What we experience in any situation may not be what is really occurring. Whenever something happens, our brain processes the information it has received and tries to find a meaning. Our brain is constantly asking, “What does this mean?”
Two people can be in the exact same situation and find totally different meanings. The way in which we process the things that happen to us is called our model of the world. Our model of the world is simply our way of interpreting things. The way we interpret things is affected by our beliefs, focus, references, rules, state and language. Our model of the world is a combination of all these things.
One of the greatest things you can learn is how to understand another person’s model of the world. Arguments are caused by people having different models of the world. Remember that in an argument there may not be any one person who is right (both people think they are right) nor is any one person wrong. There is only a difference in their interpretation of what they are arguing about. For the argument to be resolved, the people arguing have to discover the difference in their models. They must look for the belief, rule or point of focus that they disagree on.
A useful way to think of models of the world is to compare them to maps. People all have slightly different maps of reality. Most maps show approximately the same thing but there are slight differences in each map.
We have models of the world so that we can understand what things mean and how we should relate to them? Your model of the world is always designed to serve your best interests. It tries to help you avoid pain and move towards pleasure (although it doesn’t always succeed).
The challenge is that nearly everything in our world has parts that are painful and parts that are pleasurable. Helping someone whose car has broken down at night may seem painful if you believe he may be a bad person who’ll hurt you. Stopping to help may also seem pleasurable because if you help a fellow human you’ll feel like a good person. Why you choose to do depends on your model of the world.
As you can see, a lot goes on in your head when you think about anything. The example of the person broken down on the side of the road is a very simple one. Many evaluations that you make result in you feeling fearful or optimistic. To have a great life you need to have a model of the world that allows you to feel pleasure very easily and pain very rarely. When your brain asks “What does this mean?” you want it to find answers that result in you feeling good.