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We are what we believe - Consciously Lessons (Awake)

Transcript taken from the video above


'The things that I believe to be true are true.'


'My beliefs support my performance.' 


Many of us may agree with these statements but they're often not true. Let's explore why. 

Our beliefs are the sense that something is true. We form opinions or a sense of intuition about the way things work and these are informed by our beliefs. It's the ideology or framework of thinking that we use to make assumptions about how the world works. 


We make interpretations about the world and then navigate our lives according to those interpretations, our beliefs, without giving it much thought. 


Beliefs normally operate under the surface and we get on with our lives with our belief programming running in the background. So whether our beliefs are factually accurate or not isn't something we normally give much thought to. In fact, many of us wouldn't know what all of our beliefs are. 


Our beliefs, along with our values, which act as our moral principles, standards and ethical codes, work together dynamically, feeding off and informing each other. Together, they're the basis of our perceptions and reactions to things. They're also the basis of many of our biases, prejudices, attitudes towards things, and the judgments and decisions we make on a second by second basis. That's why knowing our beliefs is important. Often, we believe something which may not be useful to the way that we interact with others. They may also not paint us in a great light, in certain situations at least. 


Let's say someone gives you some feedback on your performance. Based your beliefs about them, you'll either happily accept that feedback or not. This will lead you to react differently depending on your underlying beliefs. If you highly respect and value someone, if you believe them to be a good source of knowledge and wisdom, you may value their feedback. If you consider them to be ill informed and envious of you, you're likely to disregard their views. Your response is based around the underlying belief you have about the individual to start with. 

Just to understand how beliefs, values and emotions work together, let's apply it to this feedback example. 


Ralph gives you some feedback about how you came across in the meeting you both attended the other day. He was impressed, but suggested an area for improvement for next time. You don't rate Ralph. You value hard work, preparedness and believe that promotions come through hard work, integrity and dedication. You don't think Ralph works hard enough and doesn't deserve a promotion. 


When Ralph offers you the feedback, you feel annoyed, yet when you react with annoyance to Ralph's comments, you're not aware at all of those subliminal drivers shaping your thinking and response. 


Our emotional reactions actually strengthen or weaken our values and beliefs, which is why becoming aware of our reactions and the reasons we react the way we do can help unearth the values and beliefs that are driving us. Sometimes these values and beliefs are helpful. Sometimes they aren't. 


Our general mood can also have an impact. Say you'd had a great evening out with Ralph the night before he gave you that feedback. You might be less likely to get annoyed. There's a part of you that actually quite likes Ralph and it makes you reconsider your beliefs around him. Even if you're not consciously aware, you're doing it. As you can imagine, when you get cross, frustrated, or annoyed with people or situations, it can create inflexibility in our beliefs. 


Our beliefs are also influenced by our context, the culture we're in or the behaviour and attitudes of the people around us. And they impact the way we see ourselves. Your beliefs can enable you or they can lead you to putting limitations on yourself. This means you'll only push yourself as far as you believe you are able to go, whether the limit you've set for yourself is real or not. 


The people you've grown up with, the teachers you've had and the people you work with, can reinforce the beliefs you hold about yourself. If you had teachers who always said that you'd only go so far or if you work in an environment where you don't always feel listened to, it can impact the beliefs you hold about yourself. 


No matter how objective we feel we are, unless we are very self-aware, we're often not as impartial as we think. Our brain basically works to build cases around our beliefs. For instance, if you believe that Obama was the best president in history, your brain will constantly be gathering data to support the belief without you really knowing about it. 


This is then strengthened by our emotional reactions to the issue or person, which is the basis of confirmation bias. As we deepen our beliefs and strengthen our values about something, we start to unconsciously look for evidence that supports and makes the beliefs and values more consistent. The more consistent the beliefs and values get, the more set in our ways we become. We also get into the habit of reacting in a similar way to the same things. And the more we convince ourselves we're right, the stronger and faster the reactions get. 


If you think of your beliefs as your operating system, the more you understand the beliefs that are driving you, the more you can assess whether your operating system is working effectively. If you're a leader, it's pretty essential that you understand your operating system. 

Believe it or not, we can shift our beliefs so that receiving, which refers to the process whereby you start to realise that your representation of the world may be different than the evidence suggests, can change the underlying beliefs that are driving you. 


Have a think about your own beliefs. When you were at school, did your teachers make you feel like you were capable of anything or did they place limitations on you? How did that shape the beliefs you hold about yourself today?