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. Mental models are like the original lenses except they are more pervasive and complex. On the positive side they can be changed by following a few simple rules that help us overcome resistance. The problem with mental models is that they are designed to distort so that we can 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.

Mental models are the decision rules that 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 the original models were constructed as a compromise. Nothing important really changes unless our mental models do.

Self-knowledge is changing our existing “lenses” until we are looking through lenses that offer the same clarity as reality. In other words, transformational learning is changing your mental models, and nothing short of that will ever change the structure and function of our lives. Confidence, personal power, humility and influence will always be in front of us and not part of the fabric of our being. We must all deal with resistance to this 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.