In the last article, we explored two practices to become more self-aware. ( Read the article here https://buff.ly/2Iu4qxB) This is the first step of any self-development journey. I hope you tried those practices and saw how they help become an observer of your life.
The next step is to understand that all that you see, hear, feel and experience is an interpretation of “what is”, of “reality”. A well known example is the glass of water that you interpret it as half full or half empty. This interpretation has an impact on your thoughts, emotions and behavior.
The lenses to interpret reality
We experience and interpret life based on a set of overlapping lenses. Each one of us was almost an empty page at birth. The fascinating part is that our environment & DNA filled in the page with different kind of interpretations. This means that no one sees the same “reality”. We are all skewed or biased into seeing something different.
We can explain those “biases” with the help of science. Our brain has learned to become efficient at saving energy by creating shortcuts. Those shortcuts are electric impulses between neurons that are used so many times until they become habits. Habits can be translated into ways of thinking, behaving and believing.
We learn those shortcuts in our families, community, and culture.
Family “core” interpretation:
Parents accompany their children in their growth and development. The family core (parents and children) is the first organization we belong to. Parents do their best to give children an education that help them interact with the rest of the world.
Education is based on shared principles, values, beliefs and acceptable behavior. Children absorb all those “rules” in a quest of love, protection and integration.
We all belong or identify ourselves to a community. This community can be a religious or local one. Communities regroup themselves on shared history, values, beliefs and acceptable behavior. For example, expatriate community, catholic and muslim community
Usually a culture is the one of a country or of an organization. As for community it has shared history, values, beliefs and acceptable behavior. It usually integrates different community that learned to live together. Languages is also a very important part of a culture. This is the reason why I believe that learning a new languages also gives us an opportunity to better understand another culture. When you learn how to speak you also learn how to think. Research on languages have show that our language also influence the way we look at things. The german languages for example is very precise and describes exhaustively what is happening while the english language leaves more space for interpretation.
In business, the language can also be compared with all the abbreviations used in the organization that seen from the outside makes no sense. Communities, on the other hand, can be compared to the different professions co-existing together in the form of departments.
The last thing that influences our interpretation of the world is our experience of life. We all experience joyful and painful events and give meaning to them. This is partly how we build our personality. The meaning we give those events goes unquestioned and may be part of our current suffering.
Understanding the existence of mental models
In the social sciences we name those integrated rules “mental models”. They give us different manuals that indicate how to behave in specific situations. Those mental models are made of expectations, habits and beliefs.
An expectation is “the feeling or belief that something will or should happen” Definition of “expectation” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press.
There are different expectations:
- written rules / expectation: For example, we expect someone to stop at a red traffic light.
- unwritten rules / expectation: Those can be behavior that are expected of you or others in a certain situation.
A habit is “something that you do often and regularly, sometimes without knowing that you are doing it” Definition of “habits” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press.
It is an automatized action. We develop habits such as brushing our teeth and driving a car. Learning a new habit is cumbersome but once you get it, it’s hard to lose.
A belief is “the feeling of being certain that something exists or is true” Definition of “belief” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press. This “feeling” cannot always be proven right or wrong.
For example, I believe that all human being deserve freedom ,equity and brotherhood. No one can prove me wrong or right. It is just a belief but it impacts the way I interact with the world.
Understanding the origin of your mental models
The first practice (link to practice page) taught you how to observe your life by writing down what you thought about your life and where your emotions manifested in your body. The second practice is about understanding where your mental models come from.
Observe your interpretation of reality
Looking at what you wrote try to identify which expectations, habits or beliefs manifested in your life and wonder where do they come from (families, community, and culture).
Does it serve you?
Observing what you think and how you emotionaly react to a thought helps understand if there are things to change. I invite you to reflect on the following things:
- Do you think that all those expectations, habits or beliefs are serving you?
- Do you feel aligned with them?
- Are you emotional about those expectations, habits or beliefs?
Now, you start to understand where you formed your current interpretation of the world. In the next article, we will ponder the need for change.
Write a comment below to share your experience or contact me if you have questions.