The Best Mental Model (A Powerful Model to Improve Your Life)

Jordan Brown

Do you know what mental models are?

If you're like I was just a few years ago, the words "mental models" logically make sense.

But you may not instantly know how they can help you in your own life.

These days, I know I know how useful mental models are.

In fact, I think about mental models and use various models every day to make my life easier.

Today, you're going to learn how to do the same with one mental model in particular.

What are Mental Models?

Mental models are like cheat codes.

They are tools you can use to make better decisions and faster decisions.

The problem is, you need to know what models to use--and when to use them.

Let me give you an example.

How do you know who to be friends with?

It might sound like a random, stupid question, but how do you actually know?

You've probably come up with rules of thumb throughout your life that tell you someone might be a good friend.

Maybe they smile with their eyes--you know, that genuine smile that tells you they're not faking it.

Or maybe they back up their words with action. For me, that's one of the telltale signs of someone I can trust.

Whatever it might be, these shortcuts are actually models.

They map out the world as you know it, and they help you get through life without having to worry about every little decision.

If you want more examples, here's a list of 30 mental models you can use, although I'll warn you, it's pretty technical, so not very human-friendly.

Ok, so now you know that mental models are ways you can hack your way through the jungle of life.

But what does that actually mean?

A Powerful Mental Model You Can Use to Improve Your Life

The best way I know how to teach and share with others is to use examples from my own life.

One of the mental models I use all the time is the 80/20 principle.

The 80/20 principle, also known as the Pareto Principle, is a phenomenon that appears everywhere in life.

It states that 20% of inputs are responsible for 80% of the outcome. 20% of people will hold 80% of the wealth in any given area. And 20% of your relationships are responsible for 80% of the value you get from relationships as a whole.

Although it's a model and not a hard-and-fast rule, I've found the 80/20 Principle to be shockingly accurate in my own life.

Here's when I use this mental model:

  • When I'm stuck on a project and I don't know what action to take next
  • When I'm stretched too thin and I need to figure out where to actually invest my time and energy
  • When I'm trying to decide what to write about next (AKA figuring out what topic could relate with the most people)
  • When I'm wanting to choose a workout that won't take forever but will actually help me get stronger and have more energy (Push-ups for the win!)

Now it's your turn.

If you stop to think about it, I'm sure there are certain mental models that you use all the time.

You may even use the 80/20 Principle without realizing it.

Think about these questions:

Are there mental models you are currently using?

Are they helping you or hurting you?

Could you try a new mental model for a week to see how it impacts your decisions?

Because, whether you know it or not, you're using mental models every single day.

And you could be using ones that don't help you very much.

That's why it's so important to ruthlessly interrogate the models your mind relies on.

The better your models of reality are, the better the outcomes you'll get in life.

It may not happen immediately, but it will happen.

Commit this week to try out the 80/20 Principle or any other mental model that sounds interesting.

Life's too short to follow a model that's hurting you and holding you back.