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Models: why I stress that they all have flaws

posted by Joshua on January 8, 2012 in Awareness, Blog, Evolutionary Psychology, Nature
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[This post is part of a series on The Model — my model for the human emotional system designed for use in leadership, self-awareness, and general purpose professional and personal development — which I find the most effective and valuable foundation for understanding yourself and others and improving your life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

If I stress one thing about models and beliefs, I stress that they all have flaws. None are internally consistent. All contradict something in the world.

To recognize that you can’t prove most of the basic ideas you hold as truths can be mind blowing. I’m not trying to say something post-modern here. I’m not saying nothing means anything or that you can’t know or prove anything. I’m saying that any idea you have only represents things in the world that you don’t know everything about.

If you think you have perfect knowledge of something, remember your brain only holds so much information. I predict you’ll experience surprise and, if you’re lucky, humility.

Anyway, I dwell on the point because when I tell people the first time, they nod along approvingly. Then later they share some idea that they believe objectively, yet that they know other people disagree with. Either they’re right and many others are wrong or they missed the point. They resist seeing their models’ flaws.

The flaws in one’s own models usually show up as objections or explanations why you can’t achieve the model’s goal, like improving your life or enjoying yourself, even as others with no better resources do improve their lives. If you feel indignancy, outrage, that you deserve better but never get it, or such feelings, you probably have a model that isn’t working for you but you don’t think you can change it because you confuse it with absolute reality or consider it absolutely right.

We call that perspective self-righteous. How do you feel when someone behaves self-righteously with you? What do you think of them?

As I write these I words I recognize the flaws in my writing, but I also recognize I can’t avoid these flaws. Whatever you believe instead has flaws too.

If you have a better model than this one — that all models have flaws, including this one — please share it.

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