Our Mental Models may be Holding Us Back from Success

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Our Mental Models may be Holding Us Back from Success

Economists tell us that the Trinidad & Tobago economy has been undergoing considerable change since 2017 and this change has been further exacerbated by the pandemic. They go on to suggest that such change requires us to change our approach to our Real Estate practice. Yet many of us continue to operate as business as usual, with negative results. It appears change is easier said than done.

Writers such as Economist, Kenneth E. Boulding, Scientist, Peter M. Senge, and Professor of Linguistics & Cognitive Science, George Lakoff, have proposed concepts such as mental images, mental models, systems thinking, and framing as tools for understanding change. They explain that the familiar often seem to be drawing us back to what we might perceive as a more secure time. This might be the cause of our timidity to move forward with courage and conviction to the new reality of Trinidad & Tobago.

The Challenge of Change

One cause of timidity might be our failure to recognize the power of mental images, models, and framing to block real change.  Apparently, experience gradually become unconscious, shaping our taken-for-granted reality, the way things are. They act as filters for all new, incoming messages or learning. The unconscious filters mental images, mental models, and frames function to judge automatically for us what is true or false, good, or bad, right or wrong.  A culture might be described as a set of these filters unconsciously agreed on by a particular group of people. 

Changes in perception do occur, of course, with glacial speed over time.  Usually, no ordinary person experiences any alarm at these shifts. Of particular interest for us is how these mental images and models affect the way we respond or react to new learning. 

Kenneth Boulding describes these mental images and models as creating the “pillars” of our “world. If a new piece of information leaves these pillars untouched or simply reinforces them, we easily make room for that information in our worldview.  But sometimes, says Boulding, some new information seems to rattle these pillars, threatening the stability of our worldview.  Our automatic defense against this rattling of the pillars is what we call “resistance to change.”

Such resistance is not necessarily negative, therefore.  We might think of it as a kind of psychological immune system.  Resistance tells us it’s time to stop and reflect on the impact of the new information, to ask ourselves if the changed situation is one, we welcome or not.  Resistance, in other words, alerts our consciousness.  But resistance unexamined can lead to stagnation.

Change Necessary for Success

In that famous bestseller, ‘Who Moved My Cheese’ Hem and Haw built a mental model that the cheese in Station C would last forever. They settled down and refused to notice the dwindling of the cheese.

On the other hand, Sniff and Scurry, had a mental model of nothing lasts forever. They were always on the lookout for new cheese. So, when they noticed the cheese in Station C dwindling, they set off to find new cheese. They soon found a new set in Station D. All the while Hem and Haw remained grumbling about who moved my cheese.

How to Find New Mental Models

During our school days we learnt many different models of thinking. In fact, each school subject uses a different mental model, take for instance the mental model for Arithmetic and the one for Literature or the one for Geography. As we grow older, we settle on one mental model and try to make it fit all situations.

As you plan for the next three quarters of 2022, why not explore using different mental models and see where they lead you. You may just find Station D with a new stack of cheese.