Beliefs are tools. How well do your tools work? Use this simple 3 part test to find out:
1. What effect does a belief have on me?
2. What effect does it have on other people?
3. What effect does it have on the world?
Belief is not the same as fact
The distinction is that what we believe and “reality” (or fact) are not always the same thing. We sometimes conflate belief with fact, but unlike a simple fact, beliefs are often an interpretation of fact from a particular point of view based on our experience. When we understand beliefs as “tools” we can let go of the need for them to be absolute, we are free to examine them so that we can understand them and how they impact us more fully. Because there is sometimes a difference between a belief and a fact, there can be situations where multiple contradictory beliefs can be equally “true” depending on your point of view and interpretation of facts.
High quality beliefs create value
Great personal power comes from the knowledge that what you believe about reality and reality itself are not the same thing. This clarity allows us to try on new beliefs and evaluate existing ones. When we aren’t afraid to evaluate beliefs using this simple three part test, we can gain new perspectives and understandings of other people’s beliefs — even those we do not share or agree with. We discover that we need not be afraid of examining our own beliefs or the beliefs of others. Instead we deepen our understanding of our own beliefs by testing them for effectiveness using these three simple rules: Does this belief help me? Does it help others? Does it help the world? If the answer to one or more of these is no, we may want to investigate further.
High quality beliefs create value in our current context and will pass those tests (or at least be irrelevant for them, for example, some beliefs might be relevant only to you, but not have any meaningful impact on others or the world, and so on). If we investigate our beliefs we may find we may carry self-defeating or self-limiting beliefs: about what we are capable of, or what kind of life we deserve, or what role we can play in a social dynamic. Some beliefs are simply outside the realm of scientific verifiability, such as asking, “Am I a good person?”, “Am I attractive?” or “Am I capable?” There is no absolute scientific measure of that sort of inquiry, but what we choose to believe about the answer has a profound effect on how we see ourselves and that profoundly influences our behavior and our lives.
What about religious or deeply held beliefs?
You may be thinking, that’s fine for my personal beliefs, but I would never question certain beliefs, such as my belief in God or religion using this test. High quality beliefs always pass this test. So you can be reasonably confident that your deeply held beliefs will all have a positive affect on your life, those around you, and the world. If they do not, you would do well to be questioning them and figuring out where they need improvement. So instead of being afraid to think about religious or deeply held beliefs in this way, you will actually find that you are deepening your understanding of your beliefs and by thinking about them in this way you can make them stronger and more nuanced.
Belief is a work in progress
No person ever gets to a point where all of their beliefs are perfectly correct and accurate. Our beliefs need continual evaluation as our context and knowledge changes. Beliefs are tools, interpretations, understandings — useful or not in a particular context for a particular purpose.
Stay tuned for a continued deepening of this discussion on belief and how to become even more effective at using and crafting beliefs to improve the quality of your life.