We all have times where we are using GPS or a map and come across a road that no longer exists or is blocked due to traffic, an accident or construction. We go about our trip, assuming that our map represents reality. Often times, these maps are accurate enough to get us to where we need to be but there is no map that ever shows every detail of the world. Our mental maps (or paradigms) are very similar. As Steven Covey has said:
“the map is not the territory. A map is simply an explanation of certain aspects of the territory. That’s exactly what a paradigm is. It is a theory, an explanation, or model of something else.”
We tend to move through life assuming that the things we “know” are definitely true. We use the same approach when traveling in our car, trusting our GPS map to be an accurate representation of reality. When we find something that isn’t true on our GPS, we may get upset for a few moments but quickly accept the fact that this route was not a perfect representation of reality and begin to “recalculate” our route.
These moments occur in our daily lives not only when traveling by road, but also when navigating through life in general. When we need to recalculate our mental maps however, we tend to have a harder time accepting that OUR view of reality could some how be inaccurate. Our mental maps are created throughout our entire life. Every thing we have seen, heard or read has contributed to them. We go through life, trusting these maps to be accurate. As with the GPS, they are often times reliable on certain levels but never contain all the information there is to know about reality.
Think of it as a set of mental maps instead of just one. There are so many types of physical maps: maps showing country boarders, roads, weather, seismic activity, etc. but there is never one map that shows it all. Our mind maps are like that. We have perceptions about certain aspects of our life and each area of life can be viewed through a different mental map depending on how you were raised and where. We need to realize and accept the fact that our mental maps are not reality, they are simply our understanding and projection of reality based on what we have learned so far in our lives. Once we accept this idea, we can be much more open to obtaining and understanding additional maps to add to our set.
The next time you find yourself in a situation where you are certain you are right and someone else is wrong, stop and ask yourself “Is it possible that my mental map could use some recalculating?”