Hopefully, this article is as helpful to you in reading it as it was to me in writing it. Like my other articles, its purpose is to help you focus on the importance of developing your own strategy for differentiating reality from imagined facts.
Because imagined facts can be the basis of limiting beliefs, it is important to clearly note the distinction between these and reality. As I continue to point out, limiting beliefs can severely hamper the fulfillment of your personal and professional potentials.
Let’s start our discussion with an examination of what your brain really knows about the difference between reality and imagined facts, and how the two form beliefs that shape all facets of your life. For one thing, reality, of course, is based on actual fact, while imagined facts are not. Both have their locus in the same place in the brain, and both constitute your beliefs. However, each should only be afforded the weight to which it is actually entitled.
Facts are considerably more reliable. And, because you act on your beliefs, it is crucial to learn which to rely on and which not. Beliefs not based on facts, common as they are, jeopardize the efficacy of your reality and can cause you much grief, often in the form of bad decisions and irrational actions.
Once formed, beliefs are hard to shake.
They become a part of your “comfort zone” and remain with you even after the underlying facts have changed or been forgotten. This makes it all the more important to ensure that they are firmly grounded in actuality and not in misperception or fantasy.
Think of reality and imagined facts as the foundation on which your beliefs are built. A shaky foundation (imagined facts) means you’ll have a shaky building. A solid foundation (reality) means you’ll have a solid building.
In order to drive home the point, let’s look at some examples involving different kinds of beliefs:
• Beliefs about causation: “I am not a good speller, because I inherited such a deficit from my parents.” Often, these types of beliefs about causation include the word “because.”
• Beliefs about meaning: “If I don’t quit smoking, I will have health problems.” Often, these types of beliefs are about the meaning or result of certain events or actions. Such beliefs often include the conditional “if.”
• Beliefs about identity: “I am not smart enough, so I can’t find a good job.” Often, these types of beliefs include cause, meaning and limitations. Such beliefs often include “I am” or “I am not.”
As should be apparent from the examples, you can make your beliefs come true even though they may be totally unfounded. If you act on them as if they are true, you give them life and vitality of their own. You can make real what is not.
Affording more veracity to a belief than it’s entitled to not only influences your decision-making process but inhibits you from even getting to a decision making point. If your very value system is faulty, you don’t even know what’s important to consider in making a decision.
So, how exactly do we acquire our reality and imagined facts?
Through our senses, of course.
The world around us is presented to the brain by the five senses: sight, hearing, feeling, taste and smell. These senses are the information on which the brain relies. You can think of the senses as information gatherers and the brain as an information processor.
So, without going into the complex philosophy of epistemology, how can we really know that something has been accurately reported to the brain? My admittedly oversimplified answer is that we must continually check our premises, assumptions and foundational information. We must constantly try to look beyond our beliefs and question the existence and reliability of the information being presented to the brain for processing. Garbage in, garbage out, as the saying goes.
I don’t want to carry the “garbage in, garbage out” motif too far, but insofar as you can, you must ensure that it’s not “garbage” being put in, but solid, reliable information. Because there is no absolute way to do this, the best way to do it is to be constantly aware of the problem and seek the most well-founded and authentic information possible. Always be questioning. Construct your belief system based on reality, not mere beliefs.
Understanding the difference between reality and imagined facts will help you construct your belief system in the most reliable way possible.
You will be able to eliminate blind spots in your confidence-building and decision-making process so as to free yourself from your self-limiting beliefs.
You can start unlocking these beliefs by constantly checking your assumptions about what is real and what you made up a long time ago. After you have made such a distinction and identified your sometimes hidden self-limiting beliefs, you can take steps to eliminate them, perhaps by engaging in critical self-examination or even by hiring a specialist to assist you.
And, rest assured that correct and enabling beliefs are essential to your performance and success. They support your self-confidence, encourage necessary risk-taking and lend themselves to bold, effective actions. They make it possible to move forward in the world as an optimistic achiever.