The 5 Pervasive Ways People View Their World

Based on a lecture by Chris Mattis and Tribal Leadership by David Logan and John King.

“As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he,” says the proverb. How we think—our paradigm—is the lens by which we see the world, the filter by which we take in information. It determines the results we get in life.

So it’s pretty important, eh?

Here are the five pervasive ways people think, according to Tribal Leadership, and as explained by Chris Mattis. See if you can find yourself.

1. Life Stinks.
In a phrase, ‘despairingly hostile.’ This is a dog-eat-dog, win/lose mentality. In this paradigm, there is no reason to care for anything because it will just be taken away from you. People are tools to get what you want. You just take what you can get, and don’t worry about anything else.

2. My Life Stinks (But the World is Okay)
This is victim thinking. The person with this paradigm thinks the whole world is, essentially, an accident. Success is based on luck, and they are unlucky. They just can’t catch a break and it’s not fair. They are dependent, passive and resistant to change and thus they don’t achieve much. This is the most common way of thinking in North America.

3. I’m Great (And You’re Not).
This is the autonomous, high producer. This person has a John Wayne mentality, going out on their own, blazing the trail and getting it done. They are independent thinkers. But… they may be cocky jerks who, ‘not only want to win but need to be the best and brightest.’  They may deceive themselves into thinking they are better than they are, and rob themselves of higher achievement.

4. We’re Great.
Now we are reaching high levels of thinking. This is interdependent thinking—I need you, you need me. These people surround themselves with people they can trust and who will tell them the truth. These people thrive on the true competition, which breeds cooperation. Collectively, they are high achievers because they are excited to work together for the benefit of the group.

5. Life’s Great.
This is the highest level of thinking and achievement, reached only by constantly chipping away at what holds us back. In this mentality, a team works together to make a global impact. This level is reached by very few, and may not be sustainable for long.

If you’ve yet to identify yourself, consider this example. You are driving home when you come upon a huge traffic jam. What do you do?

The “My Life Stinks” thinker will sit there, pounding on the steering wheel. They’ll probably be tweeting about the traffic jam and how late they’ll be and how much their day sucks.

An “I’m Great” thinker will make an immediate exit onto the nearest side road. They’ll whip out their GPS and careen down side streets, blowing stop-signs, until they’re around the jam. They’ll probably arrive at about the same time as the person who was stuck, but at least they were in control.

The ‘We’re Great’ thinker will begin redeeming the time. They may answer a couple emails, use that time as brainstorming or ‘thinking time’, or they may take in a constructive audio.

Okay, honesty time. I’m a 3—‘I’m Great’. I’m the one who has to be the best and brightest, and generally strikes out on my own. In college, I hated group projects. I didn’t care too much how the others did, I was just thinking “I will get an ‘A’ if I have to drag these slugs with me.” And we did get A’s on all three of them, but also personally edited all of those projects.

If any of my college classmates read this, I’m sorry for being a controlling jerk that put my GPA before you. I bet if I’d spend more time listening instead of asserting my academic agenda, I’d have enjoyed the project and learned a heck of a lot more.

And the independent mindset seems to be a lonely one. I’ve had the honor of associating with enough level-four thinking to want to rise up to that level, and to drive myself nutty with my own task-orientation.

Well, it ain’t over yet. Still time to grow.

Mattis paraphrased Aristotle: “We are the sum total of our habits.” And what creates our habits? Our thinking, conscious or unconscious. If we realize where our thinking stinks, we have the chance to nip it in the bud and change our results.

“Tribal Leadership,”  Accessed February 20, 2014.
“The 5 Pervasive Ways People View Their World”, presented by Chris Mattis on February 8, 2014. LIFE Live seminar.