One of our most overlooked superpowers in life is the unbelievable power of our beliefs.
A quick note: This is not for the faint of heart. It is going to go deeper than possibly anything you’ve ever read into the inner workings of our minds and about what we really know about life in general. But – it is for a very good reason. If you decide to read it, you will come out the other side wiser, and much more in control over your own life. So do what you will.
Let’s get started. What is a belief?
The dictionary defines it as:
1 : a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing
2 : conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon especially when based on examination of evidence
A belief is something that WE PERSONALLY CHOOSE to form in our own minds about the way WE CHOOSE to perceive the world around us. It is our recognition that some idea or thing is true and valid.
Again, our beliefs are things that WE DECIDE WE WANT TO THINK are true, based on the information we have taken in up until this point in our lives.
Our beliefs are based off of OUR PERCEPTION of life, which is based solely on our experiences and knowledge about life. Just because we see something a certain way, does not necessarily mean that’s the way it actually is in reality.
Perception and reality are TWO DIFFERENT THINGS. As we get older, and we learn new things, we realize that certain assumptions we had at a younger age were not as accurate as the new view we currently have of the world. This is why I consider myself a student of life - because I know that all of the things I think I know about the world are only the best assumptions I can make using all of the things I’ve learned up to this point, and does not necessarily make any of them true. I understand that we will probably never know everything there is to know (in this life anyway), and there will always be new things we can learn from others throughout the course of our lives. That’s why I am a philosopher – a lover of knowledge. I love to keep an open mind, learn new things, and think for myself. I’ve found that I keep getting closer and closer to understanding the truth of what reality is, and as I do, it allows me to smash through my inaccurate perceptions that have held me back, and caused lots of pain and suffering in the past. Subsequently, I now know more about how to think about and interact with the world, and how to create a life that continuously makes me fulfilled at higher and higher levels.
I know your head is probably spinning right now, because mine is too. Sorry about that. Go get a glass of water and let that settle in for a minute or two, and re-read that last part if you have to. When you BELIEVE you have digested all of that, feel free to continue on.
The reason why I went so in depth previously was because I really want you to understand first and foremost that PERCEPTION IS NOT REALITY. It is only after we know that – that we can really start to understand how to control our beliefs. And I’ve learned that having control over your own beliefs is probably the most powerful thing you can do to find long-term joy and achieve miraculous things in this world.
Let’s examine one of the greatest examples in history of perception and reality being different. For thousands of years, it was a widespread belief that the earth was flat - and that if you were to go to the edge of it, you would fall off. Aristotle was one of the earliest to dispute this belief, and provided actual evidence against it. He stated that by simply traveling south, the constellations of stars would appear higher above the horizon, which would not make sense unless the earth was round.
But people did not like this new idea at all. People do not like when their perception of reality is seen to be inaccurate and outdated. We do not like to be wrong. Throughout history, whenever someone has made a revolutionary discovery or idea, the general public always has the same reaction. First, they close their mind off to the idea, ridicule the person, and suggest they enter an insane asylum. Next, they become very afraid, and violently oppose the idea, many times even threatening to imprison or even murder the person who created it. And finally, after lots of struggling, it is accepted as the new status quo “reality” (when it is still actually just a newer perception).
Perhaps that is why I felt like my head was spinning when writing that paragraph previously. We humans are scared of the unknown. We like order. We like to feel safe and comfortable. We don’t like it when something comes along that threatens to change the way we see the world, even if it is for the better, because we just want to keep things the same. We are cowards. We would rather stay exactly where we are, no matter how shitty things can be, rather than try to see things in a new way, because even though it could make things one hundred times better for everyone, we fear that it has the chance to make things just a little worse, and decide it is too risky. We don’t like to deal with the fact that in reality, none of us really know why we are here, or what we are doing. That’s why many people don’t like to think for themselves, and would rather just keep busy in their day-to-day actions – it gives us comfort to just blindly follow the herd. Besides, if “all the cool kids are doing it” it must be good, right?
Think about your beliefs about the world we live in right now. Where did you get yours? Did you choose all of them yourself, and examine why you believe them? I can tell you this – from my own experience, from spending years examining all of my beliefs about the world, I WAS SHOCKED when I realized just how many were passed down to me from others, and were not based on my own better judgment. I had so many beliefs that were self-limiting. I realized that almost all of the problems in my life were based on perceptions I had about the world that were the equivalent of the earth being flat. It’s no wonder so many of us suffer and struggle in our lives. We are walking around the world in a self-created prison based upon inefficient ways of thinking that we got from others who were just as clueless as us - AND WE DON’T EVEN KNOW IT.
Think about how many beliefs are passed down to us from our families, our friends, our culture, the mass media, and everything around us. How many of us have certain religious beliefs, political affiliations, favorite sports teams, views on marriage, views on racism, views on animal rights, and many more, just because these were the things that the people around us believed when we were young and didn’t know any better, so we just copied them? Does that mean that the beliefs we have chosen are all the right ones, and that all of the other ones are wrong? How many of us have then created stories and reasoning around these ideas about why we are right and others are completely wrong, when we haven’t even looked at why we even believe them ourselves in the first place?
Think about this scenario – You’re a helpless child. You can’t even fend for yourself. These big people that hang around you start to feed you, clothe you, and make you feel safe. They teach you things – like how to read, how to tie your shoes, and how to have table manners. They give you things and teach you how to do things that make your life better. So, if they were to tell you that you are supposed to root for the Yankees and to hate the Red Sox, why wouldn’t you believe them? If they tell you that Democrats are idiots, or that Republicans are morons, why wouldn’t you believe it? If they tell you that another race is evil, why wouldn’t you believe it? So, if they were to tell you that you’re too loud, too short, too fat, too ugly, too stupid, that you are worthless, and that you will never amount to anything in life, it is possible that you will WAKE UP ONE DAY 20 YEARS LATER, READ THIS POST, AND REALIZE THAT YOU HAVE BEEN SPENDING YOUR ENTIRE LIFE NOT KNOWING WHY YOU NEVER FELT HAPPY, WHOLE, AND LIKE SOMEONE WHO DESERVES GOOD THINGS IN LIFE!
Beliefs can empower us or cage us in forever. Beliefs are that powerful.
I once heard a sad story. There was an elephant at a circus that was chained to a pole as an infant. He tried to break away, but was not strong enough to. Over time, he became monstrous. One day, the circus accidentally went on fire, and the elephant died. He was enormous, and could have easily ripped the pole out of the ground to run away to safety, but there was a SELF-LIMITING BELIEF IN HIS MIND that told him he would not be able to do it, and so he didn’t even try.
Do you understand the impact your beliefs can have on your life? Do you understand that even though you may not be able to see how or why (just like the elephant), they have the ability to transform your life?
What I’ve come to understand is that EVERYTHING is based on belief. EVERYTHING.
A few examples:
The U.S. national debt is in the trillions. How is it possible that our country still exists, purchases things, funds a massive army, and plays the role of a world superpower when we have a negative amount of money to buy things with? It is because investors are willing to put their money into the system, in the form of government bonds. Why? Because they BELIEVE that the U.S. government is stable, and that they can cash out their investments in the future for profit.
Why does a bank give some people a business loan, while not others? It is because based on their credit history and their proposal, the bank decides whether or not they BELIEVE that the person is a man of their word and will pay it back.
Why does Starbucks coffee cost three times as much money as McDonalds coffee, even though McDonalds coffee was found to taste better in a blind taste test? Because Starbucks has a fancy name, exotic flavors, and a nice atmosphere, and so people BELIEVE it is more valuable.
Why do we pay $150 for a shirt with a tiny horse or alligator on it rather than a duck or a falcon? Because our society and advertising has made us BELIEVE that it is worth the money.
Why does a job hire one applicant over another? Because the chosen applicant did a better job of making them BELIEVE that he will get the job done.
Why are some men who are broke, out of shape, and abusive able to date women who are beautiful, inside and out? Because they BELIEVE that they deserve good women, while some good women BELIEVE they don’t deserve anyone better.
How did Thomas Edison invent the ability for humans to see at night? He BELIEVED that it was possible, and tried 10,000 different combinations until he found the right formula to invent the light bulb.
I could go on and on with this, but I think you can see at this point that our beliefs are crucial in lives. What you believe shapes who you are as a person, what things come into and out of your life, and affects your overall quality of life.
Your beliefs are a tool to serve and empower you. Start thinking about which ones have slipped by your radar undetected for years and years, and are still holding you back right now. Just pull out a blank notebook, and start writing. Scribble down whatever comes to your mind. It doesn’t matter how silly or stupid it sounds. It’s just for your eyes. Write down as many as you would like – the further you go with this, the more you can align your life with your true identity. I’d say start with 5-10 things. Make a list of 5-10 beliefs you have, and figure out where they came from. If they are ones you no longer wish to have, write down new empowering ones to replace them. Of course, this is not an overnight fix, and it will take some time and diligence to overcome feelings of inadequacy that you have carried with you for years. But if you make a habit of reading the new beliefs you want to have to yourself every morning, for at least a few weeks, you will begin to really internalize them, and you will be amazed how much it can change your life. You are very brave for sitting through this entire note, and I congratulate you for taking steps to live a better life. One of the hardest things to do is to actually get yourself to stay on course, and actually stick it out until you can internalize your new beliefs. Please let me know if I can help in any way.
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