Believe What You Want

Believe What You Want
Claudette Pelletier-Hannah

Instead of lip-smacking envy, I was met with disgust when I boasted to my friends about the Thanksgiving dinner I prepared.

Apparently roast duck isn’t for everyone.

“And thanks to my handy separator the gravy was perfect,” I went on. “I didn’t have to add a single thing. It was rich and delicious, very lemony.” My friends were still not convinced.

And then one friend explained, “My dad used to hunt ducks. I had to help pluck and clean them. Ugghh.” More disgust.

Well, if I had plucked ducks I might not rush to the table either. But I didn’t, so I don’t share my friend’s belief.

Repeated thoughts become beliefs. They’re often based on experience and are tangled with emotion. The stronger the emotion that supports the belief, the stronger the belief will be. They’re often developed and influenced by those with whom we spend most of our time.

Beliefs influence our behavior and can move us in positive directions. But they can also limit us. Believing you don’t deserve to lose weight will certainly sabotage your efforts. Political beliefs are the stuff of Thanksgiving family feuds. Core identity beliefs like I’m not good enough, can plague your life. 

Can we change a belief? Yes. But the more experience and emotion that are involved the more difficult it can be to change a belief, as neural connections in the brain have been strengthened. Yet a paradigm shift can happen in the blink of an eye. A place at my Thanksgiving table might influence my friends about roast duck, but convincing climate change deniers might take a lot more work.

How do you change a belief?

1. Be aware that you have it. A belief can be so insidious we don’t always recognize it. It just is.
2. Decide you want to change. You don’t have to, of course, but if you know a belief is not serving you it’s probably a good idea to work towards changing it.
3. Look for evidence to contradict the belief. Get curious. Ask someone who’s belief differs from yours about when or how their belief was formed. We see evidence to match our beliefs, so it’s important to really try to see things differently. You need to be willing to be wrong.
4. Get professional support. I know I keep saying this, but it can’t be understated. If you’re stuck, bouncing the same thoughts back and forth in your head probably won’t get you unstuck.

It’s easy and unimportant to avoid roast duck. Do you have political beliefs? You best not avoid the election. Stand up and be counted October 21st.