Notice That Thinking

Last week I became certified to deliver Mental Works: Thinking for Results, developed by John Stoker (

The course allows us to become aware of and observe our own and others’ automatic thinking patterns. We all have them. They come from hundreds of factors such as how we were raised, the geographic region we’re from, what we’ve read or watched, our physical size, the things  we’ve studied and learned, our work experiences, the traumas in our lives as well as the jubilations!

I could go on and on but I’m sure you get the idea. [“Notice that thinking,” John would suggest, drawing my attention to my assumption. As the class continued we all got in the game of “Notice that!” chuckling over the obviousness of someone else’s assumptions and puzzling over our own.]

Truly, much of the impact of our mental models lies in our assumptions – especially the ones we don’t even realize we’re making.

I saw this principle at play in several of the exercises we did throughout the two days. Our little group would be working under certain assumptions – and not making a lot of progress, I might add, when one of us would say “Hey the rules don’t say we have to…” or “Maybe it’s this…”

The details don’t matter and I don’t want to spoil the surprise in case you get a chance to take the class sometime. The point is that whatever the brilliant idea was, it hadn’t occurred to me! Imagine!

This is the underlying power of collaboration. If each person in a collaborative effort can open up our collective thinking once or twice, imagine the terrific ideas that can evolve.

Do your assumptions get in your way? What do you notice?


Rodin's The Thinker at the Musée Rodin; Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2


3 responses to “Notice That Thinking

  1. I’ll never forget the first time I participated in an team activity where I was so struck with how my assumptions limited my thinking. Our group was to list as many 3-letter body parts as we could. We listed “ear”, “arm”, “eye” and on and on. After coming up with a dozen or so items we were stumped, but noticed another group’s animation and voluminously growing list. We all said to ourselves, “They must be cheating!”. When the instructor had us read out our lists, a member from the other group started with “fin” and then added “cab”. There was a collective groan in the room. Fish parts? Truck parts? Wow, did I take a lesson from that! I left that class wondering where else was I limiting how I looked at my life? That experience taught me a valuable question to always ask myself….What else could be true?

  2. I totally get this. I call this living by roles, rules and illusions — it’s the unconditioned mind and we don’t even know it’s happening. Self-awareness is the key. Congratulations on your certification!

    • Thanks Andrea. I agree that becoming aware of our thought patterns is the first step! How can we change anything if we don’t know it’s there? I like your phrase…living by roles, rules and illusions. Debbie

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