It is terrifying to realize just how easily you can change the way you perceive the world to convince yourself of pretty much anything.
I am not responsible for the situation I am in because look at all the ways the world is working against me.
I am right because the people I surround myself with tell me I am right.
I am a valuable human being because the things I value are my strengths.
In this article I will be discussing the many ways your mind can work against you and cause you to make bad decisions. However, at the same time your mind can be your greatest enemy, it can also be your greatest friend by fighting against these potential failures of your paradigm.
Mental Models are models you use to understand the world. You need these because reality is infinitely complex. This inevitably leads your models to be simplifications of what they represent. Although this can be inaccurate in many ways, you can improve this and structure your mental models in a way to help you achieve your goals.
The first mental model to talk about is called “Map is Not the Territory”. This mental model is extremely important to internalize because it essentially communicates that all mental models are simplifications and therefore imperfect. Knowing this not only sheds light onto ways that your mental models can be damaging, but also can help you become more curious to have a growth mindset.
One way that your mind can fail you is by not updating prior beliefs with new information. As you learn new things, beliefs you’ve had in the past may start to become irrelevant. Holding onto these outdated beliefs can be damaging, but your beliefs can be updated using a mental model called “Bayesian Updating”, which essentially means to update your beliefs with new information.
Rich people tend to value money, and beautiful people tend to value beauty. Whatever you have in abundance usually is the thing you value most, since it boosts your confidence without requiring any work. This bias is understandable, but can be damaging since it won’t incentivize you to work on growing yourself or your situation since you are only focused on what is working out, or what you have already. It is good to appreciate the things you have, however you need to find a balance between appreciating your current status and growing yourself.
Your paradigm can be described as your full set of mental models that all work together to make up your understanding of the world. The previous section is very much relevant to how your paradigm can be detrimental to you. Changing, or growing your paradigm is extremely hard, because it is hard to go through all the intertwining mental models that make up your understanding of the world. However, it is important to strategize and think about upgrading your mental models to best structure your paradigm to achieve your goals.
I discuss this in more detail within my Growing Paradigms article, however it is hard to think critically about your paradigm because you will be analyzing your paradigm through your paradigm. This is very useful to keep in your mind even if your paradigm makes sense, you are undoubtedly biased.
Confidence...and how lack of it can be harmful
Ultimately the biggest challenge is not being able to face that you are biased and how your mental models and paradigm are not in line with reality. By definition these things are simplifications and just the recognition of this is much better than not knowing what you don’t know, or ignoring that oftentimes you don’t know what you don’t know.
Confidence is key to updating your mental models and growing your paradigm you need confidence to recognize your own ignorance, biases and limitations. You need confidence to admit to yourself that your paradigm is flawed. Sometimes you may twist your paradigm to validate your self worth. It may work in the short term but eventually your paradigm works against you. Of course we all warp our paradigm to some degree but people who are confident have courage to grow their paradigm even when it challenges their sense of value.
Here are some ways that lack of confidence can be harmful and how you can counter these things. One shortcut is that you can latch your self worth onto narratives, and group identities such as political parties, certain viewpoints you have and share with others, etc. An amazing podcast between Africa Brooke, Jordan Peterson and Mikhaila Peterson demonstrates how powerful this can be. This can be an especially harmful mindset because it is a shared belief you have with other people therefore making it very easy to make yourself feel as though you are right by surrounding yourself with people that agree with you.
Another easy way that relates to what I just talked about to boost your confidence is putting yourself in an echo chamber. You don’t have to challenge your own convictions, nor do you have to learn if you surround yourself with people who agree with you and refuse to listen to people who don’t. It can be scary to realize how easily you can convince yourself of pretty much anything by not listening to people who disagree with you and labeling them as “dumb” or “immoral” and therefore less worthy to share their viewpoint and be heard.
Another shortcut is to surround yourself with people worse off than you are. Even if you are in a pretty bad situation, you can make yourself feel pretty great by surrounding yourself with people in an even worse situation. Some of these strategies people unknowingly use don’t even require twisting your paradigm, all you have to do is change the environment you are in to make yourself feel valuable.
How to battle against detrimental mental constructs that can be easily built
Much of this comes down to building confidence so you are able to develop curiosity even in things that may undermine your core beliefs. Developing curiosity in how you are wrong, how your paradigm can be improved, and what mental constructs you have that are harming you is really the secret to combating these potential failures in your interpretation of the world.
My dad talks about the crisis of confidence and how this is extrapolating into some of the problems we face in today’s world in this article on How Americans Can Come Together. If you are to do one thing to combat detrimental mental constructs I would suggest listening to people who disagree with you, and listening carefully. You don’t have to agree with them, but accept that there is a chance that they are right. Become curious about how you are wrong, why you are wrong, and how to most efficiently learn more about where you are wrong so you can correct yourself.
Focus on your circle of influence and what you can impact. The world won’t change for you no matter how much you want it to; however by focusing on what you can control, you will grow and become a more powerful human being. I won’t talk about anything specifically in this article but there are many problems in today's world that can be related to individuals, on mass, falling trap to the many ways your mind can work against you.
Like I said at the beginning of this article, your mind can be your greatest friend. You can use your understanding of your own psychology and biases to grow your paradigm and learn more about yourself. WEquil Group is a community of learners who try to do this and challenge each other to grow. Nobody can be right about everything. WEquil.School’s approach to education did not come from any one person. It came from people telling us that we are wrong about certain things and how we could improve. We listen and value these views and iterate our collective paradigm and philosophy we call WEquil. You can join us on this journey by going to wequil.com and joining our Slack group.