By May 4, 2010 15 Comments Read More →

Where Do Beliefs Come From?

Where Do Beliefs Come From

“For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.” — Stuart Chase

Where do your beliefs come from?  Maybe some come from advertisers.  Maybe some come from authority figures.  Maybe some are from your parents.  Maybe some are from your own personal experience.

But what’s the pattern behind the pattern for how you believe what you believe?

I think if you know where beliefs come from and you understand the base, then you can better understand your own biases, test your assumptions, and more effectively choose when to change your beliefs.  That’s quite the skill for today’s rapidly changing world.

Six Sources of Beliefs and Values
One of my mentors has a very simple frame for looking at where beliefs come from:
1. Authority – expertise, law, position, policies, etc.
2. Emotion – feelings, convictions, causes, purposes, etc.
3. Intuition – insight, impression, subconscious, etc.
4. Logic – observations, facts, assumptions, formulas, etc.
5. Science – facts, data, biology, sociology, etc.
6. Sensory – personal experience, direct knowledge from the senses, etc.

Another way to look at these sources of beliefs and assumptions is:

  • Internal – Emotion, Intuition, Sensory
  • External –  Authority, Logic, Science

I find myself challenging my beliefs and assumptions on a regular basis, to make sure I’m able to leverage new information and insights as they come along.  That of course means knowing what my beliefs actually are.  One way to dump beliefs out on the table so you can sort through them is to play a “fill in the blank” game.  For example, “In order to be successful at Microsoft, I need to … X,Y, and Z”  This is simple, but powerful.

Related to this, In NLP, there’s the concept of a “Convincer Strategy.”  Simply put, it’s — what’s the pattern for how you believe something or how you become convinced something is true? Do you need to see it for yourself?  Do you need to hear it from three separate people?  Once you know the convincer strategy for yourself and others, it’s easier to understand why some ideas are readily adopted, while others are perpetually dismissed.

What’s important is that you can use these simple concepts to be smarter about what you choose to believe and to improve your accuracy around expectations and beliefs about your unfolding reality in an ever-changing world.

Photo by Untitled Blue.

15 Comments on "Where Do Beliefs Come From?"

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  1. Ryan says:

    Hi JD,

    Wherever we pick up our beliefs from one thing is sure: they were seared on our subconscious mind with strong emotions. Repetition of affirmation is the medium through which our belief system is developed. The only way to build a belief is through….believing it with conviction. In many cases we accept ideas as gospel without any sort of scrutiny because the emotions we experienced in adopting these beliefs were strong, and in many cases quite negative.

    The list of 6 Sources is interesting. I’d believe that authority stands at the top with parents and teachers being our primary influence. Our world is basically their world until we realize that we have a choice to reject their beliefs and replace with ideals which better serve us.

  2. Knowing yourself is so important to everything that we do. We must know our beliefs before we can be successful.

    Our inner truth takes time to mold, but it’s what we should be working on every single day. I recently opened up to an inner truth that was there for a long time, but I wasn’t listening. Now that I have taken time to listen, my life is going in a whole new exciting direction.

  3. Alik Levin says:

    I’d say #1 Authority and #6 Sensory are my best friends ;)

  4. What an interesting post, J.D. Like you, I often test my beliefs to debunk the bs and to cling to what’s sturdy. I’ve found this to be a good way to self-check, to grow and to move past stagnation. After all, what is life without untested beliefs?

  5. JD says:

    @ Ryan — I like your point on starting from the base, then having choice about rejecting or replacing beliefs. I’ve been lucky that at Microsoft we get deliberate practice in testing assumptions, challenging beliefs, defending arguments, and exploring new ideas.

    @ Karl — I find figuring out inner truth takes a while … partly because it’s always shape-shifting, but also because it takes the right lens. I’ve found that the more lenses I add to my belt, the easier it is to parse. It’s a process ;)

    @ Alik — I think authority is a great short-cut. I’ve found so many short-cuts by outsourcing things to the right experts … and it’s let me move up the stack faster than getting stuck in basics. More importantly, it taught me how to figure out better sources for insight to help me shape more accurate beliefs about various things. Sensory is also my best friend — nothing shapes beliefs like first-hand experience.

    @ Belinda — It seems like just when I have things figured out, another nuance comes along, and changes the game. It’s an on-going process for me, and I like the fact that I’ve learned long ago, that test-driven is the way to go. It sounds like you learned the value of test-driven too. It is a great way to move past stagnation. Thank you.

  6. Michael Yanakiev says:

    Hey J.D,..- A wonderful post! You have produced another extremely useful
    brick fro your..behind the curtains laboratory, following a great design
    principle -’Everything should be made simple as possible, but not simpler’ – Einstein. Hopefully in the long run pursuing perfection in design,..not to add, but nothing more to take away! Still in the Internal-Emotion,Intuition,Sensory,..We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done…Tricky stuff. Boris Spasky, former world chess champion, used to say, that if he had to sum it up, he was mostly afraid of himself..as the biggest and unexpected surprise on the board.In the end I would like to quote:
    “If anyone can show me, and prove to me, that I am wrong in thought or deed, I will gladly change. I seek the truth, which never yet hurt anybody. It is only persistence in self-delusion and ignorance which does harm.”
    Marcus Aurelius
    Thanks.

  7. farouk says:

    that’s a very good post JD
    i like the idea of first knowing the convincing strategy required for a person and then using it to convince him, makes a lot of sense

  8. JD says:

    @ Michael — “We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done” … that is insight at its finest. I think that’s what’s so powerful when somebody comes along and believes in us even more than we do. Your quote selections really light up your points. Thank you.

    @ Farouk — I’ve spun wheels getting evidence, until I figured out what actually mattered for certain people. It was like finally speaking the right language.

  9. Michael Yanakiev says:

    Hi J.D,…I have always believed in you! You are somebody, who is going far..and it will be an honor, if I can contribute,just a little bit on your journey.

  10. Cheryl Paris says:

    Hello J.D.-

    Our beliefs come from what we hear, feel, see, understand, assume…
    Stephen Covey said, “We are neither a product of nature or nurture, but a product of choice.” This means that we can learn new things each day/minute and can forget the same when applicable.

    Lets take example of weighted scales. It is both the amount and the weight of the object that affects the scales. Similarly, we recondition through repetition and impact. We need quantity and weight to recondition what has been imprinted throughout our life.

    Cheers,
    Cheryl Paris
    The Acorn Coach Blog

  11. MyMelody says:

    I definitely use a lot of science and logic. I find that concepts that are testable, falsifiable, repeatable and observable are a good litmus test in regards to whether or not to believe a claim. I find that perceptions of reality can be subjective, but reality is, if we follow the evidence, objective, and science and logic are the best means to learn about the nature of reality.

    That said, I realize I’m extremely irrational when it comes to how I view myself. I use my emotions a lot. Although this is generally not a bad thing, my particular emotions don’t tend to reflect the reality of my situation, being that I suffer from poor self esteem an body image problems.

    It would be nice to use science and logic instead of my emotions when it comes to my personal life. Although, I find it’s easier said than done.

    I think understanding where our beliefs come from, can most certainly help people, like myself, who hold irrational and destructive beliefs.

    Btw, cool site! :3

  12. JD says:

    @ Michael — Thank you — it should be one heck of a ride!

    @ Cheryl — “A product of choice” — perfect! I like your example of nature, meats nurture. Nature hatches us, nurture shapes us, choice makes us.

    @ MyMelody — One of the best books I know that helps you argue with your inner critic is Feeling Good by Dr. Burns. It’s amazing and thorough. Thank you.

  13. Hilary says:

    Hi JD .. This is something I need to address .. I don’t get fixated on an idea, but I’ll drop things off and add things in as I come across new thoughts – as long as my goal is going in the right direction.

    Obviously I need to be more disciplined and I’m working in that direction. I look for the sensible processes, going on intuition too, trust, logic .. definitely not doing things, because everyone else is – but equally going my own route, that suits me and is not illogical in the scheme of things.

    Thanks – I need to revisit here .. have a good weekend – Hilary

  14. clarence says:

    For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.”

    I do not believe the above statement at all. Please do not try to persuade me because no proof is possible.

  15. JD says:

    @ Hilary — That’s the key … going in the right direction.

    @ Clarence — ;)

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