Our belief systems influence our narrative and experience of the world. This season of “letting go” is an invitation to explore if it’s time to release some old patterns of thinking and being. On a regular basis, there are issues that require me to re-examine my belief systems. The question that surfaces is: are our beliefs the insulation that keeps us where we are, somewhere in between stable and stuck?
When I was in high school, I decided to try running cross-country for the school team following in the footsteps of my older brother. Even back then, running shoes were very expensive. Funds were tight and asking for ‘one more thing’ was never easy. But desire gnawed and I explained my need for the shoes. My father agreed to buy the shoes, but only after I committed to running at least a mile every day for a month in my regular old sneakers. I had to “earn” my running shoes. Maybe because I like a challenge, I decided to go for it. Every day for a month, I ran up and down Lake Avenue in hopes for the prize of sleek new shoes. True to his word, we went and got my new shoes: royal blue Brooks with an orange design on the side; I can still picture them now. With my new shoes, I did run cross-country for a few seasons. More importantly, I earned my way with the commitment. I loved those shoes and wore them until the soles were worn smooth.
I have always treasured the lesson in earning those shoes. Whether my dad needed proof of my commitment or he was teaching me the value of earning my way (or both) it made sense to me as a teenager and later as a parent. In similar ways, I have given my own children such lessons.
Nothing imprisons you except your thoughts.
Nothing limits you except your fears.
Nothing controls you except your beliefs.
‘Earning my way’ has fueled much of my life; my work, my relationship with money, my sense of receiving love and affection. I have had some warped ideas around not accepting what wasn’t “earned”. It’s a good thing, right?
That is where beliefs come in. It’s a good thing if I believe it is so. And… I can change my mind. What if earning my way becomes a ‘no one gets anything they haven’t earned’ mentality? Perhaps these beliefs no longer fit and need adjusting instead of the one size fits all ideas. Maybe this kind of thinking leads to keeping score and ‘who owes me’ or ‘whom do I owe?”. This demonstration of a belief gone amok sounds problematic and a lot like cognitive dissonance*. Conversely, when I expand my ideas and beliefs of what it means to earn my way, it feels less rigid and allows for reciprocity. Maybe there is a broader understanding that is applicable? Maybe earning my way was simply about a pair of running shoes, but I took the lesson and placed it everywhere. At the end of the day, we can all question our beliefs from time to time and see if they need an upgrade. Perhaps no one has to “earn” anything and showing up is truly enough.
*Oxford Online Dictionary defines this as: cog·ni·tive dis·so·nance /ˈkäɡnədiv ˈdisənəns/ the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.
Some questions to chew on…
*How often do I try on my beliefs to see if they still fit?
*Are some beliefs situational?
*What prompts us to actually unpack our beliefs to see where they came from and why we have them?
*What beliefs can I let go of to have a more compassionate presence in the world?
Let me know what you come up with… I’m curious.
PS: I have been a life-long runner – maybe because of those Brooks. Running became a medicine and strategy that clears my mind, allows me to solve problems, to daydream, to de-stress, to plan and to organize. I guess I earned it after all. <3
Your newsletter inspired me to think about beliefs. Here is what I came up with:
Beliefs are like the compass by which we choose to steer our lives. They are a course bearing taught us at an early age and accepted without much thought, reflection, or effort on our part . In that analogy there is a lesson to be learned from mariners whose lives depend on not just the compass but their ability to adjust.
Just as they must steer by a course bearing to arrive at their destination, they must adjust that bearing to account for the current, the winds and the magnetic declination. A course correction is not defeat. It is essential. It is victory of self over self. It is what Frederick Nietzsche meant when he proclaimed: “I am that which must overcome itself.”
So it is that a belief should not be permanent conviction but one that must adjust for the winds and tides of life.
Thanks for the opportunity to think about this.
Beautifully said Boyd. This analogy is a good one and course correction IS essential if we are to grow and survive. I always appreciate the discourse. Thank you for taking the time to not only consider the topic, but to share your insights.
I love this month’s newsletter and Boyd’s comment. Food for thought!
Yes!!! Thanks Sue.