Do you remember a time when you thought WWE was “real” wrestling?
You may have never believed it; I never did. But if you did believe that it was real, there came a time when you stopped believing. As you watched, you caught little details. You noticed punches that didn’t land, but still had effects. You observed wrestlers helping their opponent body slam them. Slowly it hit you… they aren’t wrestling… they’re acting. And, hopefully at some point in your life, you may have also realized that Santa Claus isn’t real.
While the WWE and Santa Claus are drastic examples of childhood beliefs that we outgrow, my point is this: our personal beliefs are meant to change, widen, sharpen, mature, and sometimes break.
Our beliefs are our conceptions about the nature of our reality. Our beliefs are the stories we accept as truth. We form beliefs by listening to what we are told, by reading, by making deductions about the things we observe in our environment, and by our repeated actions.
As we grow older, we both intentionally and subconsciously collect evidence over time that forges and sometimes cements our personal beliefs. Our personal beliefs reinforce the way we live and the way we live can in turn reinforce our personal beliefs. I have observed that many people can become trapped in a self-feeding belief loop. This happens, particularly, when we only associate with a particular group of people, remain static in one location, and stick to a limited media source. The danger of a self-feeding belief loop is that we begin to believe we know everything there is to know about an idea, society, politics, religion, etc… and that anything contrary to the belief is false. Once we believe that we know all there is to know, we can sometimes stop listening. While we may hear others talking, our ears are no longer open to receiving.
The wisdom of Socrates is heard in his popular quote, “I know that I know nothing.”
Accepting that we cannot know the whole truth of a given topic, allows us to remain open to new ideas, continue to learn, and in turn consistently develop. Remaining flexible in our beliefs is important and relevant to our work, our families, and personal lives because it allows us to get closer to a current/relevant truth when making decisions, instead of the just getting answers that reinforce what we know and want to be true.
Truth can be impermanent. Truth now isn’t always truth later. Truth here isn’t always truth there. Meaningful decisions with real consequences are worth disecting, analyzing, and exploring.
Remaining open to other people, their ideas, their thoughts, their experiences, and their feelings isn’t easy. Listening to people (actually listening) is not easy. Our natural tendency leads us to judge and doubt that which is different from what we know. It is right to screen the ideas that come our way, but we should listen with the intent to learn and hear other people because as soon as we stop listening, we stop learning. And when we stop learning, we limit ourselves and the degree of our discovered truths in exchange for a comfortable, unchanging world view that’s stuck in the here and now.
Listen. Ask questions. Learn. Grow. Impact the world around you.