Dr. Thomas Hills Explains How to Create Your Mental Map to Get You to Where You Want to Go, Episode 85

If you are curious about how your brain works and how you can enhance its performance then tune into this conversation. You will have a better sense of how you create a model of the world inside of your head and how you can change it so that you can choose from new behaviors. 

This conversation will educate you on some of the ways that have been studied when it comes to enhancing your cognitive control systems as well as how to have the right experiences to pull from so you can get to the new places you wish to go. 

Dr. Thomas Hills is a professor of Psychology at the University of Warwick. His research involves using algorithmic approaches to understanding the human condition through language, wellbeing, memory, and decision making. He is a current fellow of the Alan Turing Institute and the Director of the Bridges-Leverhulme Doctoral Training Centre. He also co-directs Warwick’s Global Research Priority in Behavioural Science and his works have been published in numerous academic journals.

Share this with a friend who’s really interested in how their brain works. This is a great conversation for those curious about how to lower the effort required to change their thoughts and behaviors for the long run.


  • The brain: We have an internal model of the world in our heads that gives us an understanding of who we are and how we create new possibilities.The executive function works by being in control when you’re thinking about something.
  • Tracking the brain: You can track people as they move around in their head. 90 years ago, people just counted these things. And what if we could reconstruct the map that people use?
  • Correlation: People who have higher IQ scores, or working memory scores are highly correlated with each other and they tend to stay on the map. 
  • Cognitive control: The cognitive control part of your head is like this vehicle that you use to travel around inside your head. The other part is the map, and if you have a better map, then you’ll have a better understanding of reality. 
  • Goals: If you have maps that contain the kinds of places you want to go, you’ll be more likely to get there.
  • Positive experiences: Having a good map is more than just trying harder to have good executive control or training effortful cognition. Make sure you have the right experiences on that map.
  • Raising kids: As parents, we tend to model the map of our parents that we experienced as a child and we can do better than that by experiencing different alternatives of raising children.
  • Options: Parenting requires multiple different strategies because sometimes things don’t work if we’re dealing with different kids.
  • Building your story: Write the story you want to be in your head through journaling or gratitude journaling. You don’t just write whatever comes to mind, but you actively build the story you want to have. 
  • Inspiration: Watching other people’s stories can be valuable for us. They can become part of facilitating a less effortful and more automatic way of dealing with reality.
  • Dementia: Many people with dementia are taken out of their familiar environment and moved into a new environment that increases the level of the challenges and difficulties.
  • Better cognition: You can improve your cognitive control by removing your distractions. And if you can create that kind of environment that facilitates better cognitive control and have that for older individuals, then we can facilitate functional behavior for longer.
  • Environment: We need to build an environment that facilitates the kind of behaviors we want to have and find the things we want to find. 
  • Cultural enrichment: We have to create different and new stories about the reality we live in so we can find these better parts of ourselves.
  • Creativity: We each have our own representations of the world in our heads. Keep adding placeholders to your mental map so that you eventually get to the place where you most desire. 
  • Courage: Michael Jordan decided to become the person who would go to practice early and leave practice late. Change is possible if you have the courage to make a bold commitment.
  • Curiosity: As you continue to learn from different areas of psychology, it’s fair to extrapolate and come up with new hypotheses that should be studied, considered and tested. 

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Melissa Llarena

Melissa helps movers and shakers up to those in the corner office rediscover what makes them unique so that they can land their dream job in a forward-thinking company where their ideas are listened to, valued, and supported.

She brings insights from having worked in 16-business units (including Human Resources) in NY, Paris, and London. Additionally, in her former corporate career, she worked on billion-dollar brands for P&G and on IBM for Ogilvy & Mather. Later, as the founder and CEO of Career Outcomes Matter, Melissa created a 3-step “sellable strengths” process which has been the centerpiece of her clients' results.

Melissa applies this method consistently to support mid-level professionals up to the c-suite to get into Fortune Global 500 organizations and agencies. She studied Psychology at NYU and earned her MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

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