Anton Chekhov once said, “Man is what he believes.” We usually think of beliefs in terms of creeds and doctrines, and that is what most beliefs are. But in the most basic sense, a belief is any guiding principle, dictum, faith, or passion that can provide meaning and direction in life. Beliefs are pre-arranged, organized filters to our perceptions of the world. “Beliefs are like commanders of the brain. When we congruently believe something is true, it is like delivering a command to our brain as to how to represent what is occurring,” Anthony Robbins would hypothesize.
John Stuart Mill once wrote, “One person with a belief is equal to a force of ninety-nine who have only interests.” That is precisely why beliefs open the door to excellence. Belief delivers a direct command to your nervous system. When you believe something is true, you literally go into the state of its being true. Handled effectively, beliefs can be the most powerful forces for creating good in your life. On the other hand, beliefs that limit your actions and thoughts can be as devastating as resourceful beliefs can be empowering. Religions throughout history have empowered millions of people and given them strength to do things they thought they could not. Beliefs help us to tap the richest resources deep within us, creating and directing these resources in the support of our desired outcomes.
Beliefs are the compass and maps that guide us towards our goals and give us surety to know we will get there. Without beliefs or the ability to tap into them, people can be totally disempowered. With powerful guiding beliefs, you have the power to take action and create the world you want to live in. “Beliefs help you see what you want and energize you to get it.”
In fact, there is no more directing force in human behavior than belief. In essence, human history is the history of human belief. The people who have changed history, whether Christ, Mohammed, Columbus, Edison or Einstein have been the people who have changed our beliefs. To change our own behaviors, we have to start with our own beliefs. If we want to model excellence, we need to model the beliefs of those who achieve excellence.
The more we learn about human behavior, the extraordinary power that beliefs have over our lives. In many ways, that power defies the logical models most of us have. But it is clear that even at the level of physiology, beliefs (congruent internal representation) control reality. A remarkable study was done on schizophrenia not long ago. One case involved a woman with split personality. Normally, her blood sugar levels were completely normal. But when she believed she was diabetic, her whole physiology changed to become that of a diabetic. Her belief had become her reality.
Most of us are aware of the placebo effect. People who are told a drug will have a certain effect will many times experience that effect when given a empty pill with no active properties. Norman Cousins, who learned firsthand the power of belief in eliminating his own illness, concludes, “Drugs are not always necessary. Belief in recovery always is.” Dr. Andrew Weil has shown that the experiences of drug users correspond almost exactly to their expectations. He found he could lead a person given a dose of amphetamine (stimulant) to feel sleepy or a person given a barbiturate (valium) to feel agitated. “The ‘magic’ of drugs resides within the mind of the user, not in the drugs,” Dr. Weil concluded.
In all these instances, the one constant that most powerfully affected the results was belief, the consistent, congruent messages delivered to the brain and nervous system. For all its power, there is no puzzling magic involved in the process. Belief is nothing but a state, an internal representation that governs behavior. It can be an empowering belief in possibility – a belief that we will succeed in something or achieve something.
It can be a disempowering belief – a belief that we cannot succeed, that our limitations are clear, insurmountable, and overwhelming. If you belief in success, you will be empowered to achieve it. If you believe in failure, those messages will tend to lead you to experience that as well. Remember, whether you say you can do something or you say you cannot, you are right. Both kinds of beliefs have great power. The question is what kinds of beliefs are best to have, and how do we develop them?
The birth of excellence begins with our awareness that our beliefs are a choice. We usually do not think of it that way, but belief can be a conscious choice. You can choose beliefs that limit you, or you can choose beliefs that support you. The trick is to choose the beliefs that are conducive to success and the results you want and discard the ones that hold you back.
The biggest misconception people often have of belief is that it is static, intellectual concept, an understanding that is divorced from action and results. Nothing, according to Anthony Robbins, can be far from the truth. “Belief is the doorway to excellence,” he opines, “because there is nothing divorced or static about it.”
It is our belief that determines how much of our potential we will be able to tap. Beliefs can turn on or shut off the flow of ideas. Remember, every human experience, everything you have ever said, seen, heard, felt, smelled, or tasted is stored in your brain. When you congruently say you cannot remember, you are right. When you congruently say you can, you give a command to your nervous system that opens up the pathways to the part of your brain that can potentially deliver the answers you need. “You can because you think you can.”
So again, what are beliefs? They are preformed, pre-organized approaches to perception that filter our communication to ourselves in a consistent manner. Where do beliefs come from? Why do some people have beliefs that push them towards success while others have beliefs that only help them to fail? If we are going to try to model the beliefs that foster excellence, the first thing we need to find out where those beliefs come from.
The first source is the environment. This is where the cycles of success breeding and failure breeding are played out in the most relentless fashion. The real horror of ghetto life is not the daily frustrations and deprivations. Sociologists believe that people can overcome those. To them, the real nightmare is the effect the environment has on beliefs and dreams. “If all you see is failure, if all you see is despair, it is very hard for you to form the internal representations that foster success.” Modeling is something we all do consistently. If you grow up in wealth and success, you can easily model wealth and success. If you grow up in poverty and despair, that is where your models of possibility come from. Albert Einstein said, “Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from prejudices of social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.”
Secondly, events, small or large, can help foster beliefs. There are certain in everyone’s life that they will never forget. Where were you in the morning of June 4th 1979? If you are old enough to remember, I am sure you know. For many of us (especially those who were army officers then), it was a day that forever altered our world-view. In the same way, most of us have experiences we will never forget, instances that had such an impact on us that they were ingrained into our brains forever. These are the kinds experiences that form the beliefs that change our lives.
Finally, a third way to foster belief is through knowledge. A direct experience is one form knowledge. Another is gained through reading, seeing movies, watching television, viewing the world as it is portrayed by others. Knowledge is one of the great ways to break the shackles of a limiting environment. “No matter how grim your world is if you can read about the accomplishment of others, you can create the beliefs that will allow you to succeed.”
Life is both subtler and more complex than some of us like to believe. So, if you have not done so already, review your beliefs and decide which ones you might change now and what you will change those beliefs
By Aquasi Addaih