Billions of realities


There are billions of people on this planet. Each person creates their own view of what this world is about. That’s billions of realities. Can you imagine what this means? I guess not, because you are still bounded by your own mind and experiences.

What I really want to know is… of all those billions of possible realities I could create in my head – why the heck did I choose this one?!? I tend to run around in world where I feel stuck in a lot of different ways. I have created the way things are to be… quite limiting. So why do I hold on to this? Why don’t I just drop this reality I have created, and pick up something better?

Winning the lottery

So how do mental models work?

Here is a quick example of my model for getting rich:

  1. Pick the right numbers.
  2. Buy a lottery ticket.
  3. Win the lottery.

Easy, right? Unfortunately, this is in conflict another mental model of mine:

  1. My chance of getting hit by a bus are orders of magnitude greater than winning the lottery.
  2. I live in London, with lots of buses, some of which drive extremely close to the side of the road.
  3. If I play the lottery, chances are I’ve been hit by a bus.
  4. I’d better not play the lottery.


If you think this is a bit far-fetched, you should see my normal mental models. But that’s okay… mental models don’t need to make sense, they just need to work. The important thing is to ask the questions:

  • Does this mental model work for me?
  • Is there something that might work better?

    Mental models

    What are mental models?

    Mental models are the the models we build up of how the world works in order to interact with the world in a more efficient manner. These models can come from our perceptions and imagination – and give us a reference to how physical things or abstract interactions work.

    Prof. Ruth Byrne, in her gentle introduction to mental models, likens mental models to architect’s models or physicists’ diagrams. These models and diagrams are an analogy to the structure they represent, and make it easier for decisions and interpretations to be made.

    Kern communications ties mental models into systems thinking, making the link between product design and user’s mental models about how a product will function.

    Mental models, belief systems, or whatever you call them, have a huge impact on how we act in the present moment. We encounter so much information, we need our models in order to get on with our lives, and not be paralyzed trying to interpret every new situation.


    Do you like how the world around you makes you feel?

    We create our beliefs about the world from our experiences, but they don’t need to be permanent. How quickly can we change? Consider the following story:

    • You are riding on a busy bus. Sitting next to you are a couple of rowdy, uncontrolled, obnoxious kids. Their father is sitting there, clearly inattentive, letting them bounce around and make a lot of noise. They just can’t keep quiet or sit still… and are distracting everyone on the bus – others are eying the kids and sending annoyed glances to the father. What’s wrong with him? Why can’t he do something about his children. He is acting really inconsiderate and ought to be thrown off the bus. What a horrible father.

    That’s a reasonable interpretation, right? Are you annoyed at this guy?

    • One of your fellow passengers has had enough. He gets up, walks over to the father and says, “Sir, you have to do something about your kids. They are distracting everybody on this bus Please calm them down.” To which the father replies, “I’m so sorry… we are just coming from the hospital… their mother just passed away… it was all so sudden… I don’t know what I’m going to do without her…”

    What happens to your interpretation? Are you still annoyed?

    Remember: You never have all the information. Even if you did, you still choose how you react.

    Do you like how you choose to feel about the world around you?

    Take charge

    We are in charge of our beliefs about the world. Everything we see as good, bad, evil, whatever… stems from our own beliefs. These beliefs are not written in stone, but are something ethereal that we hold on to, and often identify with.


    For example, some of the beliefs that I have:

    • Sunny weather makes everyone happier. When I have too much sunny weather I stop appreciating it, so a variety in weather is good. The sun always comes out every day in London… even if it is for just a few seconds. The rain is fun to listen to. Drizzle is not. Apples taste good. Cheesecake tastes even better. But cheesecake is unhealthy. But the blueberry cheesecake at starbucks is really good, so what does it matter? I don’t like being judged, therefore I shouldn’t judge people. Shakespeare wrote, nothing tis neither good nor bad, but thinking makes it so. I think that’s a good philosophy for me to live by.

    None of these are universal truths that are true for everyone. They’re not even always true for me. The catch is… I created them – from my own experiences.

    Perceiving reality

    Here’s an interesting bit from about… perceiving reality. I like how it describes that we don’t really know what is out there. Our reality in only constructed by our five senses… so all we know is what we interpret from these different senses we experience.

    Our perception of the world isn’t solely constructed from what we are sensing, but also our memories of what we have experienced. From these, we have constructed beliefs about the way things are.

    It’s kind of like putting on glasses that make your vision weaker. I guess it makes it easier to get through the day. I wonder if my day would be even easier if I didn’t put on my contact lenses in the morning.