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The map is not the territory


“The map is not the territory” is usually one of the first things taught inside an NLP training.

A history lesson

Some people mistake the presuppositions (basic beliefs) of NLP to be the work of the people whom collected, compiled and created the methodology and the techniques. The presupposition “the map is not the territory” actually comes from Alfred Korzybski, a Polish-American philosopher and scientist. I find this basic belief extremely important to understand to be a successful coach.

The map is not the territory

We have an object, and our reaction to the object (our perception of it.) Our reaction to the object, is not the actual object. This blog has multiple posts, with different articles, each having a different title, and each title grouped into a category, some belonging in different categories. Let’s assume that the blog is the territory. If we got out a pen and paper, and wrote down some generic titles of what’s inside this blog, summarized it even, expressed our opinion about it, filtered in what we deem important and filter out what we don’t.  We would be able to create a map of this blog. However, the map is not the same as the blog. The map is not the territory.

If we all drew a map of the city of Miami, then none of these maps would actually be Miami, just our interpretation of Miami. The map is not the territory.

If you and I were to witness the same coaching session. When we check our notes, it would reveal we notice different things, recall different elements, have beliefs and perceptions that are different. The coaching session itself is actual reality, the real thing. However, our notes are just our different interpretations. The map is not the territory.

We all perceive the world differently

It is really important to understand, that all of our clients operate from different maps of the world. We work with their beliefs and perceptions. It is not the coach map of the world that is relevant in a coaching session. It is the map of the client. But beware that the clients map, is not the territory. And neither is your map. So you need to step in your clients map of the world in order to be effective. If you truly want to understand your client, and propel them forward into success or change, you have to start with their map. Sometimes shedding some light, sometimes having them look in a different direction. Allow them to overcome limiting beliefs and change perceptions.

Consider how your map which isn’t the territory affects your body, thinking and emotions?

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