How Our Beliefs Control Our Life

Published: 30th May 2012
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Beliefs are our guiding principles and we use them to make sense of the world. Some beliefs are generalizations about the world we live in. For instance, when I say, “when entering from the outside of a house or room, doors open inward and the door knob is on the left”, you probably have to think about it, because, after opening doors from a young age, your mind has created a belief and then generalized it so that it doesn’t have to think about it. I knew a person that was left-handed and had his doors open outward. Everyone that visited his house thought there was something wrong with his doors because they wouldn’t open and the door knobs were on the wrong side!

There are some beliefs that it’s best that we have, such as in the laws of nature. We don’t normally challenge the belief that if you walk off a high cliff, that gravity will take over and you will fall and sustain injury or death. Once we get close enough to a flame and feel the intense heat, we don’t normally stick our hand in it to test it out again. Our mind has generalized that heat means the potential for hurt.

There are beliefs we form as a shared part of a community. These may be political, religious, or some other commonality we want to share with people that we associate with. These beliefs give us a deeper sense of belonging. Many times, these beliefs are instilled in us by culture and environment we are born into. The people, like our parents, that are significant in our lives greatly influence these beliefs. In fact, the home environment so strongly affects our beliefs that it is a determining factor in many of our permanent behavior patterns. The home environment is where children find out who they are. We believe what we are told about ourselves in that environment because we have no way of testing and validating what we are told. Once these “programs” are uploaded to us, they may become a permanent part of us, even though we change as a person.

When we believe something, we act as if it is true. Beliefs are developed because there is some certainty to the information we have. From the time we form the belief, everything we do reinforces that belief and it now becomes the blueprint for the future. Think about the last time you went to the doctor and the doctor prescribed medicine for you. When you recovered, you believed the medicine had helped you get better. But, it could have been a placebo. Studies show that 30 percent of patients respond positively to placebos. What does this prove? When it comes to getting healthy again, drugs aren’t always necessary, but belief in getting better always is.

If you grew up being told, and then believing, that the world is going to come to a cataclysmic end soon and that there are “signs” given to be on the lookout for, what would you be doing? Looking at what is going on in the world and for “proof” and reinforcement that these “signs” were happening right before your eyes. An event that might mean that the end of the world is coming soon to you would be just another event in a day for most people.

The problem with believing that something is absolutely true is the words in the truism, “you never really know until you do”. I’m sure you’ve seen people that know that their way is the ONLY way. The more a person is like that, the more they look for proof that their belief is right and the less they see of the rest of the world.
Let’s do a little exercise here. I want you to count the number of times I used the word “beliefs” in the last four paragraphs. Do that now, and then come back to the next paragraph.

OK, so how many times did I use the word “permanent”? You don’t know? That’s because you were focused on what I had asked you to observe. That’s the way you are when you hold a belief. You block out other things that could be important because you hold that belief. It could be something about finances, religion, races or ethnicities of people, your boss, it doesn’t matter. Because our minds would go insane if we captured everything going on around us, we automatically delete, distort, and generalize with our belief system so that we can create a roadmap of “the world according to (YOU)”.

To further show how your beliefs affect your life, I want you to consider a scientific study that’s been conducted many times. You’ve probably read or heard of the Pygmalion Effect. It basically means that people will perform at the level of your expectation. One of the more famous studies is about two groups of children of equal IQ being divided into two groups. Teachers for one group were told that they had a high IQ and, therefore, the teachers expected them perform at a high level. The teachers working with the second group had low expectation since they had been told that these children had a lower IQ. And, because of the beliefs that the teachers took on about the ability of these children to perform academically, it proved true when the children were tested at a later time. The teachers held their beliefs that they were told about the children and then deleted, distorted and generalized any other additional information coming in about their belief.

If you’re holding a belief that is limiting your achievements in life, what can you do about it? There are actually a number of things you can do. See the resources information below for more information. Also, to become fully aware of the options you have, read my eBook “Living Life in Forward Motion”.

Be sure to check out my website at and take FREE Life Assessment. And, pick up a copy of my eBook “Creating a Life in Forward Motion”.

Dr. Lewellen is an expert in organizational alignment and motivation, organization and personal goal-setting, change management, leadership and staff development, sales management, and other top and bottom-line initiatives.

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