“Our perception of reality is not reality itself but our own version of it – or our map.” – Alfred Korzybski
“The map is not the territory” is a founding principle of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). In simple terms, we each have a mental map that we’ve created through our past experiences, beliefs we have developed and values adopted both personally and culturally.
Just like a road map, we use it as a guide as we travel through life, but here’s the thing, maps are not always accurate. A map can be a useful representation of the world, but it’s not the actual world, and in the same way, a mental map is only an individual’s perception of the world around them (reality), not reality itself.
Scientist and philosopher Alfred Korzybski put it this way: “A map is not the territory it represents but, if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory which accounts for its usefulness. What this means is that our perception of reality is not reality itself but our own version of it or our map.”
Your map is your view of the world, but is it accurate?
Well, no map is ever totally accurate, and no mental map is ever completely true. Maps of any kind can become outdated, meaning that where they may once have been helpful, they can become limiting.
For example, imagine trying to navigate around Britain using a 1960s road map. Things have changed. Motorways have been built, ring roads completed, bridges built… the map is no longer an accurate representation of the territory. Now imagine trying to navigate through life as an adult using a mind map you created in your childhood and teenage years… let’s face it, many of you are probably doing exactly that, right?
What you believe about your reality and the world around you (your map) is not reality itself or an accurate representation of everything that’s happening in your world (the territory).
Let’s put this into context. Perhaps you struggled with schoolwork as a teenager and failed many of your exams. This could lead to the belief that you’re no good at taking exams and that you’re destined to fail an exam you take, this belief becoming part of your mental map.
But is this true?
Since leaving school you’ve successfully worked your way up through the ranks in your career and you have the job of your dreams, so clearly this is not a true representation of everything that’s happening in your life, but when consulting your mental map for guidance, the belief that you’re destined to fail an exam is still clearly marked on your neurology and thinking.
Achieving Your True Potential
You see, your mental map may be a representation of thoughts and feelings that are now outdated, but they are thoughts and feelings that could be holding you back in life. Just as a road map can be updated, your mental map can also be updated, and limiting thoughts can be changed for thoughts that allow you to achieve your true potential.
NLP is the study of excellence.
It takes excellence in thoughts to achieve excellence in actions, so in effect, understanding that “the map is not the territory” is the key to changing your mental map and changing the actions you take to generate positive changes in your life.
Think about it for a moment: when did you last update your mental map?
Don MacNaughton is a High-Performance Coach, Mentor and Key Note Speaker.
Next NLP & Life Coaching Diploma starts in Inverness in Feb 2020 for more details please email firstname.lastname@example.org