Our Brains Look For Confirmation-Not Information

woman looking for answers on a computer

What beliefs do you have-truths-that might be holding you back? Your beliefs, your ‘truths’, are the prism from which you see the world. Our brains are wired to reinforce what we believe. Psychologists and researchers have discovered that once the brain has constructed a belief, it rationalizes it with explanations. The brain thus becomes invested in the beliefs, and reinforces them by looking for supporting evidence while blinding itself to anything contrary.  Our beliefs are downloaded into us from birth by our circumstances: geography, education, family, adults, peers, etc.  Sometimes we are taught with intention what to believe, but more often (and more insidiously) we absorb what we observe around us. The actions and behaviors of our parents, teachers, peers are more powerful than their words. 

This is true about your beliefs on politics, religion, money, success . More importantly, this is true about what you believe about YOU! What you do well, don’t do well, how you feel about your appearance and your aptitudes. When was the last time you said, “I’m no good at………remembering names, public speaking, math”?  When reflecting back, you will only remember those incidents that reinforce those beliefs. This is also the reason that two intelligent and well-meaning people can watch the same debate or stump speech and come away with polar opposite opinions about how great or terrible each candidate performed. 

The question to ask yourself is this: are your beliefs preventing you from reaching your full potential? How do you see yourself and your abilities?  How do you define success? The good news is that you are not relegated to live out your life with those beliefs. In fairness, I will warn you that to challenge old beliefs and forge new ones is not for the faint of heart. Our brains are very good at protecting us from danger, perceived or real. In other words, it really enjoys the status quo and not rocking the boat. But for those willing to rise above their limiting beliefs-there is a way. 

I am a work-in-progress, and will be for life, trying to overcome early, damaging beliefs imprinted in my self-conscience. I will share my approach to challenge them, but if it doesn’t work for you keep in mind there are many  paths to move beyond what you think you ‘know’ to be true. The important thing is to find a method that works for you.

When I hear something contrary to my beliefs, my first step is to  become hyper aware of the fact that I see the world through my own filter or prism. I challenge myself when I snap to an opinion or belief. Why do I hold this opinion? What are other opinions or beliefs contrary to mine? What evidence exists to support those? Warning, this is HARD. My brain truly does not want to wrestle with this and yours won’t either. 

Second, I identify what beliefs are holding me back from achieving my dreams. For most of us, myself included, it is self-doubt. We lack confidence in our abilities to sell, communicate, speak, fill-in-the-blank. We actually may even have fear picking up the phone and calling someone! We were not born believing we weren’t good at these things-we learned it. Next, I immerse myself with other beliefs that reinforce what I need to be better. I read and listen to positive leaders and surround myself with the people who fill my cup, not drain it. 

Third, I take action even when I need to do the hard thing. When I stumble, I do it again. When I  find successes, I use these to reinforce my new belief that I am capable. I remind myself that I am special. There is ONLY one me on the planet. I do have unique gifts to offer the world. We all do. Will everyone appreciate them? Will we be successful every time? Of course not, but that does not mean we shouldn’t still strive to be open to new ideas and opinions. 

What about you? Are you willing to challenge your beliefs? We are capable to be both truly open to differing viewpoints and still maintain those beliefs that serve us well.  If you are willing to do the work, the upside to your growth and potential is nearly limitless. Isn’t that worth it?


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