Should you change your beliefs? Or at least consider alternatives?

April 1, 2013 by Joshua
in Exercises, Models

[This post is part of a series on “Mental models and beliefs: an exercise to identify yours.” If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

Say you have an identical twin and you walk into a party together. Now say your twin finds the party fun while you find the it boring and yourself in a miserable mood.

Same party. Similar backgrounds and abilities. You’d rather have fun than be miserable. Why are in different moods and what can you do about it?

You could say it’s just your mood and moods are random, but can we say more?

Since you and your twin have roughly equal abilities and backgrounds and you’re in roughly similar environments, you’re probably in different moods because you have different beliefs influencing your perception. The same environment may look different through lenses of different beliefs. Maybe you wanted to go to meet people, your twin went to dance, and the music is too loud for conversation. You’re miserable and that’s a problem.

The solution? Change your beliefs.

Maybe in a specific case like this party you could ask the host to turn down the music, but often you can’t change your environment. The general solution of changing your beliefs works in nearly all situations. You could, for example, ask your twin for their beliefs and try to adopt them.

(I’m not saying to “think positively,” to ignore your environment, or to lie to yourself. I’ve described the art of choosing new beliefs not to push against old ones but to complement them.)

Your life

Now consider the same situation as you and your twin at the party, only instead of a party it’s your life and instead of your twin it’s the you you could be if you weren’t so stuck with your beliefs.

If you feel miserable or know you could at least feel better and can’t change your environment, you can change your beliefs.

Again, I’m not suggesting believing a lousy party is great. I’m saying if anyone anywhere and any time was in a situation like yours and was able to enjoy themselves, learn something, or feel better than you in any way, you could think of them like that imaginary twin and adopt their belief.

That’s why people like Victor Frankl inspire us so much. He found ways to create meaning in life in situations more challenging than most of us will probably ever face. If he could do it in his situation, you can in yours.

Why consider someone else’s beliefs

My next series of posts will present beliefs that work for me. Do I think I have the best beliefs ever? No. Do they help me stay calm under pressure, bring me great relationships, keep me effortlessly in shape, and all the things I wrote yesterday? Yes.

I’m not writing my beliefs to convince you to adopt them, only tell you what worked for at least one person.

If a belief I share conflicts with your beliefs, you don’t have to adopt it. But if it applies to an area of your life that isn’t incredibly awesome, before rejecting it, consider that whatever your beliefs, if you scrutinized them enough, you’d find flaws in them too. Because no matter how much you believe it, all beliefs simplify, meaning they leave out information and contain biases. No matter how right you think it is, you can still look at things from another perspective.

If you can make yourself happier, more capable, or however you want, why wouldn’t you try?

Instead consider if it could improve your life. And consider how yours affect you. Or consider if yours works better in some areas, it may not work everywhere.

Considering other beliefs helps even if the beliefs don’t

Even if a model of mine doesn’t work for you, I wrote the series to show that you can change your beliefs too. You don’t have to adopt mine to realize that if you’re not in absolute heaven, you can at least change yours to something else to improve your life.

If you have a belief that works better for you, please share it. I’d love to try something that works better.

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