Tool to Help You Challenge Your Beliefs and Change Your Life

The mental model transformation worksheet to help you change limiting beliefs

Posted Apr 13, 2017

In order to change our lives and ultimately change our world, we must start by examining our own mental models: our beliefs, assumptions, and expectations about the way the world is and the way things ought to be. We think and act through our mental models. We often forget that we are not victims of our minds or our brains’ hardwiring. We do not have to be trapped in old ways of thinking and acting that undermine our own opportunities for success. For example, you don’t have to take things personally or respond defensively to your perception of "tone" in an email. You can choose not to judge someone unfairly based on their appearance alone. And you don’t have to over-react to a situation and respond in a way that you end up regretting. We are not mindless, simply reacting to our environment, rather, we are powerful, able to choose our response to everything we experience. It is important that we remember this now. The stakes are too high on a national and on a global level. It seems that fear-based beliefs and assumptions are dividing us and compromising our values. We must challenge these beliefs and adopt new ways of thinking and acting to change our world.

The problem is that many of us still do not know how powerful our minds truly are.  Cognitive scientists are finding that peoples' mental models play a more central role in human perception than was previously understood. What we fundamentally believe about ourselves, what we believe to be true, what we have decided is important to us, what we focus on, is often what our experience will be. Here is a simple example. Has this every happened to you?

Purchased by E. Thornton from Shutterstock
Source: Purchased by E. Thornton from Shutterstock

It was 2003, my Mitsubishi Galant had 168,000 miles on it, and I was about to move to Boston, so I needed a new car. I called my brother Hugh and asked him what kind of car I should buy. He told me the best deal was the new Lincoln LS.  I liked the promotional offer of $0 down, 0 percent interest, and $0 due at signing. I went online and looked at the car. I fell in love with the car with the silver exterior and silver interior.  I decided to think about it for a few days. All of a sudden, everywhere I looked, I saw a Lincoln LS, in the same silver color. Were the cars always there, or did they miraculously appear and follow me everywhere I went? Obviously, the cars were always there, but I didn’t notice them before, not until I told my brain that the silver Lincoln LS was important to me. My brain brought to my attention what I wanted and considered important.

Not only do we underestimate the power of our mind to influence our perceptions, we also undervalue the power we have to change our minds.  We have the capability to rewire our neural nets with new ways of thinking that will result in behaviors that serve us rather than harm us, both individually and collectively. Let's start with something simple and personal.  If you go back to my blog series on common mental models:  Perfectionist, Competitor, External Validation, Control and Insecurity you will remember that it is through the lens of our mental models that we perceive and respond to what is happening moment to moment each day. The good news is that we have the ability to deconstruct and re-examine our mental models and choose to tweak them in ways that better serve us. For example, if trying to be perfect all the time is getting in your way; or perhaps you are hyper critical of others; or you become paralyzed to make a decision for fear it won’t be perfect, then this Mental Model Transformation Worksheet may be helpful to you. It is a simple, yet effective tool that I use in my classes and workshops and has proven helpful to many people seeking to change the way they think and act. 

Below is the Mental Model Transformation Worksheet for a mid-level director seeking to tweak her mental model that she believes is a combination of both the Perfectionists ( I have to perfect in everything I do) and Competitor ( I have to be the best, better than everyone else to feel good about myself) mental models. 

Created by Elizabeth R. Thornton
Source: Created by Elizabeth R. Thornton

With this tool, you can begin to own and control your cognitive processes and begin to respond more objectively to everything in your life. I challenge you to think about how you are framing your world. Ask yourself these worksheet questions and begin the process of rewiring your neural network to serve you better.

In my next blog, we will begin to deconstruct the divisive mental model of “Us versus Them”. Where did it come from?  What are the assumptions underlying it?  What behaviors does it cause? Does believing in “Us versus Them” serve us or harm us?  What is a new way of thinking about it? How can we interrupt our old reaction and respond differently based on a more inclusive view of the world.  Are you up for it?

Excerpt from: The Objective Leader:  How to Leverage the Power of Seeing Things As They Are.