Faith vs. Belief


Faith vs Belief

“It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.” — Author Unknown

I was listening to a Tony Robbins talk a while back and he hit on a very important distinction … faith vs. belief. 

His point was that while belief is based on evidence, faith is not. 

Faith you believe without evidence.   Right or wrong, it’s what you truly believe in your inner core.

Positive Action Over Blind Faith

His point was don’t suddenly adopt blind faith — use smart faith.  If your garden has weeds, see the weeds.  Don’t turn a blind eye or tell yourself, "I have no weeds, I have no weeds, …"  This isn’t about positive thinking.  It’s about positive action and having faith — faith in something better, bigger, or beyond what’s right in front of you.

The problem with beliefs is that it’s a chicken and egg.  If you don’t believe it, until it’s true and you have the evidence, it will never happen.  It’s how you get stuck in a rut.

You Already Have Faiths — Are they Serving You?

The problem with faith, is that you already have it.  It may or may not be serving you.  You have these fundamental beliefs about yourself, the world, … etc. that already live within you.  They can go against evidence or they filter how you see any and all information. 

If your fundamental belief or your faith is that people are good, you see them that way. 

If your fundamental belief, is that you will always find a way to succeed, that shapes your thinking, feeling, and doing. 

If you fundamentally believe that you’re a failure no matter what, or you’re ugly, or whatever … this faith in yourself and faith in people and faith in the world ... limits or enables your ability to rock your world.

If You Don’t Believe It, You Won’t See It

Personally, I know way too many people that don’t know how great they are, and they don’t believe it because of their faith in themselves.  The sad part is, the evidence says they’re doing great, but their fundamental beliefs says they are no good.


What are Your Fundamental Beliefs?

Tony asked a cutting question in his talk:  “What are your fundamental beliefs?” …  What are the 5, 10, 12 or whatever things that you truly belief about yourself?  What are your faiths? 

If you fundamentally believe the world conspires with you, that’s a completely different belief than the world conspires against you.  Imagine your will … your strength … your optimism … if you fundamentally belief … in a faith sort of way … that you will always succeed, no matter what the situation.  That cuts deep.

Faith vs. Hot-Air

Now I can recognize when somebody truly has faith and believes in what they are doing or that they are on their path.  I used to wonder why some people say things a little louder and with more conviction, as if trying to convince themselves. 

Well, they are. 

They have a belief … but they don’t have faith.  They don’t believe it in their core.  They’re testing it, saying it out loud … hoping somebody will believe them, but most importantly, hoping they will believe it them self.

If you’re hoping the evidence comes back and convinces you, you don’t have faith.

Grow Your Faith Muscles

The beauty in all this insight is that true to form, Tony Robbins, gives a very simple way to build and grow your faith muscles:

  • Step 1. See things the way they are — don’t ignore reality
  • Step 2. See things as they could be — see them a better way
  • Step 3. Take action to make it happen

I really like the fact that he was explicitly said to see things as they are and how you want them to be.   It echoed a point that I’ve written about before in The Way Things Are, The Way Things Should Be, and the Way You Want Things to Be.

For me, the exercise of finding my faiths really reminded me of a few fundamental beliefs that have always served me well … that the world conspires with me (Disney taught me that) and that I’ll succeed in any situation.

Got faith? … 🙂

Photo by icultist.


  1. This reminds me of the “Life Lessons” you posted back in September. There are certain patterns that I’ve seen in my life repeatedly and accept them as part of how the world works. For example, I’ll typically have to overcome some adversity to have a great night as this has happened to me at least a few times now and I believe it will continue in the foreseeable future.

  2. “I used to wonder why some people say things a little louder and with more conviction, as if trying to convince themselves.” This is an interesting observation. I tend to agree. True faith is quiet and secure and does not try to force itself on anyone.

  3. JD, I like this realization: so very true!

    [If You Don’t Believe It, You Won’t See It
    Personally, I know way too many people that don’t know how great they are, and they don’t believe it because of their faith in themselves. The sad part is, the evidence says they’re doing great, but their fundamental beliefs says they are no good.


    great post, JD! A lot of great checkpoints! Thanks~ Jenn

  4. I am starting to love the themes here. As an executive/corporate chaplain this is a subject I am very passionate about.

    I teach faith as being “Trusting the invisible, living the impossible.”

    Yes trusting the invisible does cause us to take a leap without evidence. But without actually doing something with faith that goes beyond the mundane, faith is pretty useless.

    I am not saying people need to walk on water. I am referring to things like keeping families together, forgiving others, or even living a passionate life of charity which are things out of the ordinary. Living the impossible is different for everybody. When you are achieving what goes beyond your scope, you feel like you are doing miracles…

    And miracles take faith!

    Thanks for reminding me on this. Great discussion.

    Ed Kang
    Executive Chaplain

  5. JD, thank you for this insightful, strongly encouraging post. And especially for this line,” If you’re hoping the evidence comes back and convinces you, you don’t have faith.” How true! If you need proof before you believe in yourself or in your power to transform, then of course you don’t really believe at all, and you never truly begin moving in a way that makes a difference.

    The three steps are so helpful, too. True transformation begins with having the courage to look at issues and people exactly as they are – which means really looking, really listening, really connecting, really knowing yourself as you look and listen. This of course can be so difficult and so frightening – we are very skilled at interpreting reality to suit ourselves, especially when it maintains a state we are reluctant to face or let go.

    In terms of the third step, take action to make it happen, I just participated in an collaborative blog project on the topic of getting unstuck. In a timely way this ties in well with your helpful words today, so I hope you will drop by and take a look at my website. I always appreciate your presence.

    Thank you again for your insights. Greetings from the mountains in Japan – Catrien Ross.

  6. Hiya J.D. –

    Vow! You got me thinking today a lot.
    BTW I agree with the Catrien’s point here “If you’re hoping the evidence comes back and convinces you, you don’t have faith.” If you need proof before you believe in yourself or in your power to transform, then of course you don’t really believe at all, and you never truly begin moving in a way that makes a difference.

    So I would say try to read between the lines and see across the wall, have faith in GOD and believe in yourself to be a nice human being first. Rest all comes later.

    Bye for now,

  7. Hi JD!..A beautiful and provocative post as always.No matter Faith vs.Belief, I find this procedure that I designed very practical and useful and capable of building faith muscles :

    – The overall success in life depends on several key issues of utmost importance, that can be easily described in the following sequence.
    First – allow your feelings to perceive holistically the reality surrounding you in a concrete situation, that may have occurred.
    Second – do not rush into hasty and not well thought through, false decisions.
    Third – be courageous enough to make a decisive decision.
    Fourth – once you make up your mind and decide on something, act with confidence and without allowing yourself to be tortured by needless doubts.
    Fifth – concentrate and back up you decision with all your strength, energy and moral.
    Finally – don’t be afraid to make a mistake, but learn from it and don’t repeat it.
    J.D, ..You have posted such great posts and all seem to bind together..Yet I begin to miss an eventual continuation of a post -Thinking on thinking(The De Bono stuff),which I like very much and use permanently..

  8. Hi JD.
    It’s funny, I’ve seen people speak louder as if they are trying to convince themselves and you can tell it’s because they don’t have faith. And then, I’ve seen people who are soft-spoken, with no confidence in what they are saying. It’s hard to tell the difference sometimes, but watching gestures and tuning in to eye contact… you can pretty well tell if there is belief there. I love, “See things the way they are — don’t ignore reality.”

  9. “I used to wonder why some people say things a little louder and with more conviction, as if trying to convince themselves.” Uh-oh, a teeny bit guilty of this in some ways, still. But it’s an honest part of my journey that can actually work for me, now that I am more aware.

    I think it takes practice at what we want to do, then allowing ourselves realize we’ve grown. Like, with my singing voice — it took a long time after people said I was sounding better for me to believe it, inside I sometimes still felt like that girl just beginning singing lessons, listening to myself on tape and cringing at the sound.

    Faith! With hope and charity too! 🙂


  10. @ JB — Part of the world works reminds me of Covey’s line, “Don’t break yourself against the laws.” It’s a simple reminder that things are easier when you know how they work.

    @ Vered — I like that … “quiet and secure.”

    @ Jenn — Thank you!

    @ Ed — Thank you. “Trusting the invisible, living the impossible” is catchy and insgithful. I also like your point that when you achieve beyond your scope, you feel like you’re doing miracles. It sets the stage for every day greatness.

    @ Catrien — You’re right, it’s the key to moving in a way that makes a difference. It’s like that flip that suddenly swtiches, when somebody finally decides to make something happen … and then takes decisive action. That doesn’t happen when there’s a lack of faith.

    @ Cheryl — You reminded me that self-reliance can be learned as a skill, and that emotional intelligence plays a key role. I think it was the Emotional Capitalists book that shined the spotlight on self-reliance.

    @ Michael — I’ve had some effective managers that really echoed your point on mistakes. They would say, mistakes are fine — just don’t keep making the same ones 😉 Behind the scenes, I’m digging into thinking on thinking. I’ll be sharing some deeper insight down the line.

    @ Davina — Eyes and gestures are revealing. I’ve also found that tone can say a lot. For me, I found it a great exercise to get some of my core faiths on the table to see what’s serving me and what’s not.

    @ Jannie — That’s the beauty — once you’re aware, it does work for you. Really good point on allowing ourselves to recognize when we’ve grown, and your story on singing makes it hit home.

  11. Thanks for this J.D. – I love Tony Robbins work, and so resonate with all that you have said here.

    I so agree, that faith is great, but it has to have a certain aspect to it that actually serves us – as you mentioned “smart faith” – not “blind faith”.

    There is a fine line I think here of having faith in the impossible, and not being naive either, and your examples are very helpful in discerning between the two. Thank you 🙂

  12. @ Evita — You’re right, there is a fine line … and I think it’s how we treat that line that can help or limit our effectiveness.

  13. Hi JD,

    It is truely an inspirational post. I am amazed at the way tony has described both.

    yeah, positive action is required to convert our belief and faith into reality.

    awesome!! keep up the good work!!

  14. when I was a child I spoke like a child…then I threw it all away. I think I lack faith that I can achieve health….I believe it is not in the cards…

    need to come back here a few more times….more power to the people here Thank you

  15. Three simple steps – all it takes really. Before we admit the current situation, we can’t move on. I truly believe in that.

  16. @ Rag — Tony is the man! Thank you.

    @ Patricia — It’s good to put out on the table what you really believe. From there, you can decide what would serve you better. Deciding on new beliefs helped Tony Robbins change his life. NLP is one of the best approaches I’ve seen for reshaping your beliefs.

    @ Lana — It sounds like you’ve got faith in your belief 😉

  17. I really needed to read this today. I have to admit there are days of weakness. It’s these days that actually help me stay grounded. That’s a separate issue.

    I have faith that the working world is changing and I’m here to help people realize their career dreams. I’m excited for all the changes that will be happening over the next 10-20 years.

  18. Like Betsy Wuebker, today I am just Passing Thru and wishing you a great day — but something tells me you ARE already having a great one because that’s just you and your attitude! 🙂


  19. @ Karl — I agree. The working world is changing. If anything, I see a real shift to true knowledge work, a world-wide market, and the gap shrinking between intrinsic and market value.

    @ Jannie — And a great day to you! Thank you.

  20. But don’t you contradict yourself? Faith requires no proof, yet part of building your faith muscles is by 1. seeing reality (proof) and 2. taking action to prove that things could be a better way.

    I’ve lost faith in myself lately. I do believe a certain amount of faith is a good thing, but I don’t know how to get it back right now, how to stop seeing everything I’m doing as a horrible failure.

  21. @ Louche — It’s like competence and confidence. You have to have confidence in order to build competence … and, growing your competence, grows your confidence. But if your confidence only comes after competence, then you’ve limited yourself to the wrong end of the chicken-and-egg scenario.

    The only way to fail is to give up or not learn anything from each lesson. As one of my mentors put it, it’s fine to make mistakes, just don’t keep making the same ones 🙂 One way I like to rekindle my faith in me, is simply remember the times in my life where I’ve exceeded my expectations. I don’t over-think it or analyze it, I simply remember what it felt like to move mountains … then I’m back on the saddle again.

  22. Along with faith we also get the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit our efforts cannot produce the lifelong faith we need to overcome our brokeness and carry out God’s will in our lives. While I essentially agree with the 3 steps, without the Holy Spirit empowering us we will not be able to experience the deep faith and intimate relationship with God we are striving for. The Holy Spirit gives us faith, insight, knowledge, discernment, conviction, enlightenment, inspiration, and the ability to love unconditionally, overcome and change. We are incapable of producing it in ourselves without Him. I wish more people would teach this because so many end up trying to make things happen in their own power and ability, getting worn out and discouraged, when they have the endless power of the Holy Spitit available to them.

  23. I’m finding it difficult to see how faith can be divorced from beleif. I beleive them to be one and the same. With faith or beleif, you may not have physical evidence, but you belive because someone said so or because it is written. When your beleif is strong your faith is strong, when your beleif is weak your faith is weak. You strengten your faith by meditating on written or spoken evidence. You further strengthen it by eliminating your doubts.

  24. @ Grace — The ability to love unconditionally is a powerful one.

    @ Davida — I think there are language and precision nuances that create the distinctions in terms of meaning and degree.

    Here is my favorite distinctions on Faith vs. Belief from
    * ‘Beliefs’ are existing ideas which one holds to; ‘faith’ looks toward what is to come.
    * ‘Belief’ relates most to knowledge and understanding; ‘faith’ relates most to hope and trust.
    * ‘Belief’ may or may not imply that the believer is certain, whereas ‘faith’ implies a level of confidence which approaches certainty.

    I think that “certainty” is a key knob that can be dialed up or down and that is what changes the game.

  25. Hi JD,

    Very interesting piece. My question is how do you tie faith and expectations together. One might have faith and expect something big, however, maybe based on the individuals capacity they might not recieve as much as they expect.

    Does this mean their faith is not strong enough?

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