Human beings are hard-wired not to change. That’s why we find it easier to stay where we are than to move forwards. Forwards is unknown. Forwards could spell danger. Go forwards and you might get eaten by a ruddy great big tiger.
Okay, while getting eaten by a tiger isn’t up there as a common risk these days (tell that to Tarzan), we still have long-running traits and mechanisms left over from thousands of years ago. One of these is that we all develop a belief system that allows us to attach meaning to the world and everything in it.
I do it, you do it, everyone does it. A human being without a belief system is like the sea without a tide, a football game without a score, a computer without a program, an egg without salt, a honeymoon without a big bed or like Tom without Jerry. You get the picture.
It looks the same, but the essence isn’t there.
It’s this belief system that allows us to derive meaning from events and to put our lives into context. Your belief system also allows you to develop opinions on anything from the best washing powder to the best President. It’s actually pretty darn brilliant, but the trouble is that because this belief system is developed over the course of your lifetime it quite literally becomes woven into your brain – your brain develops pathways to assimilate information efficiently and attach meanings based on what it believes to be true. And that makes it hard to step away from. It makes it hard to change your mind.
Like fellow coach (in a much sunnier part of the world) Tim Brownson, I love it when I see people change their minds about something they believed to be right, because it means they’ve got the balls to be wrong. As Tim wrote recently, “It often takes guts and strength of character to change your mind because first and foremost you have to accept that you got it wrong originally”, and I have to agree.
Have a belief that Daz is the best washing powder and that nothing else gets your clothes cleaner and you’ll be buying Daz year after year after year. Even if another product comes along that gets your shirts so incandescently, resplendently white that God starts using it to wash his Calvins, you still might shrug it off as “not for me”.
Have a belief that a black Democrat can’t be President of the USA and you’ll be buying the Republican ticket because you’re convinced that your position is right. Even if said Democrat becomes President you’ll justify it with a chain of reasoning that fits with your belief that the Republican candidate was the better choice.
The same goes with other, more personal things too.
I have a client who believed that she’s not special. She’s developed this belief over many years, and it gives her sanctuary. Even though it’s a place that confines her, it’s a place she knows and it’s a place she finds comfort and normalcy.
When I challenged her to see what makes her special – her fantastic sense of humour, her ability to bring the best out of people and her tremendous spirit – she at first recoiled from it. There wasn’t space for it in her belief system, there wasn’t a place for it in her filing cabinet marked ‘Me’.
So I kept on challenging her, showing her the evidence and not letting her hide from what she was. And then there was that fantastic moment when she admitted she’d been wrong, a moment where she created a new belief that fitted with who she was instead of who her old belief system told her she was.
I want you to look at your opinions. I want you to look at your beliefs. What are you hanging onto simply because admitting you’re wrong is too uncomfortable, too scary or too unthinkable?
What do you believe that’s holding you back? What do you believe that’s getting in your own way?
If you could be wonderfully, fantastically wrong about something that would open up a whole world of potential, what would you rush at being wrong about?