Every individual develops a way of interpreting the world and what goes on in it. This model establishes how things should or shouldn’t be done and what we believe is possible. For some of us, these mental models severely restrict our potential, our enjoyment of life, and our ability to connect with others. Yet, others have mental models that provide all sorts of positive opportunities. We consider these mental models "reality" and often steadfastly hold on to them even when there is significant evidence that we may be misguided. So, how did our model of the world develop?

How We Interpret Our Experiences. Throughout our lives, situations can occur that trigger feelings of hurt, pain, and fear. As a result of this, we make decisions that will help us to avoid those situations in the future. For example, if we get hit by a car while crossing the street, we now have an opportunity to make a vow to prevent getting hit again. We may vow to never go near a street again (not a useful decision!), or better yet, to look both ways when crossing the street. These decisions get locked in at the unconscious level, and a part of our mind takes over to ensure it is carried out consistently throughout life. This will either lead to a long and healthy life, or a severely limited one, depending on the decision that is made and carried out.

What We are Told by Others. As children, we are particularly vulnerable to both well meaning and not-so-well-meaning comments made by family, teachers, and religious leaders. We don't even develop a critical ability until after age seven! Consider the parent who desperately wants to see their child succeed and says to their child, for example “If you don't try harder, you'll keep failing.” This type of motivation may satisfy the parent’s need; however the child may actually hear- and begin to develop- a model of ‘I always fail.’ A study from Iowa State University found in a typical family with children aged 2-8 that the ratio of negative to positive comments made by parents to their children was 13:1. That means that for every positive comment, children also heard thirteen negative comments!

What We Say to Ourselves. Most of us talk to ourselves constantly- usually beyond our conscious awareness. These statements are derived from our beliefs about ourselves and our current emotional state. If the comments tilt to the negative, the effect can be dramatically limiting! It might sound something like this, "I can't do it. I can't do anything right. They'll find out I'm a fraud. I should just give up now." However, if our internal dialogue sounds more like this, life would be a little different, "I've got it! Let's go for it. I can do it. I want to try that!"

So, what can you do to re-model your life?

1. Become consciously aware of the decisions you made to protect yourself. Then, re-decide for yourself a healthier way to approach those situations in the future.
2. Start questioning your beliefs and your values. Many were decided for you by others. You have a choice as to whether or not you want to keep them!
3. Begin paying attention to your thoughts and judgments about yourself- and about others. If they aren't positive or helpful, change them! Tell yourself, "STOP! I don't believe that! What I do believe is..."
4. You may also decide to experiment with new behaviors (ones not dictated by your old thoughts) and notice the changes you can make in your interpretation of what is and isn’t possible for you. You just may realize just how amazing you really are!

Author's Bio: 

Janis Ericson is an internationally recognized Trainer of NLP, with a background in small business management. Her personal growth and professional certification courses are profound, yet immensely enjoyable. Personally, she is dedicated to bringing success and happiness to herself and others, through classes, consultations, and smiles.