We all develop ideas in our head based on our experiences. We hear stories from others and listen to lectures from teachers. We read books and articles about what is going on in the world.
From this we build out mental models about our life. We frame life in certain ways to make sense of everything. Through this we start to build a solid mental capacity to continue to tackle life.
But sometimes these mental models are inaccurate. Sometimes, these start to grow larger than reality. Many times this is through our own fears about what could happen.
We may want to start a business but the fear of going broke overwhelms us so we never pursue that dream. We may want to exercise but feel it is pointless at our age. There is no way we can imagine us at the gym working out next to a bunch of twenty-year-olds.
We may want a better career but are afraid that school will be too difficult. So we settle in where we are, assuming improvement means something impossible.
Most people use these mental models to become stuck. This is good from the standpoint that they become stable and consistent. But that consistency might not be taking them where they want to go, just reinforcing where they currently are.
In 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos author Jordan B. Peterson says, “What you hear in the forest but cannot see might be a tiger. It might even be a conspiracy of tigers, each hungrier and more vicious than the other, led by a crocodile. But it might not be, too. If you turn and look, perhaps you’ll see that it’s just a squirrel. (I know someone who was actually chased by a squirrel.) Something is out there in the woods. You know that with certainty. But often it’s only a squirrel. If you refuse to look, however, then it’s a dragon, and you’re no knight: you’re a mouse confronting a lion; a rabbit, paralyzed by the gaze of a wolf. And I am not saying that it’s always a squirrel. Often it’s something truly terrible. But even what is terrible in actuality often pales in significance compared to what is terrible in imagination. And often what cannot be confronted because of its horror in imagination can in fact be confronted when reduced to its-still-admittedly-terrible actuality.”
In other words, we often build up what we don’t know, through fear, to become something greater than it truly is. That new, built-up version stops us from pursing what we want.
If we can simply break it down and see it for what it really is, then we have a shot at moving past it and fulfilling our dream.
But we can’t do that without looking. We can’t do that without investigating the monster. We have to see what is real. We have to get curious.
Getting curious is a great tactic because we can start to see what is really there. We may just confirm our original fears, but at least we can see if we are completely off base or not. Then we can make a more informed decision to proceed or not.