“Seeing is not believing; believing is seeing! You see things, not as they are, but as you are.” ~Eric Butterworth
I didn’t always understand this, but I now know that my beliefs shape my experience of the world.
As I learned from Tony Robbins, our beliefs guide our choices, which ultimately create our results.
Our beliefs can either be a prison, keeping us trapped in negative thinking and behaviors, or they can be empowering and lead to courageous action and new possibilities.
For example, if you believe people are fundamentally bad, you may live life guarded, close yourself off to new relationships, and end up feeling lonely and bitter.
If you believe people are fundamentally good, you’ll try to see the best in them, develop close bonds with some of them, and end up feeling connected and supported, even if people occasionally disappoint you.
If you believe good things never happen for you and they never will, you’ll likely sit around feeling indignant and never make any effort.
If you believe the past doesn’t have to dictate the future, you’ll probably keep trying different things and eventually create possibilities for passion and purpose.
Same world, different beliefs, different choices—totally different results.
Knowing that I can choose what I believe, and that this can either fill my life with meaning or leave me feeling empty, I choose to believe the following:
1. Life happens for me, not to me.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” ~Steve Jobs
Sometimes, it’s near impossible for me to believe this. I don’t expect anyone reading this to easily adopt this belief either. Because in those moments of pain and suffering, boy, it feels like life is happening to me, and it’s not even remotely helpful to think about how life could be happening for me. However, in time, as the clouds disperse and the pain passes, I’m able to look back and connect the dots.
Were it not for my mental health struggles, my personal development journey may have never began and I would never have grown into the strong person I am today.
Were it not for my string of failed romantic relationships, I never would have learned the power of loving myself first.
And although I sometimes struggle to see that life is happening for me, a deeper part of me knows it benefits me to believe this is true.
This deeper part encourages me to look back and connect the dots, and sometimes, in the midst of suffering, look for meaning in the moment by asking questions like: What lesson could this be teaching me? And what is the opportunity here?
This deeper part of me knows that, no matter what happens to me, I can choose the meaning I give to what’s happening and how I respond.
As Viktor E. Frankl wrote in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
When I believe life is happening to me, I feel like a helpless victim. Although there is no shame in feeling like a victim, I don’t want this to become my full-time identity.
Undeniably, life is hard, cruel, and tragic, but life is also beautiful. By choosing to believe life happens for me, I’m sometimes able to move from victim to victor.
2. More is possible than I currently think.
“Just remember, you never know what’s possible until you risk finding out.” ~Jasinda Wilder
When it comes to knowing what’s possible for me in my lifetime, I know nothing.
How could I? How could anybody else? Knowing requires me to be certain, and I know I’m certain more is possible than I think.
Human history teaches us the boundaries of possibility are forever being pushed. Or perhaps, it’s more accurate to say that our willingness to discover what is possible is forever being pushed.
Just think about how many Ideas were once considered impossible, even crazy!
Electricity, the Internet, putting humans on the moon!
As I look back over my own life, much has happened that at some point I thought was impossible, like speaking another language and being able to play the piano reasonably well.
This belief empowers me because it makes life feel like a never-ending adventure, a game, where I get to discover and challenge the boundaries of possibility for myself.
3. My life is about “we,” not just “me.”
“As we lose ourselves in the service of others we discover our own lives and our own happiness.” ~Dieter F. Uchtdorf
A wise friend of mine once advised me to “give away freely the very things I wish to receive.”
At the time, it seemed counterproductive. I mean, to give money even though I want to receive more. To offer praise to others when it was me who wanted to be praised. To make an effort to be more understanding when it was me who wished to feel understood.
Having faith in my friend, I decided to live life this way for a while, and so I gave away freely the very things I wished to receive without any expectations or hypotheses of what would happen.
I gave more money—to the homeless and sponsoring friends for events.
I gave praise—reaching out to people I love and admire, just to share my appreciation of them.
I gave my ear—listening non-judgmentally so I could better understand people.
I gave and gave and gave, and true to my friend’s advice, I received—so much more than what I’d given away.
I received a sense of connection to the world and to the people in it, a deeper connection than I’d ever felt before. I realized the idea of separation is, as spiritual teachers often suggest, an Illusion. We’re all connected to one another—tied together by something the eye can’t see but the heart can feel.
Through giving, through living in service of others, I received back abundantly, which helped me to form my third empowering belief, that life is about “we” and not just “me.”
What makes my belief so empowering is the sense of connection that comes from knowing my life is connected to yours and to every other life, tied and woven by forces greater than I know or understand.
This sense of connection alone gives my life meaning.
My life is better because I choose to believe these three things, and I act on them. Which beliefs make your life better?
About Will Aylward
Will helps people around the world to feel more confident, calm, and fulfilled, without them having to fake it. He is the author of Becoming Unstuck: Your Step by Step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Life. Learn more at willaylward.com