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Do You Determine your Beliefs, or Do Your Beliefs Determine You? (Part One)

Do You Determine your Beliefs, or Do Your Beliefs Determine You? (Part One)

Do You Determine Your Beliefs or Do Your Beliefs Determine You?

    Where do our Beliefs Come From

    Have you ever wondered why you believe what you believe? Have you ever considered where your beliefs came from? How they got there? Was it an intentional process? Did you embrace those beliefs consciously or did you just wake up one day and there they were; curiously stuck inside your head? Possibly with a big “do not remove” sign on them. Do you ever question them? Doubt them? Resent them? Are you even aware of them, or do they exist independent of your conscious self? Did you intentionally choose them? Did you learn them via your experiences? Did you adopt them from someone that you respect and trust? Or perhaps you had them rammed down your throat by an authority figure somewhere in your past? Do your current beliefs propel you towards greatness or do they keep you trapped in mediocrity, monotony and misery? Do they serve you, or do you serve them? Who’s really running the show?

    Under-Achievement Central

    Do they help you achieve your dreams and goals, or do they keep you in your own private mental and emotional prison? Do they enable you to explore your potential and do amazing, or do they keep you in your safe, familiar, predictable little box (Under-Achievement Central)? Do they help you see things clearly and objectively, or do they predispose you to looking at the world through a very (very) small window? Are your beliefs flexible and subject to change depending on your experiences and your life lessons? Or are they set in stone? Do you determine them, or do they determine you?

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    But What if it Ain’t True?

    Have you ever thought about living your life with a different set of beliefs? Have you ever considered the possibility that perhaps some of your life-long, firmly-entrenched, non-negotiable beliefs… could be completely wrong? May even be the very things that have caused you to inhabit an existence that you don’t enjoy? Does it make you uncomfortable to consider the possibility of having to completely change the way you think and believe about certain things in your world?

    “Our ability to effectively change a belief, will be largely determined by our level of emotional investment in that particular belief.”

    In other words, there are certain beliefs that we desperately want to be true and when we’re presented with information, ideas and/or situations which challenge or contradict those beliefs, then we will typically react negatively and possibly, irrationally. Of course you don’t want to believe that Dear Old Dad has been having an affair for the last five years, after all he’s Your Dad; the poster boy for morality, stability, integrity and family values. You know (believe) he would never do anything like that, yet now you’re presented with a situation that throws your stable, predictable and comfortable internal world (your mind) into turmoil. It completely messes with your belief system. You’ve just walked in on Dear Old Dad kissing Mrs Granger from over the fence in a non-neighbourly manner. Your non-negotiable belief (that Dad is the high-watermark for moral behaviour) has been smashed in the face with reality. You feel sick, repulsed, hurt and betrayed because something you’ve believed for so long has just been ripped out from under your feet. One of your core beliefs (that Dad is an honest, reliable and moral man) has been shattered. Even though you see it with your own eyes, on some level you can’t believe it. It doesn’t match the reality in your head. You frantically try and reconcile what you’re seeing with your belief about your Father. You desperately try to create a scenario in your head which will keep your core belief in tact and allow you to stay in your delusion. “I’m hallucinating. I’m drunk. I’m imagining things. I must have mis-interpreted the situation.” Yep, that’s right Junior; Mrs. Granger has hijacked your Father’s lips against his will.

    Is Religion an Emotional or a Spiritual Thing?

    Religion is a great example of being emotionally invested in a set of beliefs. While most people would consider religion to be an essentially spiritual thing, I would suggest that more often than not it’s also largely an emotional thing. For some, it’s an entirely emotional thing. You and I both know people who have been going to church (synagogue, temple, etc.) for years, with little or no spiritual understanding or awareness. Their ‘religion’ is based on a bunch of emotions (guilt, fear, anger) and rules that need to be complied with (that’s what their beliefs tell them anyway). People who have life-long religious beliefs typically won’t even consider that perhaps there’s something else. Option B. They have too many years and too much emotion invested, to even entertain the notion that they could possibly be misguided, misinformed or even completely wrong in their thinking.

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    What do You Believe about that Whole Messiah Thing?

    Let’s take Jesus for example; either he was the Son of God… or he wasn’t. I can’t really see the Jewish and the Christian communities getting together any time soon for an informal, open-minded chat on the matter. “Hey what do you guys think about that whole Messiah thing?” Nup, not gonna happen. Both religions know that they’re right, so it’s not up for discussion. Their beliefs are non-negotiable. Let’s be honest, I wasn’t there, you weren’t there, none of us were. We don’t actually know, we just believe. If we categorically knew that Jesus was the son of God, then we wouldn’t need faith because we would have indisputable knowledge, and faith is all about believing in something that we can’t prove. With me?

    A Different Truth

    He may have been the Messiah, he may have been a gifted prophet, or he may have simply been a great bloke. I don’t know, but I do know that just by writing this paragraph I will alienate and offend some people because their level of emotional investment in their religious beliefs won’t even allow them to consider something different. Some people will get angry, disappointed, resentful and even hurt; all emotional reactions to a logical discussion and some reasonable questions. But we feel like guilty betrayers (more emotion) if we even dare to consider another truth, or sneak a peek over the spiritual fence. So we cut ourselves off to the possibility of learning something different or new. By the way, this is not an article about spiritual exploration, I’m simply using the religious example because most of us can relate in some way.

    There are things we know to be true (the sky is blue) and there are things we want to be true (my partner would never cheat on me). When we’ve believed something for a long time, we have (knowingly or not) an emotional attachment to that belief. That belief is familiar, comfortable and safe for us; three things we enjoy. It gives us a level of predictability and certainty. It could be said that “who and what we are, is because of what we believe”; our beliefs shape us. For some anyway. For others it could be said that “who and what we believe is because of who we are”; we shape our beliefs. For far too many people, their life simply becomes a process of conforming to pre-existing (often negative and destructive) beliefs. Kind of like living out a pre-determined script for our life. Which is why many people become clones of their parents.

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    So Where do our Beliefs Come From?

    1. Our influences. From the moment we’re born, we are constantly being bombarded with information from a myriad of sources. Our beliefs are often heavily influenced, if not shaped, by the people in our world – especially those closest to us. Those we love and respect the most. Or perhaps just those we spend the most time with. Both our conscious and our unconscious minds are continually absorbing, interpreting, filtering and processing information. Much of what you and I absorb in a typical day happens without our conscious awareness; it happens despite us. From infancy, our parents, our siblings, our friends, our teachers, our heroes, the TV we watch, the music we listen to, the books we read, the places of worship we attend and in 2008, even the websites we frequent, have been influencing us to think, behave and believe a certain way. If you grew up in a situation or environment which taught you that education and academic excellence is paramount, then there’s a fair chance you’ll demand that your kids finish school and go to college.

    2. Our experiences. What happens to us, teaches us. Some of us see ourselves as poor students when we’re actually not. We all have an amazing capacity to learn (we do it constantly) but most of our learning happens unconsciously and unintentionally. Sadly, not all of our ‘lessons’ empower us or put us in a better place. Some of our lessons teach us that we’re stupid, ugly, undesirable and incapable. Some experiences are the basis for many of our disempowering (or totally debilitating) beliefs. For many of us to move forward and into a better place (mentally, emotionally, physically, practically), we need to unlearn much of what we’ve made ‘truth’ in our world. That is, we need to change our beliefs. We’ll talk about how to do that in part two.

    Different Types of Beliefs

    Types of beliefs have been classified in various ways by various people over the years, but I’m going to dumb it down and lose the psycho-babble because I’m not nearly as clever as them. For practical reasons I will break beliefs down to three simple categories:

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    1. Positive Beliefs. These are Beliefs that enable us to stay in a positive, productive, creative and empowered headspace. Beliefs that allow us to explore and fulfil our potential. Beliefs that push us through the discomfort of life, allow us to deal with our fears and to come out the other side stronger, wiser and better equipped. Beliefs that give us the confidence to do what we need to do to create our best life.

    2. Negative Beliefs. Obviously, the polar opposite of the positive kind! They will destroy your potential, your happiness, your relationships, your career, your confidence, your mental health and your life… if you let them.

    3. Incidental Beliefs. Exactly as they sound; not typically life-shaping or changing, just there. I believe Tasmania is a beautiful place. I believe a Lexus is a better product than a BMW. I believe the sun will come up tomorrow. I believe boxing is one of the most effective cardio workouts. We have thousands (millions perhaps?) of beliefs that just exist somewhere in the recesses of our brain. Mostly they don’t live in the conscious realm unless we are required to wheel them out for a particular conversation or situation.

    That’s enough for now… my head hurts!

    See you next time with Part Two.

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    Craig Harper

    Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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    Last Updated on December 2, 2019

    10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

    10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

    Plato knew that the body and mind are intimately linked. And in the late 1800s, the Mayo brothers, famous physicians, estimated that over half of all hospital beds are filled with people suffering from frustration, anxiety, worry and despair. Causes of worry are everywhere, in our relationships and our jobs, so it’s key we find ways to take charge of the stress.

    In his classic book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie offers tools to ditch excessive worrying that help you make a worry-free environment for your private and professional life.

    These are the top 10 tips to grab worry by the horns and wrestle it to the ground:

    1. Make Your Decision and Never Look Back

    Have you ever made a decision in life only to second-guess it afterwards? Of course you have! It’s hard not to wonder whether you’ve done the right thing and whether there might still be time to take another path.

    But keep this in mind: you’ve already made your decision, so act decisively on it and dismiss all your anxiety about it.

    Don’t stop to hesitate, to reconsider, or to retrace your steps. Once you’ve chosen a course of action, stick to it and never waver.

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    2. Live for Today, Package Things up in “Day-Tight Compartments”

    You know that feeling: tossing, turning and worrying over something that happened or something that might, well into the wee hours. To avoid this pointless worrying, you need “day-tight compartments”. Much as a ship has different watertight compartments, your own “day-tight” ones are a way to limit your attention to the present day.

    The rule is simple: whatever happened in the past or might happen in the future must not intrude upon today. Everything else has to wait its turn for tomorrow’s box or stay stuck in the past.

    3. Embrace the Worst-Case Scenario and Strategize to Offset It

    If you’re worried about something, ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Could you lose your job? Be jailed? Get killed?

    Whatever the “worst” might be, it’s probably not so world-ending. You could probably even bounce back from it!

    If, for example, you lose your job, you could always find another. Once you accept the worst-case scenario and get thinking about contingency plans, you’ll feel calmer.

    4. Put a Lid on Your Worrying

    Sometimes we stress endlessly about negative experiences when just walking away from them would serve us far better.

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    To make squashing that worry easier, try this strategy, straight from stock traders: it’s called the “stop-loss” order, where shares are bought at a certain price, and then their price development is observed. If things go badly and the share price hits a certain point, they are sold off immediately. This stops the loss from increasing further.

    In the same manner, you can put a stop-loss order on things that cause you stress and grief.

    5. Fake It ‘Til You Make It – Happiness, That Is

    We can’t directly influence how we feel, but we can nudge ourselves to change through how we think and act.

    If you’re feeling sad or low, slap a big grin on your face and whistle a chipper tune. You’ll find it impossible to be blue when acting cheerful. But you don’t necessarily need to act outwardly happy; you can simply think happier thoughts instead.

    Marcus Aurelius summed it up aptly:

    “Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

    6. Give for the Joy of Giving

    When we perform acts of kindness, we often do so with the expectation of gratitude. But harboring such expectations will probably leave you disappointed.

    One person well aware of this fact was the lawyer Samuel Leibowitz. Over the course of his career, Leibowitz saved 78 people from going to the electric chair. Guess how many thanked him? None.

    So stop expecting gratitude when you’re kind to someone. Instead, take joy from the act yourself.

    7. Dump Envy – Enjoy Being Uniquely You

    Your genes are completely unique. Even if someone had the same parents as you, the likelihood of someone identical to you being born is just one in 300,000 billion.

    Despite this amazing fact, many of us long to be someone else, thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But living your life this way is pointless. Embrace your uniqueness and get comfortable with who you really are: How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

    8. Haters Will Hate — It Just Means You’re Doing It Right

    When you’re criticized, it often means you’re accomplishing something noteworthy. In fact, let’s take it a step further and consider this: the more you’re criticized, the more influential and important a person you likely are.

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    So the next time somebody talks you down, don’t let it get to you. Take it as a compliment!

    9. Chill Out! Learn to Rest Before You Get Tired

    Scientists agree that emotions are the most common cause of fatigue. And it works the other way around, too: fatigue produces more worries and negative emotions.

    It should be clear, therefore, that you’ve got to relax regularly before you feel tired. Otherwise, worries and fatigue will accumulate on top of each other.

    It’s impossible to worry when you are relaxed, and regular rest helps you maintain your ability to work effectively.

    10. Get Organized and Enjoy Your Work

    There are few greater sources of misery in life than having to work, day in, day out, in a job you despise. It would make sense then that you shouldn’t pick a job you hate, or even just dislike doing.

    But say you already have a job. How can you make it more enjoyable and worry-free? One way is to stay organized: a desk full of unanswered mails and memos is sure to breed worries.

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    Better yet, rethink about the job you’re doing: What to Do When You Hate Your Job but Want a Successful Career

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    Featured photo credit: Tyler Nix via unsplash.com

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