The Power of Beliefs
“Reality is what we take to be true. What we take to be true is what we believe. What we believe is based upon our perceptions. What we perceive depends on what we look for. What we look for depends on what we think. What we think depends on what we perceive. What we perceive determines what we believe. What we believe determines what we take to be true. What we take to be true is our reality.”
—Theoretical Physicist, David Bohm, 1977
Lately, I have been reflecting on the nature of beliefs, and curiously observing their influence on my choices, my behaviors, and, most importantly, my results. Through this process, I am discovering how profoundly our beliefs determine our reality.
Beliefs are assumptions that we hold to be true. We hold beliefs about every facet of our lives, from the nature of reality and the workings of the world to our own inner nature, how we see ourselves and what we believe ourselves capable of.
My recent interest in beliefs and the impact they have on our lives began while reading a book by Vishen Lakhiani, founder of the personal growth company, Mind Valley. In the book, Vishen refers to a classic experiment conducted on flees.
The flees were placed in a jar without a lid. Flees are highly accomplished jumpers, so with no lid on the jar, the flees continuously jumped out of the jar. The scientists then put a lid on the jar. Now, the flees could only jump to the height of the lid. After a time, the scientists removed the lid—which is where the experiment gets really interesting. The flees continued to limit their jumping to the height of the lid, despite the fact that there was no longer any barrier limiting how high they could jump.
Think about that. There was nothing limiting the flees ability to jump, other than their belief that they could jump no higher. Are we that much different than the flees? As advanced as we may be, how often do we limit ourselves based on our beliefs? Would any of us attempt to do something we believed to be impossible?
On May 6, 1954, British runner John Bannister became the first human to run a mile in less than 4 minutes. Brilliant coaches and gifted athletes from around the world had been focused on breaking the 4 minute barrier since 1886, but it had never been accomplished. Many believed the feat to be impossible and experts insisted that conditions would need to be perfect if it were to be accomplished—perfect weather, no wind, a dry track, and a large crowd of cheering fans. Bannister, a full-time student, trained on his own without a coach. On the day he broke the record, the weather was cold, the track wet, and there were only a few thousand fans in the stands at a small meet in Oxford, England, where he crossed the finish line at 3 minutes 59.4 seconds.
Just 46 days later, Australian John Landy broke Bannister’s record. A year later, 3 runners broke the 4 minute mark in the same race. In the last 50 years, more than a thousand runners have broken the barrier. Once Bannister showed that the impossible was possible, the feat became commonplace.
How often do you fail to tackle a challenge, or at least fail to give it your full effort, because somewhere deep down inside, you don’t believe it’s possible? Whether trying to lose weight, regain your health, begin a meditation practice, find a life partner, or a new job, many of us are defeated before we even get started because we don’t truly believe we can do it or that we are worthy of it.
Our beliefs operate on us whether we are conscious of them or not. Yet, as important as our beliefs are in determining the course of our lives, how often do we stop to examine our beliefs or seek to verify whether the beliefs we hold are even true?
I call on us all to take the time to reflect on our beliefs and to challenge them. Do they hold up to scrutiny in the light of day or are they simply concepts that we have passively accepted without judgement?
For subconscious beliefs, I recommend looking for areas in your life where you repetitively come up short. If all your relationships end in failure, you have never had a job you like, you are always broke, or you can’t stick to a diet or a meditation routine, ask yourself what beliefs you may hold that limit your results.
This work can be demanding as it requires deep introspection and extreme honesty, but the payoff is exponential. Just bringing awareness to a limiting belief has the power to weaken it. Small acts that counter the belief—going on a date, applying for a new job, saving a dollar, adhering to a diet for a full day—will begin to undermine it. Repeating these small acts with consistency over time will dissolve it completely. And, freed from its limitations, you will be a new and better version of yourself.
I wish you all the best in this very important endeavor and encourage all of you to share with me what you discover.