Why do we believe what we believe, or do what we do?
Why is it so hard for us as humans to question our beliefs or actions?
Could our thoughts or beliefs be impairing us in some way?
When was the last time you changed your mind about an opinion you hold, and what prompted the shift?
These are all questions I have been pondering after reading Adam Grant’s book “Think Again,” which, as the title suggests, is all about rethinking and reconsidering our beliefs, thoughts, and actions – and how we tend to cling to our beliefs without ever considering the why behind it or adjusting our beliefs to accommodate new information or insight.
This concept of rethinking appeared in another recent read – Tim Ferriss’s book “Tools of Titans,” which asks you to examine your limiting beliefs and how they might be holding you back or even hurting you (or others) in some way.
Mulling over these questions - what areas might need rethinking in my life, where am I acting simply out of habit without asking why, how is it that I’ve come to believe something to be true and how might these beliefs be limiting me – I can come up with many instances where I stuck to certain beliefs despite contrary evidence, especially when it comes to fitness, nutrition, and habit change.
I used to believe that cardio was the best way to get and stay in shape, or to lose weight. (Until I learned that strength training is more effective for changing body composition, and that no amount of exercise makes up for poor nutrition habits.)
I used to believe that calorie counting and food tracking were necessary for weight loss or maintenance. (Until I learned that using your hand to estimate portion sizes is just as effective, and using internal hunger cues rather than external measurements is much less stressful for most people.)
I used to believe that the number on the scale was a signal of my health and a sign that I was doing things “right.” (Until I learned that body size and weight are not indicators of health, and that there are many different ways for people to achieve health and wellness.)
I used to believe that the habits and strategies that work best for me and my life would also work for everyone else. (Until I learned that everyone is unique, and needs to find what works best for them.)
It wasn’t until I was willing to reconsider and test out new ways of thinking and behaving that I came to see how my previously held beliefs were keeping me from learning, growing, and moving forward.
The same could be said of society in general throughout this past year – navigating the pandemic, we were forced to reconsider a number of strongly held beliefs about the ways we function:
We used to think that work had to be done in offices, from 9-5.
We used to think that meetings had to be in person, or that teams had to be face-to-face.
We used to think that school had to be...at school.
(Which is not to say that none of these things work or are preferable at times, but just that it’s not the only way.)
A global pandemic or sudden upheaval is one way to be forced into rethinking; it’s much harder to reconsider things you are doing or ideas you subscribe to in the moment without some external trigger that makes you question things - when you’re in the middle of it (whatever “it” is), the current way also seems to be the best or the only way.
But pausing and rethinking some of your beliefs or opinions can be an interesting and eye-opening experiment.
Where do I turn for reliable information? What do I avoid?
Why do I do (or not do) certain things in my life?
How do I know what I don’t know?
Rethinking doesn’t necessarily mean you will change your mind, but it does allow for increased awareness of your thoughts, beliefs, and actions (aka your life), and more open-mindedness to alternative views or opinions.
Another example from my own life is around how I think of myself as an introvert. I am for sure introverted, but I came to see how this belief can keep me from trying new things or engaging in certain situations simply because I have labelled myself as “introvert.”
I might ignore opportunities or write off experiences as “not for me” only because I assume it’s not something I, an introvert, would enjoy. But examining some of my own beliefs and opinions has allowed me to stay curious and explore the ways in which this could be limiting for myself or others in my life.
If you’re up for an experiment, take some time to consider the beliefs, thoughts, or opinions that influence your everyday life and how they might be holding you back or limiting you in some way. This simple question just might provide you with an “aha” moment, interesting insight, and unexpected breakthrough!
Are there beliefs you hold that might be limiting you in some way? What evidence might change your mind? Where might rethinking or reconsidering help you to move forward and evolve?
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