plural noun: beliefs
- an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.
“his belief in the value of hard work”
- trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something.
“a belief in democratic politics”
Please take a minute to read the definition of the word “belief” and note that the onus is on the individual to determine the veracity of the definition. There are some things that are true regardless of what I believe about them – and there are other things that are true for me because of what I believe, not necessarily because it’s factual. This, by the way, is also applicable to you.
What Do You Believe?
We’ll be taking a closer look at beliefs – what they are, how they become beliefs, and how to change beliefs that are either untrue for you or inhibiting your life somehow.
Does Everyone Believe That?
The first, and perhaps the most crucial, elements of culture are values and beliefs, beliefs being the tenets or convictions that people hold to be true. Although individuals in a society have their own specific beliefs, they also share collective values and beliefs that hold them together as a group.
Consequently, we have large groups of individuals who believe the same things, whether they be religious, cultural, intellectual, organizational, or otherwise. Within the specific group there are foundational beliefs upon which they build their culture, something that holds them true to their goals.
On an individual basis we do the same thing. We have beliefs that undergird our lives, “truths” we have held since the beginning of our memory. Some of this information is really truth, while some of it is perception, words we’ve heard spoken, or convictions we’ve embraced based on actions of others toward us.
Let’s take a look to see if and/or how they’ve been working for us.
What Are Beliefs, Anyway?
As I posted at the beginning of this newsletter, there’s a dictionary definition which does form the outline for most elaborated-upon interpretations of the word, belief. However, that’s not exactly what I want to get to here.
In very simple terms, beliefs are really only ideas that are transmitted by word or deed reinforced by being repeated over and over again until they become “true” in the life of the individual.
These reinforced ideas may be simply unhelpful. They are not unchangeable nor are they cast in stone.
All beliefs are limiting by nature because we’re all limited by our own experiences and perceptions.
Pavlov and Conditioned Response
We’ve all heard of Pavlov’s dogs and his theory of classical conditioning, which is a type of learning in which an existing involuntary reflex response is associated with a new stimulus. Through repetition, the dogs were conditioned to eat at the sound of a whistle. Eventually, because the dogs believed they would be fed when the whistle sounded, when it was blown the dogs began to salivate. They did so whether there was food or not. This is a conditioned response.
Some of our beliefs are simply conditioned responses to various stimuli presented to us in our growing up years.
For example, experimentation has proven that fear is learned. It is not intrinsic, that is, we’re not born with it. If we can learn, then we can unlearn.
And, You’re Point Is?
My point is that maybe some of what we hold as beliefs are really only either conditioned or operant responses. Operant Conditioning is the reinforcement of behaviors through either positive or negative consequences.
So, if I’m a six-year-old and I take a candy from the local store and get caught by the store owner, the way that event is handled will have a large impact upon what I believe about myself. If I’m told I’m bad, can’t be trusted, and a thief then I will likely take that under consideration, mull it over repeatedly, and begin to think of myself in those terms. Is it true? Am I bad? Am I not to be trusted? Am I a thief? Probably not at all. But the root of the belief is sown.
What About Limiting Beliefs?
When ideas are validated by experience, they become beliefs. Limiting beliefs are underpinned by experience and they are self-inflicted.
Here’s a list of ten limiting beliefs. See if you fall into any of them.
- I’m too old to start over again
- I’m not smart enough
- I’m not skilled enough
- I couldn’t handle failing
- Money is the root of all evil
- I’ve already tried that, it didn’t work
- I can’t learn anything new
- I don’t think I deserve it
- I’m not good enough
- I need more (fill in the blank) before I can (fill in the blank)
Now, think about this: A belief only serves us until it’s disproved. We have to prove a new belief before we will embrace it. That means that we have to be willing to examine our current beliefs and decide what’s working and what isn’t. Then, we get to create new beliefs based on challenging the old, getting rid of what doesn’t work and replacing it with what does work.
And, it takes some time, but it’s very doable.