Mental models are basically an explanation of a person’s thought process regarding how things function in this world. Learning about mental models can be extremely beneficial since it opens up the possibility of understanding yourself, others, and the world around you.
The purpose of mental models is to gain a deeper understanding of how systems work so that you can make the best possible decisions regarding them. Religion is a system, while which religion to follow is a decision. Economic theory is a system, while which of these economic theories is to be implemented is a decision. The entire world is basically a collection of systems interconnected with each other. The more deeply you understand systems, the better you will know the mental models that are based on them.
As far as you as an individual is concerned, mental models define your beliefs, prejudices, logical methods, etc., that you deploy to understand the world and respond to it. An honest analysis of your mental systems can unveil problems that plague you, some of which you may not even be aware of. You will be able to recognize opportunities in your life more quickly. Mental models can aid you in understanding the motivations of your competitors in a business, allowing you to gain an edge over them.
Now, there are no clear and hard rules as to which mental model is the best since this will vary depending on what you wish to use it for. A mental model you use to deal with family members at home may not work with friends. A mental model you use to deal with employees at a supermarket may not work with software programmers. So do not limit yourself to just a single mental model. Develop various models to deal with different types of people and situations. This way, you will always be able to adapt to any challenge that life throws at you.
As to how to go about developing a good mental model, the first thing you need to do is to become aware of your own existing mental model. What are your beliefs? Why do you have such beliefs? Which of these beliefs are false and which are true? List out the prejudices in these beliefs. Once you have analyzed your mental model successfully, you can start trying to modify them so that they are optimal. Set up goals so that you can track how the modification of the mental model is progressing.
Regret Minimization Framework
Regret Minimization Framework is a mental model developed by CEO Jeff Bezos. This model aims to assist people in thinking beyond the present moment and look at things from a long-term perspective. For instance, your company might offer you a promotion. However, you will be required to work at another office far away. As such, you will have two options — relocate and take up the new post or reject the promotion and stay at the current place. How do you choose?
Use the Regret Minimization Framework and look at how the decision is going to impact you in the long-term. Do you have a romantic partner who lives nearby and will not be able to shift to the new place? Will you be able to cut off the personal ties you have developed at your current place? Is it possible that you will actually end up being promoted to the exact same post in the current office in a couple of years? These are questions you need to ponder. And then you need to ask yourself — in 10 years, will you regret accepting the promotion or not rejecting it? Hopefully, this technique will allow you to sail through some tough decisions.