Written by: William D. Anton, Ph. D., Founder of CEO Effectiveness
This month CEO Effectiveness LLC will launch an innovative book that has the potential to take the reader on a life altering journey. It creates a new genre designed to engage the reader in an allegory that helps guide them on the path to their truer selves. As the character’s lives unfold the relationship between their early and later lives is revealed. Each chapter ends by pulling back from the captivating story line, allowing the curious and inspired reader to apply the lessons learned to the trajectory of their own lives. There has never been a book quite like this that connects the dots between early developmental histories and adult choices in quite this way. Leaders have a special responsibility to learn about these vital links, because their level of self-knowledge affects the lives of so many others. Here are some useful thoughts to keep in mind as this new book is launched.
Perhaps the greatest gift a parent can give a child is the awareness that they are basically a starting point in their lives and that they must grow to become co-creators of the work that will remain in progress for their entire life. By creating openness to new experiences, parents help create beliefs and mental models that remain flexible to growth and change for a lifetime. In the words of the renowned M. Scott Peck, we as humans must remain eternal embryos to recapture the rapture of being more alive as we grow towards our true selves.
Mental models are decision rules that determine what we experience. Most of us reading this post have been to the eye doctor to check our vision. We sit in a complicated chair and have several different lenses put in front of our eyes. The goal is to pick the lens that helps us see with the greatest clarity. In other words, the lenses are correcting for distortions of various kinds created by our physiology.
When it comes to thinking and feeling we aren’t so lucky. Stretching the metaphor, mental models are like the recalibration of our original lenses based on compromises we thought were necessary to win parental approval. Like physical glass, we experience the world through these models, but they have a far more pervasive and complex impact on our lives.
The problem with mental models is that they are designed to distort so that we can continue to adapt to the world we lived in as children. They work but they have one big flaw: They tend to persist even when we leave that environment and the requirements of our lives have changed, sometimes dramatically. On the positive side they can be changed by following a few simple rules that help us overcome resistance.
Mental models as decision rules influence not only what we think but what we see, hear, taste, touch and smell as well. If they are not causing too many symptoms, we tend to be completely unaware of them. We even define personal mastery as applying our existing mental models (tacit decision rules) to new situations in our lives—learning new skills, having new experiences—and believe we have experienced personal mastery since “we can only play with the hand we are dealt.” Nothing could be further from the truth. We don’t even know the hand we were dealt, since early mental models were originally developed as a compromise. Nothing important really changes unless our mental models do.
Forging a path to self-knowledge requires changing our existing “lenses” until we are looking through clear glass; lenses that offer the same clarity as reality. Transformational learning is changing your mental models, and nothing short of that will ever change the structure and function of our lives. Stopping short of that means that confidence, personal power, humility and influence will always be an aspiration and not part of the fabric of our being. We must all deal with resistance to our greater awareness on a daily basis until we make the commitment to know ourselves as we truly are. Once this commitment is solid we begin to enlarge what we are capable of achieving.
If all of this seems too daunting or complex, CEO Effectiveness is about to make it easier for you to clarify how this operates in your own life and identify active steps you can take toward self-realization. Stay tuned to our post next Monday on all of our social media sites to learn more.