Summer's here. It is blazing hot outside, and you come in to the house. And turn the AC on. Your first instinct is to turn it all the way down, so that you can cool the room down faster. Once it is cold enough, you can turn it back up to a reasonable temperature.

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Photo by James Day / Unsplash

I used to do this all the time. It made sense. Or so I thought. Because that was the mental model I had in my head of how a thermostat worked.

A mental model is an explanation of how something works. The phrase “mental model” is an overarching term for any sort of concept, framework, or worldview that you carry around in your mind. - James Clear

Mental models are how we navigate the world. We do it all the time. We use it to simplify complex concepts for ourselves.

Sometimes, we have the wrong mental models about how things work, and they affect us. The AC thermostat is an example of where a flawed mental model does not affect us.

The air conditioner cools at a constant rate. If you set it to 20 degrees, it will keep cooling until the ambient temperature hits 20 degrees. If you set it to 10 degrees, it will continue cooling at the same rate until temperature hits 10 degrees. It cools at the same pace i.e. setting it at 10 degrees does not mean it will go from 40 degrees to 20 faster.

Harmless though.

In strength and conditioning, and in fat loss, there's a lot of flawed mental models I see people use. I think I will explore these in depth, as each deserves its own post. Here are a few.

Photo by Jonathan Borba / Unsplash
  1. You can target fat loss. To lose fat in the stomach area, doing a lot of crunches will do the trick.
  2. If you ate a doughnut that's 300 calories, running on the treadmill for 300 calories worth wipes it out.
  3. Lifting weights makes you bulky, especially women.
  4. If 3 days a week of training gives you results, 6 days will give you twice the results.
  5. Eat less, move more.

These are just a few examples of a flawed mental model that can lead to us spinning our wheels, or doing the wrong thing. Fixing our mental models can be liberating and clarify our approach for ourselves.