Knowing vs Believing

What is it you know, for sure, without a shadow of a doubt?

Is climate change real? Is there an afterlife? What color is the sky? When did dinosaurs exist? Are your parents actually your biological parents or were you secretly adopted? Are you awake right now or are you dreaming? Or, even more mind-bending, is your perceived life simply just a simulation in the Matrix? Regardless of your answers to any of these questions, I would say that you don’t factually know for sure.

Regardless of how certain you are that the sky is blue or that you’re not part of the Matrix, these certainties are beliefs and not proven facts. At least not facts you’ve proven, at which point you’re simply believing what someone else has told you.

This is not to say that your beliefs aren’t valid or beneficial to your life. However, it does say that most of the things we accept as known facts are actually just our beliefs, and that our beliefs are very powerful. Sometimes too powerful.

For example, if you asked a non-smoker if they know that smoking cigarettes causes lung cancer, they will definitively answer that yes, they know. Similarly, if you ask a smoker the same question, they will also say they know. Here is the difference: While the smoker may understand that some people get lung cancer from smoking cigarettes, they believe it will never happen to them.

The same goes for distracted drivers – While the statistics are clear that both drinking and texting while driving are at fault for a huge number of vehicle related deaths each year, people who drink or text while driving believe they are the exception to this rule.

Likewise is our knowledge that a lack of exercise and a poor diet can lead to obesity, which can lead to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. Yet, 40% of Americans are considered obese. Why? Because they don’t believe the statistics.

We can know all of the statistics and data points and facts, but if we choose to believe that they don’t apply to us, then we can convince ourselves that our actions are justified, regardless of how reckless they are. As concerning as this may be, there is a silver lining: While our beliefs are powerful enough to deceive us into behaving in unhealthy ways, they are also powerful enough to convince us to persevere through the most daunting of challenges.

Every time an amputee runs a triathlon, a teen mom receives her college degree, a kid from the inner city founds a successful business, or an account manager quits corporate to become a public school teacher, they don’t do it because the odds are in their favor. They do it because of what they believe: About themselves, about other people, and about the kind of world they want to live in.

Simon Sinek says “People don’t buy what you do, people buy why you do it. What you do only proves what you believe.” (posifocus.com/simonsinek)

From this perspective, it is to our greatest advantage to develop a belief system that will inspire our dreams, empower our actions, and engage the people around us with a passionate optimism that will result in an uplifted society.

Can you imagine how great life would be if we stopped allowing negative and misguided beliefs to discourage us from living our best lives? What would it be like if we started exclusively using our beliefs to influence our actions in positive and constructive ways?

Understanding that our beliefs directly influence our actions and that each of our actions has a ripple effect on everyone else in the world, it is essential that we take responsibility for each of our beliefs and make each action with purpose and intention.

Posifocus Mantra #1

My Beliefs Control My Actions.

Reflection

What negative/misleading beliefs do you have that are holding you back from achieving your goals? How would your actions change if you turned your negative/misleading beliefs into positive/accurate beliefs?

Challenge

Write down one negative/misleading belief you have about yourself or the world around you. Now write down the opposite, accurate, positive perspective of that same belief. Spend the next week actively looking for evidence to support this new, positive belief. Keep a log of the evidence you find along with how your behavior has changed.

For example, a negative belief might be “sitting in rush hour traffic is terrible.” The same belief from a positive perspective might be, “catching up on my audiobooks during rush hour traffic really is a treat.”

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