About NLP: The map is not the territory

The map is not the territory.In no particular order, it’s time to delve a little deeper into another one of the NLP Presuppositions.

This time it’s number 1

The map is not the territory.

The basic idea is that we create a map (our perceptions) to understand the territory (reality). This one is originally from Alfred Korzybski a philosopher, engineer and founder of general semantics.

Every day we are bombarded with billions of bits of information. There’s too much to really pay attention to all of it. So our unconscious minds take over and run it through the filters of our perceptions so we notice only the things that are important to us.

It’s how we maintain our sanity.

This representation, or map, is created to make navigation easier. It’s a shortcut of what seems to be necessary to guide you.

There are a couple of problems with this. The first, it’s easy to forget that what we believe to be reality is actually only our representation, or map, of it. The second is that everyone has a different map, or perception of reality.

This is where conflicts occur.

The good news is, that because we create our perception of reality, it can be changed. It can be shifted in subtle ways, or in great earth-shattering, I never imagined this was possible, ways.

It’s like the four minute mile, once thought impossible and possibly even lethal. After Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four minute mile in 1954, sixteen others followed in his (very fast) footsteps in the year. Now, it’s a common occurrence.

What’s your map like?

Does your map color the world as a friendly place or a dangerous place? What possibilities are inscribed on your map? Does your map contain the freshest, most helpful information, or is it old, torn and dated.

If you’re not happy with your map, if it holds you back and creates conflict, within or with others, consider how you might redraw it. Are there beliefs or experiences or other filters that you could shift to make your map more supportive?

Learn more about NLP

Explore the other NLP Presuppositions:

  1. The map is not the territory.
  2. The meaning of your communication is the response you get.
  3. You have all the resources you need to achieve your desired outcomes.
  4. Every behavior is motivated by positive intention. People make the best choices they can with the resources they have available.
  5. You cannot not communicate. Effective communicators accept and utilize all communication presented to them.
  6. All outcomes are achievements, there is no failure, only feedback.
  7. The element in a system that has the most flexibility will be the catalyst of that system.
  8. Respect each person’s model of the world.

Photo: A photo of the Matterhorn (Mt. Cervino) as seen from Zermatt, Switzerland. And a map of the same area. Both photos by me, Shannon Wilkinson.

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