[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.]
How would you like for everything in your life to look better and for everyone to treat you better? For everything in your life to improve?
Today’s belief is one of the most powerful you can have, as is the strategy it leads to.
People also happen to oppose it the most. When I state it simply and abstractly, they agree with it. When I apply it to them, they push back against it. You will too.
If I can take for granted that we agree that our beliefs influence our perception, I’ll write today’s model:
A model for improving everything in your life: You can choose your beliefs
An exercise from my leadership seminar helps illustrate how much you can change your beliefs.
- First, think of three adjectives to describe yourself. Write them so you don’t forget.
- Next, imagine on a job interview a prospective employer asked you for three adjectives to describe yourself. What would you say? Write them too. Are they the same as the ones you wrote in the first part?
- Next, imagine yourself on a date with someone you want to date again and they asked you for three adjectives to describe yourself. Would would you say? Write them too. Are they the same as in the first two parts?
- Next imagine your parents asked for three adjectives to describe you. What would you say to them?
If you changed your adjectives at least once, you use different models for yourself in different situations. In other words, you changed your beliefs based on your situation.
If you can change your beliefs about yourself, you can change your beliefs about other things too. About anything.
When you change your choice of adjectives for different situations, you don’t stop believing the others. You just put them to the side while they aren’t useful. You don’t stop thinking, say, you’re sexy when on a job interview. You just focus more on, say, your dedication and let that belief crowd out the less useful beliefs.
Same with any other beliefs. You can consciously choose your beliefs about anything. Say your boss yells at you and you initially think he or she is a jerk but realize this belief isn’t helping your life. You might consciously choose to believe he or she has high expectations of you, or is under a lot of stress and actually protecting you from worse from above, or something like that.
As new information comes in you may refine your beliefs, but you can always find alternatives to beliefs. Since beliefs lead to strategies, choosing your beliefs means choosing your behavior, which means choosing potential outcomes.
If you can rule out some beliefs, rule them out, but of the remaining ones, why not choose the beliefs most likely to create outcomes you like?
So the belief that you can choose your beliefs leads to a strategy.
Always interpret for your best outcome.
I’m not suggesting always thinking positively. Sometimes things happen that you don’t like. Sometimes you want to feel sad. The point isn’t to try to feel good every moment. It’s to choose your models to create the outcome you anticipate will be best for you.
“Best” means knowing your values. Not anyone else’s. Yours. So knowing your values better will help you with this strategy.
When I use this belief
I use this belief all the time. Everything you observe takes on value from the emotions observing it evokes. And those observations get filtered through your beliefs. So choosing your beliefs changes how you see and value everything.
What this belief replaces
This belief replaces passively accepting the world as you first see it.
It replaces being trapped in mental jails.
It replaces reactivity with leadership because if you believe you can’t change your beliefs, you can only react to things as you see them.
Where this belief leads
This belief leads to the ability to create the life you want. It leads you to learn to perceive things as more helpful and productive. Everything in your world will seem to improve. Actually, you’ll be surprised at how you used to see the world, how confined you felt. How confined you made yourself.
It leads to taking responsibility for how you perceive your world.
This belief leads to seeing beauty and all sorts of other things you like where you never saw it before.
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
- Step by step instructions
- Video examples of me and Marshall Goldsmith
- An excerpt from my book