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Day 12 — Identifying Mental Models

James Clear defines a mental model as "any sort of concept, framework, or worldview that you carry around in your mind." For example, entropy is a mental model. While the concept originated in physics, there's plenty of evidence that an "entropic mental model" is relevant to understanding decay and disorder in many other aspects of life.

We use mental models every single day, often without realizing. I want to touch a bit on why identifying the mental models you use is so important.

A common mental model in Western societies is the cost-benefit analysis. It argues that we should make decisions by outlining all of the potential benefits (revenue), all of the potential harms (costs), and then weighing the difference (profit).

Growing up in a world where transactions are viewed as exchanges between two parties (yourself and the producer, or vice versa), it's easy to take this characteristic and apply it to all cost-benefit analyses we make in life.

For example, under a capitalist conception of a cost-benefit analysis, I would weigh my decision to attend a university by answering personal questions: What doors will the university open for me? Will I enjoy the people? What will my salary be after graduation?

At no point under this framework am I expected to consider how my family will feel about the decision, what impact it will have on my current relationships, or what the cost is to my community.

In fact, it would be considered irrational under this mental model to even consider those questions.

A common theme of the previous few essays has been around making sure your actions align with your values. Our mental models should be no different.