Changing Mental Models

Kevin Mahoney

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#1
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein (attributed)

As one explores the influencing factors of personal growth and development, the importance of an individual’s mental models becomes apparent. Peter Senge (2006) defines mental models as “deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations, or even pictures or images that influence how we understand the world and how we take action” (p. 7-8). Our mental models are the frameworks we use to make sense of the experiences, problems, and successes that we face.

A key factor in our personal growth is identifying the habits and practices that hinder us from becoming the people we want to be. It is vital that we are able to not only identify how we are feeling or what we are thinking, but we must also identify why we are thinking a certain way. It is unlikely that we will change growth limiting habits without understanding the thought process that produces them.

For example, we may feel very uncomfortable and anxious dealing with conflict. We may want to change this and become more comfortable in these types of situations. However, unless we identify the life experiences that created our current conflict aversion, we are not likely to have the breakthroughs that we want. Changing our mental models can require a lot of work but the results are worth it. Unless our thought processes change, our actions will inevitably return to those that reflect our current mental models.

How aware of your mental models are you?

What are practices you use to change your mental models?

Senge, P. (2006). The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. New York: Crown Business.
 

Dennielle Lee

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#2
Hi Kevin this is a very personal subject to me - changing my mental model.

As I have discussed previously on this forum, I have in the past suffered from severe and debilitating anxiety and depression. Being diagnosed with this was a real wake-up call for me because it me made me realise that I was making myself mentally sick by virtue of the way I was processing the world. My thoughts and thought patterns were destructive. In order to get better (without medication) I had to change my mental model.

Well, changing a lifetime of ingrained assumptions, attitudes and images that defined experience of life was not easy! I'm still working on it actually, but growth is never about an end point but rather the journey ;)

The most effective tool for me was mindfulness and learning to become aware of my thoughts as they arose. I learnt to become the observer of my mind and notice how I judge events, became aware of the emotions that arose from this judgment and my reactions (awareness of the reactions comes after I've reacted) to these emotions. In order to change my mental model I first had to become aware of what it was. This was followed by making a conscious effort to replace all of the negative, unhelpful and self-destructive thoughts as they arose - again not an easy task, it takes consistent effort over time, but with effort it works and my mental model slowly began to change.

Knowledge is as they say, power. I wouldn't have been able to empower myself and effect this kind of positive change without reading the right books, watching the right YouTube clips and listening to the right podcasts. Buddhist philosophy and its deep knowledge and understanding of the human condition was a godsend! So was the wisdom of people like Wayne Dyer, Louise Hay and Deepak Chopra to name a few.

So, I would say changing your mental model is a continual process of personal growth.
 
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#3
^ Wonderful read and yes its a hard process as you have experienced. I myself am in a process of changing my beliefs and mindset to more positive, productive and helpful. Its hard work especially when your tired or its hot or not focused. I hAve been using belief repatterning by Suzze Casey which is helpful along with other things I read online. Like Dennielle said there is no end just the journey and that makes it more fun!
 

Dennielle Lee

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#4
^ Wonderful read and yes its a hard process as you have experienced. I myself am in a process of changing my beliefs and mindset to more positive, productive and helpful. Its hard work especially when your tired or its hot or not focused. I hAve been using belief repatterning by Suzze Casey which is helpful along with other things I read online. Like Dennielle said there is no end just the journey and that makes it more fun!
Good luck and keep on your journey of growth, it's certainly worth the effort! :)
 

Kevin Mahoney

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#5
Dennielle,

You said "The most effective tool for me was mindfulness and learning to become aware of my thoughts as they arose. I learnt to become the observer of my mind and notice how I judge events, became aware of the emotions that arose from this judgment and my reactions (awareness of the reactions comes after I've reacted) to these emotions."

I agree, being an observer of our thought process is a key to changing our mental models. I read about a month ago about identifying when we are in an "elevated emotional position". I found that phrase helpful. It is not judgmental in any way. Simply points out that we are at a more emotional state of being. At that time we will be more susceptible to old thought patterns.
 
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#7
Yeah Kevin I'd say make it a weekly habit to read books, info online, even if its some blog from a random person. The info; even just a sentence can really great a dynamic impact of your daily life.
 

Dennielle Lee

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#8
Dennielle,

You said "The most effective tool for me was mindfulness and learning to become aware of my thoughts as they arose. I learnt to become the observer of my mind and notice how I judge events, became aware of the emotions that arose from this judgment and my reactions (awareness of the reactions comes after I've reacted) to these emotions."

I agree, being an observer of our thought process is a key to changing our mental models. I read about a month ago about identifying when we are in an "elevated emotional position". I found that phrase helpful. It is not judgmental in any way. Simply points out that we are at a more emotional state of being. At that time we will be more susceptible to old thought patterns.
Thanks Kevin :) I like that term 'elevated emotional position' - I reach this emotional position quite often, sometimes more often than I would like! Those old thought patterns definitely creep back in during these times, being aware of my emotions and detaching from them prevents me from getting overcome by them.