Years ago, I learned that our beliefs are the backbone of our world. We can literally alter our reality, change other people’s perceptions, and defy physics if we believe without resistance. Here are some tidbits of wisdom I have learned along the way.

Our beliefs around food

There is no place where beliefs are more coveted than around food and nutrition. I have vastly altered my way of eating numerous times over the past ten years. What I found to be consistent is that there is no one diet that will work for everyone. Because we all have our own specific beliefs around food and how it will react within our body. These lifestyle beliefs are probably the most difficult for us to rethink and eventually change. 

Sure, you can chalk it up to DNA and how some people metabolize things differently. However, this is an excuse or justification for those that do not see the same results. Individuals that follow a particular diet, any diet, will often see results because they have changed their belief system regarding their way of eating. 

On the other side of the coin, you have some people that can’t understand why nothing works for them. They are adopting the same methods, but are unable to open themselves up to a different belief system around food. Diets don’t matter. We are the ones at the helm, directing our bodies and our lives.

We don’t allow ourselves to change

Like all beliefs, the more stubborn we are, the more we fight and hold on to this ‘ultimate truth’, the harder, it is for us to change and evolve into the people we want to be. It is us always, 100%, holding ourselves back. 

It isn’t just food that we have strong beliefs around. You can look at the different political landscapes of the world. Most of the populations have two very polarizing viewpoints. When neither group is open to learning about the other side, chaos ensues. 

What happens when we stop learning about other beliefs?

I recently finished an incredible book by Adam Grant called, Think Again. He details out how deeply entrenched most of us are in our thinking and eventually our belief systems. Because a belief is just a thought, we continue to think. Nothing more. There is no gold standard, “You win a prize” for choosing a belief. 

But our egos become obsessed with being right. So much so, that it isn’t even about the debate at hand. It is only about the validation and satisfaction of appearing more right. 

The problem with this, as Adam elegantly outlines, is that the moment we assert a belief and defend it without observing another point of view, this is the moment we stop learning. We are chemically and functionally unable to process new information. Even if new beliefs squeak by, they are immediately dismissed because they are a danger to our egos. Which is another way of saying, these “new ideas” are a danger to our very being.

Living amongst our egos

I’m sure you have seen this yourself. If you have been part of a discussion or a debate with a friend or colleague and they completely close up when their beliefs are challenged. They immediately go into survival mode. Either they get angry or they shut down and their eyes glaze over. They have stopped listening and learning.

These are normal responses when our ego is threatened. Because our egos think we are being attacked. Like really attacked! So our bodies begin to surge with adrenaline, and we go into fight or flight mode. 

No good can come while in this defensive position. No walls can be broken, no minds will open. This is now purely about survival.

Good debaters often learn the least

Conversations and debates can be so enthralling that some people make it a point to become fantastic arguers. Instead of skiing down double-black diamonds, they use conversation for their adrenaline fix. Adam showcases a study that proves the people that are better at debating are usually the ones that have the least ability to Think Again. They have rehearsed and studied their positions so intently that they are ready for any attempt by someone to unseat their belief. I also find it interesting that these people are often the most revered in group situations. They are much more admired than individuals that remained quiet and take in the different viewpoints. 

Therefore, our society directly rewards people that are completely closed off to new beliefs and have essentially stopped learning. All you have to do is be loud, speak with authority and do your homework.

What is the chain reaction that takes place when we as a society admire this type of personality? We have an entire population of individuals who think they are right without even understanding what they are right about. 

Exercising our ability to Think Again

I’m not just talking about the uneducated or, worse, the people that condemn education entirely. I am talking about ALL of us. We all have a part to play in this reality, and desperately holding onto our beliefs so that we can be accepted by our peers or seem intelligent to the masses, is a slow way to grow. 

Maybe a place we could start is rethinking our beliefs around what it is to be successful and what it takes to live a life of joy and happiness. Stop comparing ourselves to others and finding solace in our own individual achievements. Commend others when they are able to change a viewpoint on a subject. Ignore those who grandstand and require these followers’ attention to increase their own self-worth, while hiding behind their own ignorance. 

Most importantly, we need to truly listen to one another. Stop immediately discounting someone’s opinion or making it your goal to try and talk them out of their belief. Really hear them and understand their perspective. The more passionate we are about something, the more we have to learn. Look at the adrenaline surge as a guide to the new possibilities we can discover. 

If you are interested in Adam Grant’s book, you can find it here.

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