Whoever first came up with the saying “Seeing is believing” had it a little backwards. The truth is, reversing the phrase so it reads “Believing is seeing” is actually more true for how things work.
Our brains work in mysterious ways, but one thing we do know is that we take in far more information from our senses than we actually process. Every second that you’re conscious your eyes are taking in a myriad of individual sights, your ears are hearing many subtle sounds all around you, your body is feeling many different sensations at once, your subject to various smells or tastes, and an array of thoughts could be moving through your head.
The human brain cannot possible process all of this excessive information at once and in such it has something some scientist refer to as the reticular activation system. Your brain uses this system to pick and choose what it feels deserves your attention and lets that information through, while ignoring things that seem unimportant or insignificant. If you’re intensely engaged in this article for instance you may not notice the feeling of your feet on the floor, or the sounds in the other room, or the fact that you’re a little bit hungry. You notice that which your attention is focused on.
You can see how skilled your mind is at blocking out all this extra information if you remember back to a time when you were caught day dreaming, perhaps at school or work. A whole conversation could play out before you without you consciously knowing what was said. I remember on more than one occasion in grade school the teacher would discuss the entire assignment we needed to complete and I would realize at the point when she said ‘okay get to it’ that I didn’t hear a thing.
You also notice that which your brain feels is worthy of your attention. You might not notice the sound of the air-conditioning coming on since it happens quite frequently throughout the day and is of little consequence, but a sound of a knock on the door at equal volume can snap you out of a deep thought quite easily because of its significance.
(A side note from this article is an interesting technique I read once in a book about martial arts. Its purpose is to enhance your senses and awareness in everyday life. When you first wake up on the morning choose one of your senses and put all your focus and attention in noticing everything you possibly can with that sense. Try to notice subtle details in your room you didn’t notice before, patterns in the speckles on the ceiling, sounds you were unaware of from outside, the feeling of your bed and blankets ect. Throughout the day focus on paying more attention to what you can pick up with the specific sense. Pick just one sense to focus on each day.)
So your brain only notices that which your attention is placed on, or that which is worthy of receiving your attention. So how does this translate to your beliefs? Have you ever noticed after buying a new car that you thought was fairly uncommon that suddenly they are seen very frequently on the road? It’s because those cars are suddenly worthy of your attention when before you didn’t notice them. The same thing happens if you start believing things. If you believe that people are assholes your brain gets focused on the idea and you start noticing more assholes around. The same look from a stranger which before was unnoticeable will now be interpreted as a dirty look from someone with an attitude problem. People will say things that could be interpreted more than one way, but because you believe people are assholes your brain will zero in on the most negative interpretation. Your brain will also focus less on the positive aspects of the people you meet. An innocent smile from a stranger on the street could leave you feeling suspicious about ‘what the heck they were smiling about’. A random act of kindness could be interpreted as someone trying to butter you up so they can ask for a future favor from you. As you can see holding negative beliefs can create a negative reality, and the opposite is also true.
The law of attraction
Not only does the change in belief effect how you perceive the world it also coincides with the law of attraction. The law of attraction states that like attracts like, and that you attract into your life that which you think about and focus your attention on. How the law of attraction works, and all the details of it are beyond the scope of this article, but I strongly recommend you watch ‘The Secret’ if you haven’t for a great introduction to it. The only criticism I have for The Secret though is that a lot of its viewers tend to focus on the parts of the movie that suggest that all you have to do is think happy thoughts about something and it will appear for you. In my experience the law of attraction works by you putting out a positive intention of a result you would like to achieve, and then believing strongly in it then acting on it any way you know how. The thing is once you believe you can manifest these things and put the desire out there with a lot of positive emotion behind it, the universe tends to find a way to line things up in an amazing way to make them come into reality. You’re still doing whatever you can to make it happen, but coincidences and events will transpire that make the result you want to achieve easy.
Question your own beliefs
Because beliefs are so important to your entire life, it’s really important that you question the things you believe in. Where did your beliefs come from? Many people grow up believing the same things that their parents believe. These beliefs can be the worst as they usually are taken for granted and go unchecked. Sure your parents beliefs might have been pretty accurate, at least for their time, but chances are they like most people have some personal bias and wrong ideas, and unless they are highly successful they probably have limited beliefs about their potentials. Loving your parents is awesome, but don’t think as a family member it’s your responsibility to agree with them about anything. Beliefs also largely come from your friends, especially in your teenage years. They could also come from role models, organizations, and cultures in general. Ensure the beliefs that you have are really true and worthwhile. Make sure they aren’t just something passed on by someone else.
Adopt beliefs that serve you
You’re free to choose your own beliefs in life, as once you choose it your brain will focus on it and you will begin to see evidence of its truth. Because of this it’s crucial that the beliefs you hold have a positive impact on your life rather than a negative one. Believe that which serves you if it doesn’t then find a new more empowering belief to replace it. If you believe making money is hard and time consuming, replace it with believing that money making opportunities are everywhere just waiting to be found. It’s also very important in life that you surround yourself with people who have positive beliefs as it’s nearly impossible for people not to rub off on you over time. A good exercise is to write down all the positive and then all the negative things you believe about life and yourself, then go over the list and see how you can realistically began changing your negative beliefs into more positive ones. Doing this and sticking with it will create real change in your life.
Shaking a belief through action
Some beliefs are hard to change your mentality about, it may seem like their so much evidence right in front of you that although you know things could be different it’s too hard to believe in it yet. This is when action can go a long way. If for instance, you feel you are a very physically weak person and you can’t stand up for yourself… and in reality you really are quite small or frail action may be required. Changing this belief mentally will instantly help you appear less weak because you’d have better body language and appear more confident, but the belief itself could be hard to shake since the evidence is staring at you in the mirror. Instead adopting the belief that you will become physically stronger quickly can get things rolling. That belief would then inspire you to do things to better yourself in this area. It can even come about in different ways. The most obvious would be to work out, eat right and exercise. Another person might want to instead learn a martial art that uses the force provided by the opponent against him, that way even while the physical body isn’t strong yet the confidence and knowing that you can defend yourself would be there. Another person might even decide that their fear they cannot stand up for themselves is a more mental thing than physical and could choose to become a more authoritative person, and learn better social conflict resolving skills.
If the belief is strong enough and important enough to you then you might decide to do all 3 approaches for massive change! The point is though that without a change in belief the motivation and confidence for action won’t be present.
If you have a belief that you just can’t shake then I recommend you check out some of the Neural Linguistic Programming techniques out there from Tony Robbins.
Beliefs and Travel
Travelling is a great way to expose yourself to the different belief systems held by people. While it always depends on the individual, different cultures hold different beliefs in general. By watching how different people live you can clearly see how their beliefs are affecting their realities. And I’m not just talking about the large scale obvious beliefs such as beliefs gained through embracing different religions or believing in different systems but even small beliefs such as self worth and the belief of what can be achieved by an individual are vastly different from country to country. Exposing yourself to different beliefs can be really valuable as there could be a few beliefs you haven’t questioned just because you assume they are completely normal, or you know of no other way. Those same beliefs might get completely thrown out while in a different country! You’re then left to decide if the new belief would serve you better than your old one.
What does it all mean?
Since it’s true that your beliefs determine your reality, and you are free to choose and adopt the beliefs you want, you are in fact free to create your own reality. You are the master of your own destiny. If you believe you are worthy and able to make lots of money you will act according to your beliefs and you will be able to. If you believe you are an attractive person deserving of a wonderful relationship you will act according to this belief and achieve it. If you believe travelling the world is the best way to learn amazing things then you will act on it, you will travel and you will experience the world. As long as you keep these beliefs strong and in focus over time you won’t be able to help acting on them. Believing one thing but doing another isn’t easy and will make you feel dissatisfied about your choices over time. Acting on your beliefs feels good and comes with ease.
I will end this article with the brilliant words of Napoleon Hill from his must-have book Think and Grow Rich “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”