World peace, lucky pennies, second chances, reincarnation, Santa Claus, your children behave when you’re not around.
This is a short list of things you probably either believe or believe in. But what is a belief? Where did it come from?
It is widely thought that our beliefs don’t just make our lives more colorful, but rather they create our individual realities. If this is true we need to start taking a long hard look at what we actually believe in. We need to understand how they are formed. How some serve us and how some hold us back. What are the different types? And what do they ultimately require of us?
If, indeed, our beliefs construct our reality we owe it to ourselves to be vigilant. We have to make sure the right ones are steering the ship.
How are beliefs applied?
At all times there are two versions of reality you are experiencing. Subjective reality, that is reality on its own terms. And then there is your own reality that is filtered through your perceptions and beliefs (a.k.a. your “story”). If who you say you are, does not line up with who you think you are, you will create cognitive dissonance. This lack of integrity can wreak havoc on every aspect of your life. Your “story” can be the answers to questions like:
- What labels do you use to describe yourself? (Helper, leader, supplanter, etc.)
- What are my values?
- What do I believe in?
- What am I grateful for?
- What do I despise?
- What are my goals in life?
- Who am I?
- What am I good/horrible at?
- What do others think of me?
These questions are thoughts that you use to determine how you fit into your environment. The answers to these, a.k.a. your “story”) are then spread, like jelly on toast, across reality. We chew on this constantly. Our version mixed with what reality is on its own terms.
Take the dollar bill for example. On reality’s terms it is nothing more than a green piece of paper. But because we believe it has value, and our “story” tells us it is important, we can create an entire financial system out of paper.
Amazingly, for all intents and purposes, these ideas are both right.
Why are beliefs necessary?
Beliefs first came about as an energy saving mechanism for our brains. According to brainfacts.org an average adult brain can consume up to 20% of our bodies energy in a resting state. It will also take 20% of our blood to function. All while accounting for only 2% of the bodies total weight.
It has vast amounts of information to process. Dr. Joe Dispenza and modern research tells us that our brains are receiving close to 400 Billion bits of information per second. While consciously we are only aware of about 2,000 bits of info per second. The majority of this information is being processed by our subconscious.
That’s understandably overwhelming.
Beliefs are a way for your brain to recognize patterns, categorize things quickly, distill the complex information, and jump to conclusions. These shortcuts often involve connecting dots and filling in gaps based on incomplete and/or biased information.
In its desire to conserve energy your brain prefers familiar conclusions that don’t rock the boat or create a kerfuffle. 99.9% of this is going on behind your conscious awareness. Your subconscious uses your beliefs to filter this information as quickly as possible. This inevitably leads to some errors being made. A concession: efficiency over accuracy.
This is how your “story” about reality and reality itself can co-exist.
Most of your beliefs are a matter of convenience and self confirmation rather than truth.
How are beliefs created?
Most of our belief framework is installed in us during childhood.
At first, you are new and fresh to this world and know nothing but the basics. How to breathe, how to digest food and poop, etc. At first, you are strongly influenced by your parents. Examples of their beliefs that are thrust upon you could be:
- Rich people are evil/poor people are stupid.
- Money doesn’t grow on trees.
- Anything is possible.
- You’re naturally good at sports.
- You are outgoing/shy.
Having these things told to you over and over at a young age, by people in authority, constructs your earliest beliefs. These beliefs go into your subconscious in order to filter all new information/experiences. And thus making sense of your world to you. No matter how right or wrong, good or bad, these early beliefs will define you and your “story” for most of your life.
Think of that window A/C unit from your apartment. When you first moved in, that noise kept you up all night. As the weeks turned to months you got used to it. Now you don’t even notice it at all although its running. Constantly. Affecting your environment.
Then, as you get older, your experiences start to shape your thoughts and mindsets.
Let’s say your neighbor, who was the same age as you, had a dog. One day when you guys were 7 years old this normally pleasant dog bit you. This experience has now made you terrified of dogs. The slightest growl, stare, or sudden movement from any dog frightens you. You’ve come to believe dogs are dangerous.
Meanwhile, in the house next door your neighbor loves this dog. It cuddles with him at night. It licks his face when he’s had a bad day. Never having any bad experience this guy grows up to believe all dogs are a gift from the heavens.
Same street, same age. Different experiences, different beliefs.
Unfortunately a lot of our beliefs about ourselves (are we good enough, smart enough, etc.) and about the world we live in (dogs are evil, dogs are awesome, etc.) are formed early and locked away tight. To be carried by us without even noticing how they affect our lives. Like a softly humming air conditioner.
You think something over and over.
Life is hard.
Or, life is a breeze.
Your subconscious is processing billions of bits of information. Your reticular activating system is sifting through all that data finding evidence to back up those thoughts. You take actions based on the information. These actions produce results. These results back your thoughts. Then these thoughts calcify into a belief. Regardless of truth or merit your brain has given you a belief.
When you are a child your beliefs are instilled in you. When you get older and become more self-aware your beliefs become a choice.
Facts, certainty, and the tooth fairy. Beliefs create reality.
“For some of our most important beliefs, we have no evidence at all, except people we love and trust hold those beliefs. Considering how little we know, the confidence we have in our beliefs is proposterious—and it is also essential.”
What is certainty? Is it an illusion? Can we ever really know something for sure?
For years, I knew the tooth fairy left money under my pillow. I knew thunder was caused by angels bowling. And I knew that those pennies I threw in the fountain were wishes surely to come true.
This has been a philosophical debate for ages. When you are young you believe in the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny. For generations, we were certain that the earth was the center of the universe. We were certain gum takes years to digest, dropping a penny from the top of the Empire State building will kill someone, pee on a jellyfish sting, UFO’s, you are born good at certain things and not at others. Every religion since the dawn of man believes it and only it knows the truth about God. You get my point.
But do any of us know for certain that any of these are 100% right, 100% of the time, without a doubt, under all circumstances?
Short answer: No.
The double edge sword of belief is that you can choose to believe absolutely anything you want to regardless of truth or evidence. You will find validation for your beliefs no matter what. Some people think ghosts are real. Others think those people are crazy and stupid.
Your mind wants to create a cognitive homeostasis. We have a natural resistance to change. To completely restructure your belief system and build a new worldview takes a lot of time and energy. You will easily explain away contradictory information. It can be embarrassing to be proven wrong. So you stick to your guns. You double down defiantly in the face of facts. Mired in muck of our own making.
Alex Lickerman M.D from Psychology Today puts it like so,
Confirmation bias, causes us to pay more attention and assign greater credence to ideas that support our current beliefs.
That is, we cherry pick the evidence that supports a contention we already believe and ignore evidence that argues against it.
Disconfirmation bias, causes us to expend disproportionate energy trying to disprove ideas that contradict our current beliefs.
But on the flip side of the sword, believing you can succeed after failing over and over gives the world things like the light bulb.
No matter how many times Edison failed he believed he could do it.
“I have not failed 700 times. I have succeeded in providing that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”
Roger Bannister knew he could run a 4-minute mile. Even though it was thought to be physically impossible. They thought your heart would explode. No one had ever done it before. No one thought it could be done.
Until, he did it.
In the 2 years after Bannister shattered that belief, 37 other people broke the 4-minute mark. The power of belief kept people from doing it for so long, only to turn around and fuel them through it once that belief was changed.
That is the double edge. There can ultimately be no certainty. Yet certainty is required to create a lasting belief.
Our beliefs are our own making. They entangle with reality to form our own perception of reality. Reality exists separately and yet simultaneously with our beliefs. This can be a blessing and a curse depending on what you believe. Whew!
Reality has no obligation to make sense to us. And through our beliefs we have no obligation to make sense to it.
No matter what any of us believes, we are right. If you believe in ghosts then they are very real to you. If you don’t think they are real, then they are not…to you.
The law of expectancy states that what you expect to happen will come to pass. If you expect to fail, you will find ways consciously or unconsciously to fail. If you expect to succeed you will find a way to succeed. Period.
Somewhere, I believe, Neil Armstrong just dropped the mike.
Identify and Investigate Limiting Beliefs.
Video about how to discover what you really believe.
So now that you know that you can choose to believe anything, And in turn those beliefs will create you version of reality. What a wonderfully daunting task you now have of doing just that.
This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where the magic happens.
Let’s change the temperature on that A/C unit shall we?
First we have to become aware of those limiting beliefs that have been holding us back for years. We have to train ourselves to hear that soft humming again. Mindful meditation coupled with the right questions is a perfect exercise for this. Keep in mind you are trying to go deep and shed light on thoughts that have been directing your “story” for a long time.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Is this true?
- What story am I choosing to believe?
- Who would I be without this belief?
- When was the first time I had this negative thought?
- Does this thought serve me now?
- If I don’t change this thought, what will my life look like 10 years from now?
- What am I afraid of if I do change this thought?
- What am I committed to?
- What will I have to do/give up to attain this?
- Whose permission do I need?
- How am I enabling that person to control me?
- Are my choices supporting my growth or my misery?
- How big can I dream?
Knowing the answers to these questions pulls the curtain back, exposing the real Wizard of Oz. Giving you the power to get rid of him and install a new one.
This may seem uncomfortable and scary, but this is a chance for you to get excited. Fear is the only thing that gets smaller the closer you get to it.
Remember, regardless of the truthfulness or validity of our beliefs we can still choose to believe them. And they WILL have an impact on our reality. Use that to your advantage. Why not choose to believe in things that will bring you joy? Love? Contentment? Relief? Sanctuary? Productivity? Empowerment? Peace?
Forming New Beliefs
Meditation can help get you passed the curtain. Now you need constant and consistent repetition to install these new beliefs.
“One comes to believe whatever one repeats to one’s self, whether the statement be true or false.”
Despite what you”ve seen on TV and in the movies, self-hypnosis is exactly what this is describing. You go into your subconscious, pull back the curtain and install your new belief. Over and over. This is how that limiting belief got there in the first place.
Eventually it will start to hum on its own. And this new empowering belief will be running in the background on autopilot. And your new reality will glaze over reality itself with the beliefs you choose to put there. Believe it or not.
How does that sound?