So I came across an ebook recently by Vlad Dolezal, called Unleash Your Confidence (affiliate link). There was one part in particular that really resonated with me. While discussing beliefs, Vlad writes,
There is no “true” or “false” with beliefs, only useful and detrimental.
To illustrate this, Vlad goes on to give the example of a woman in her mid-forties who still believes in Santa Claus. Why? Because having such a belief helps her feel in touch with her roots and closer to the people she cares about. Intellectually, this woman knows that believing in ol’ Saint Nick is ridiculous, but doing so isn’t causing her any harm — just the opposite, actually — so she holds on to it. For her, it’s a useful belief. The emotional payoff makes it worth holding on to.
Thinking about all this brought back memories of one of my favorite books, The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck (affiliate link). Peck was a practicing psychiatrist for many years and, even though it was considered taboo, liked to discuss religion with his patients. He believed faith was a massive part of a person’s identity and so it shouldn’t go unexamined when they were having problems. Some of Peck’s patients came from über-religious backgrounds and believed strongly in gospel and such. Others had no faith whatsoever. Over the years Peck began to notice, much to his surprise, that some of his patients would reach a better level of mental health by stepping towards a life of faith, while others would benefit by stepping away from it.
What this illustrates to me is that there’s no one right way, no one right set of beliefs. Our beliefs themselves don’t really matter. What matters is that they are useful and empowering to us (not just individually, but collectively as well). For some people, handing your life over to God is a great idea. For other people, not so much.
Paulo Coehlo sums this up nicely:
“We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.”
I’m going to throw some of my own beliefs under the microscope here and examine whether they are useful or detrimental. (Note though that when I label a belief as “useful” or “detrimental”, that labeling in itself is also a belief. Confusing, huh?)
The first belief that comes to mind relates to self-employment. I believe I can excel at working for myself, continuously earning enough money through my online ventures to support the three-year, round-the-world trip I hope to soon embark on. Now that may not actually be true — I could end up living back home with my parents, scraping together enough pennies to get my next falafel fix — but I keep believing it anyway. Because not having that belief would be detrimental, it would guarantee failure.
A limiting belief related to the above is that I’m new to all this self-employment lark. This is my first business, and I believe I have lots more hard work and struggle ahead of me before I break through. But what if I ditched that belief? What if, instead, I chose to believe that I’ve already succeeded as an online entrepreneur, and started carrying with me a swagger that screamed “been there, done that, doing it again, just for kicks.” Would that belief be more useful to me?
I imagine that it would, and so I’m working on adopting that belief 😉
I also have strong beliefs about my diet. I’ve been vegan for two years, and it works well for me. I believe it helps me stay sharp mentally, avoid junk food, and maintain high levels of self-discipline and resistance to social pressure. It also makes me feel good as regards the environment and animal rights. Of course, many people have the belief that plant-based diets are unhealthy. A doctor I met here in Burgos last week is one such person. Maybe he’s right, but I have yet to experience any ill effects from veganism. To date, shunning animal products has proven far more useful than detrimental to me, so I’ll stick with it.
Related to that, a limiting belief I once had (when I first became a veg head) was that everyone should refrain from eating meat. The idealist in me still wants to hold on to that belief, but I’ve given up on it since it proved to be detrimental. Having such a holier-than-thou attitude didn’t help me convince anyone to stop eating meat; it only helped piss off a lot of my friends. Nowadays I choose to believe that there’s no one diet that works well for everyone, and that folks should experiment to find out what works best for them. This is a more useful belief for me.
Lying to yourself?
You may be thinking that adopting useful beliefs comes at the expense of lying to yourself. Well, yeah. It does.
I’m reminded of something Muhammad Ali once said:
I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.
Coming up as a fighter, Ali knew he wasn’t the greatest, but he also knew that if he was to ever become the greatest, he’d have to start believing that he was. He recognized the truth, but realized that the truth was going to limit him, so he cast it aside. It was better for him to adopt that empowering belief, even if nobody else went along with it… yet.
What beliefs are holding you back?
Consider your own beliefs. Think long and hard about them. It can actually be quite difficult at first to identify which are useful and which are detrimental. It’s tempting to leave a belief unexamined because you tell yourself “it’s not a belief, it’s the truth!” But keep in mind that truth is secondary here. Take a break from reality and see what you come up with.
Maybe you believe that you suck at attracting a romantic relationship, or that it’s impossible to make a living doing what you love, or that you can never achieve your ideal weight. Perhaps you have evidence to back up those beliefs, but ignore that for now. Ask yourself only if the belief is useful or detrimental to you you.
- Does believing that you suck at romantic relationships help you find a satisfying romantic relationship?
- If you believe it’s impossible to make a living doing work that you love, is it likely that you’ll ever end up doing that?
- As long as you believe that you can never achieve your ideal weight, what are the chances of it actually happening?
How to change your limiting beliefs
All of the above has been running through my mind since reading Vlad’s ebook, Unleash Your Confidence (affiliate link). Not only does Vlad do a great job of explaining what limiting beliefs are and where they come from, he also guides you through a 5-step process for changing limiting beliefs.
Tis good stuff. There are seven other helpful chapters in there, too, all for just $17.
The gap between knowledge and action
To wrap this up, I wanted to write a little about the issue I’m guessing many people have with all these ebooks and courses and such. It’s this: You know that the information is good, and you know that if you follow the steps provided that your life will be better, but you still fail to take action.
I often struggle with this myself. About six months ago I bought a package of 23 business courses from 23 successful online entrepreneurs, and yet I’m still sitting here struggling to make money online. Why? It hasn’t been due to a lack of knowledge — I have more knowledge at my fingertips than I know what to do with — but due to a lack of persistent action. And that’s something I’m trying to remedy over these next few months.
But I’m curious to get your take on this, too. When has something like a book or a course motivated you to take successful action? And what was is it about that book or course that made the difference?