The Power of Schemas

Let’s return to my “RFL Manual” analogy for a moment. Whether unconsciously or consciously, we are selective in about the material in it. Unfortunately, most of us don’t invest many resources to ensure our “rules for life” are current, accurate, or objective. Very often, we don’t bother to verify source material, or even confirm we are referring to our own copy of manual! Given the magnitude of some of the decisions made based on our “RFL manual,” you can imagine how highly problematic all of this can turn out to be….

Let’s clarify this concept by considering a simple example.

Complete this sentence:

“Dogs are ___________.” I’m guessing the way you filled in that blank didn’t require much in-depth thinking on your part, right? When you answered the question, you instantaneously consulted your “RFL manual, Section: Dog.” Some of the factors you rely to maintain your “dog schema” might be based on the answers to questions like to the following:


Did you have a dog growing up? Your caregivers growing up, did they like dogs? Have you ever been bitten by a dog? Do you have a dog now? Did a barking dog prevent you from sleeping last night? Do you prefer cats? Perhaps you’re rather indifferent to dogs in general. In that case, your schema about them is likely going to be less defined and less important to you than it is to a person who “LOVES” or “HATES” dogs. Make sense?


It is through answering questions like these (consciously or unconsciously) that our schema is shaped. For a person interested in living an intentional life, the more you know about your unwritten “rules for life,” the simpler this becomes.

Brandee SmithComment