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Can You Believe Your Beliefs?

Have you ever thought about belief? We think of our own beliefs as correct and even judge others based on whether they believe the same way we do or not. Our beliefs feel so real, and so true, that we can’t imagine how others could possibly believe differently.

And yet they do. And they always will. And that’s not just OK, it’s what keeps life interesting.

Today is the 13th anniversary of the end of the world. Well, except for that one small detail – it didn’t actually end 13 years ago. Harold Camping predicted the end of the world would happen in 2011, with the rapture occurring on May 21st and the physical world coming to an end five months later. He was a darling of the media, appearing on any and every news outlet that would have him, and focusing the programming on his Family Radio Network around the mathematical and theological certainty of his predictions. He believed. He believed with such fervor that he torpedoed his own reputation and spent the rest of his days trying to discover the error in his calculations.

Beliefs feel so real to us. They spring from repeated exposure to similar words and ideas and are bolstered by random bits of evidence in the world around us, until we are completely convinced of the truth of our beliefs. That’s not just me talking, that’s neuroscience and neuroplasticity in action. Long story short, there’s way too much input available to our brains in every moment, so the brain selects what it will focus on based on what’s been focused on in our past. That means if we already think the world might end in our lifetime, the brain will notice and store information related to that, further bolstering our belief in the end times.

Have you ever gotten a new or new-to-you car and suddenly you see that car everywhere? That’s your evidence of this little piece of neuroscience – your brain focuses on what you’ve been focusing on. Those cars like yours have been there all along – you didn’t start noticing them until you decided to get one of your own.

Beliefs connect people to communities. Beliefs prompt people to give their time and energy to causes. Beliefs spark movements and sometimes wars. Beliefs help us feel grounded, connected, and purposeful. Beliefs can also cause alienation and pain.

And beliefs are malleable. As long as you’re breathing and willing to learn, you can let your beliefs swirl and morph and grow as your knowledge grows. Want to understand that more? Here are three episodes of the world’s second-shortest podcast – in less than 5 minutes you can listen to them all.

Who might you really be punishing with your beliefs? Here’s a Tiny Bite for that!

How non-negotiable are your non-negotiable truths? Here’s a Tiny Bite for that!

Want soothing in an election season? Here’s a Tiny Bite for that!

Knowing all of this about beliefs, can you see that arguments are futile? Oh, we’ll still have them because we’re human. But trying to convince someone that their belief is wrong and yours is right is like telling them their baby is ugly.

Don’t do it. Just don’t.

The diversity of our world and our knowledge and our beliefs is what keeps things interesting. Question, don’t argue. Learn, don’t shut down. And if someone tells you the world will end on a certain day, appreciate the courage they have to tell you that, and don’t plan your life around their belief.

Wags,
Sandy Weaver
Program Director, Center for Workplace Happiness

PS - want to live life on a higher vibe? Come and play in the Wagalicious Life Online Community!

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