Mental Models – How To Discover The Fortune Lying Hidden In Your Own Mind

mental models

The key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness into our awareness.

-Lao Tzu

There’s a fortune within your mind.

It’s begging for a release.

However, it’s locked away.

It just so happens, the key to this vault is your MENTAL MODELS.

What are mental models?

They’re your pattern recognition system. (OODA loop).

This post will explain:

  • Why quality mental models make a difference
  • How you can improve your own
  • And what new models are important to develop

Let’s begin.

Quality Mental Models – The Secret To A Better Life

I’ll let you in on a little secret.

The better your mental models, the better your quality of life.

You see, a human mind with the ability to think well is like a diamond mine that never runs out.

What does this effect?


Your models add up to a mental map. An accurate mental map helps you experiment with less risk. Your maps allow you to avoid world danger without experiencing it.

Lacking certain maps places you at greater risk. Any person with a defective cognitive map is destined to become a “victim”.

You become more confident and secure when you have plans to deal with problems. Accounting for worse-case scenarios frees mental energy. Don’t expect the worst, just be ready for it. Everything’s simpler when you have a plan.

Systems are great strategies repeated.

The more you increase the quality of your models, the more you realize how few (smart) choices there actually are. When your mental models are sound, low-value thoughts and actions dissolve. You can’t even consider them.

You’ve got whole categories you bat away so your brain isn’t cluttered with them. This way, you’re able to pick up a few sensible things to do.

If biases lead to horrible outcomes, they aren’t very good. That’s why it’s important to adopt positive illusions (disregard “luck”, be an optimist, etc). If you aren’t aiming too high, you’re aiming too low.

Mental models don’t just apply to taking action and making decisions. You also have mental models for learning.

  • Ludvig over at “Start Gaining Momentum” has an excellent post on this topic. You can read it here.

But that’s not all.

How To Make Subjective Reality Work For You

Our brains aren’t designed to see reality. Our brains are designed to help us survive.

-Scott Adams

We base our decisions on an idea of reality (mental models), not the actual thing.

Your mental model is the world you’re living in. When this doesn’t match reality, you experience pain.

Cognitive maps, not reality, control behavior.

People with undeveloped mental models make decisions purely off emotion. This is because emotions offer the path of least resistance for decision making.

Decision environments are filtered to us. Dogmas and ideologies offer short-cuts to decisions. They attempt to pigeon-hole reality by emphasizing certain aspects. However, this mass-produced “McDonald’s” of decision-making is hardly the best way to achieve results.

Synthesis is reality because we live in a world of multiple models. Synthesis helps you understand situations. Without synthesis, you’ll be blind-sided.

mental map

(Some Models For Decision Making)

Every new model is a new angle. When your models change, so does their “overlap” (perceived options for action).

There are no solutions without second-order consequences. Always weigh the downside of every action.

Accurate models increase your odds for success.

Self-development isn’t about winning 100% of the time, it’s about increasing your chances. The best focus is medium and long-term. With a strong framework, your decisions become more structured (minimizing risk and assumptions).

Models are gates to action. And better actions lead to better outcomes. Developing effective thinking helps you rule yourself.

Let’s look at the best way to create a quality mental framework.

How To Create And Develop A Framework Of Logic

By assigning things their correct value, you can avoid much suffering, grief, and anxiety.

-Marcus Aurelius

Sculpting your awareness is its own art form. Every “reality tunnel” is a subjective artistic creation.

This is where biases come into play. The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.

Mental models do battle with themselves and with others.

Facts have to hang on a framework of theory. The more valuable mental models you have, the more you can look at problems from different angles. This increases the odds you can come to a better solution.

When you know the contextual value of things, you can do anything with them.

The plan is to build systems around important thoughts – cognitive biases, major projects, etc.

  1. Develop skill with consistent routines.
  2. Don’t sacrifice your integrity for money.
  3. Identify the elements of what you’re facing.
  4. Justify your actions in terms of *expected value*.
  5. Find connections between disciplines to compress info.
  6. Be paranoid about certain parts of life (time management).

It’s not about knowing where to look, it’s about grasping the principles responsible for good thinking. An idea is nothing more than a new combination of old elements. The ability to bring old elements into new combinations depends on the ability to see relationships.

How do you see relationships? Through the lens of your mental models of course!

Once the real issues are identified, the solutions are often simple. Always account for your resources (money/material/supplies/inventory). What are your other assets? What liabilities or obligations come into play?

If you want things to be different, you have to act differently. Making better choices through more informed thinking leads to actual changes.

Here’s another example.

Join The Winners With 80/20 Mental Models

You don’t have to memorize a zillion things. Details are simply various combinations of core principles.

-John T. Reed

When developing your mental models, it’s important to keep the 80/20 principle in mind.

What 20% of models will improve 80% of your life?

Decision-makers have a checklist of criteria to look out for. They have an assortment of high-value actions to choose from. The *overlap* between their mental models evoke these checklists. They’re brought to conscious attention when the situation for a decision arises.

The goal is to destroy your old models and rebuild them into new perspectives.

Mental models show you how to orient in an effective way.

(Share if you agree).

This isn’t a one-time event – It’s a continual process. Any model of reality is incomplete (and possibly inconsistent) and must be continuously adapted to new observations.

Pattern recognition reduces your execution time by embodying it. Prioritize what’s in front of you – everything else is just noise.

Thought must be linked with purpose.

But there’s more.

How To Visualize Your Mental Models

Impress your map upon your memory, so you can bring it at will into conscious representation or recollection.

-W.W. Atkinson

As you know, clarity is an important part of realizing your vision.

(Think of BBC Sherlock’s “mind palace”, illustrated in “The hounds of baskerville“).

It’s important to index all cause-relations and effect-relations of your reality.

The best way to do this is to arrange your mental images by a logical system. (mental filing cabinet). Turning this cabinet into a physical system (via a commonplace or swipe file) frees mental energy.

The “method of loci” also proves effective.

Seeing your models in front of you is a great way to make new connections.

Try it for yourself.

Closing Thoughts

You now have all the tools to create quality mental models.

This gives you a tremendous edge over those who react strictly off emotion. It also gives you access to a higher quality of life than those with weak models.

The goal is to constantly expand your experience. This improves your models as a *system*.

When you perceive wealth and abundance, you act in terms of it. You also avoid landmines that set others back.

Your riches await!

Read: “The Psychology of Judgement And Decision Making“.


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