things people in authority have told you. Most commonly, it stops us taking risks or changing our behaviour for the better. But on a more destructive level, it really impacts your mental health and perception of your own successes and failures.
I’ve found myself sitting with a few friends recently who have been in a bad situation and they’re piling on their own baggage to a situation and not challenging their own feelings. I’ve definitely done this too but it’s much harder to see it in ourselves.
I really want to break out of this pattern. I see challenging my own mental models as a really important part of dealing with depression and anxiety, building successful relationships and, for me, improving my relationship with money (a real sticking point).
If this strikes a chord with you at all, here are some things I’ve found useful:
- Writing down affirmations each morning that challenge my feelings about myself. For example: If I’ve been feeling down about how I look, I write affirmations about having a strong healthy body – this brings my focus back to what’s important and helps me to smash my thinking on what I “should” look like. By focussing on health and strength, I also find this helps me make better food and exercise choices without feeling like it’s a burden – kind of like I’m fueling my superhero self 😀
- Listen to meditative music and sounds like Tibetan bells for 10 minutes every morning (here is a handy playlist). This helps me to clean out any anxiety that I’ve woken up with and combined with writing things down, gives me a clear brain slate!
- Be my own critical friend. When I’m in crisis mode, I try to imagine I’m sitting opposite myself in a coffee shop just listening. The more I can remove myself from being stuck in my own reality, the easier it is to give myself better, more impartial advice.
- Surround yourself with people who will challenge your beliefs about yourself. There is something very powerful about having a friend who will ask you “Is that the truth of your situation?”
I know this might all sound a bit wanky but honestly, is it worth staying in a mental prison which stops you moving forward, for the sake of not wanting to sound like a hippy?
- Janet Murray for The Guardian: “Walking away from my business taught me the true meaning of success“
- The Tim Ferriss Show Podcast – Bryan Johnson’s episode is particularly good on this but they all challenge conventional thinking.
- The Chimp Paradox, Prof Steve Peters
- Just for laughs and excellent conversation: “Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer and Comedy Actress A-List in Raunchy, R-Rated Roundtable“