Beliefs. We all have them, they are often our most closely held objects. The collection of beliefs that we hold on to over time forms our individual identities, but where do these beliefs originate? Did we consciously choose them?
As a child I adopted the beliefs of my parents and family and later of school and society at large. In my youth I blindly adopted beliefs, I had a preference for those from my more immediate family but I was not actively evaluating whether they fit right for me.
In public school I was taught what to think, I learned the societal belief system. Those beliefs are deeply entrenched in society: they are the social expectations we place on each other, the definition of what is normal, and the rules for how we should act.
It is hard to challenge those collective beliefs because doing so triggers the fear of what other people might think. In order to challenge them, that fear of not being accepted must be uprooted.
When I grew older and developed a keener sense of self, I began to explore and evaluate my belief system. This was one of my primary focuses in college. As I experienced different cultures and read about different philosophies and scientific studies, I adapted my belief system to build a world view that made sense for me.
Possibly the biggest shift I have made personally was the shift away from atheism. Growing up, I was a proudly declared atheist and I firmly believed that it was logical to make those assumptions about the foundations of reality. It made sense to me because I believed that everything was constructed from completely physical processes, and I was comfortable with that.
Sophomore year of college changed that. In my free time I read about the holographic principle, electron particle wave duality, cross cultural analyses of near death experiences, and several empirical studies on physiological phenomena that could not be explained by a strictly physical theory. This quite literally blew my mind.
During that same period I had been reading about many religions, I read the Bible and the Quran, I read about Zoroastrianism, I learned about many tribal belief systems from around the world, and I found a common thread connecting them: love. They all talked about having compassion for each other, “love your neighbor.” Since the common thread was unconditional love, and the idea felt right, that was what shaped my belief around.
I continue to expose myself to different ways of thinking to further refine my personal philosophy. I am currently reading a quantum physics text book and brushing up on my calculus, and I recently finished a book on the neuroscience behind eastern contemplative traditions such as meditation.
I’m not here to tell you what to believe, that’s not my place. I would urge you to seek information and develop your own personal philosophy.
I believe that philosophical diversity is the single most important feature a society can have. If we look to nature, ecological systems with greater biodiversity are better suited to adapt to change. With greater philosophical diversity we will have more creativity and innovation in society.
Everything around us changes and adapts in relation to the system, so why should our beliefs remain constant? As we take in new information it is important to carefully analyze our beliefs instead of simply falling back on them as our bias, especially when that new information is contrary to our beliefs. We can either refuse to accept the new information or adapt our belief system to incorporate it.
By looking at our beliefs in an unbiased way we can build a more open mind and a more resilient outlook on life.
Rigidity harbors weakness: the strongest structures are flexible and dynamic. If an architect designs a stiff structure, it will crumble under the trauma of an earthquake. Rigid belief systems face similar consequences when confronted with emotional trauma, which can shatter one’s outlook on life.
These traumas represent great opportunities for growth: the architect now has an opportunity to improve upon that structure and make it more resilient, and we can re-engineer our beliefs to bring meaning from the trauma and build a greater understanding of the world around us.
By challenging your beliefs, you can build a more versatile belief system that places less limitations on yourself. Not only will you build a more resilient worldview, you will also be more true to yourself instead of conforming to society’s expectations.
I’m Ben! I’m a travel-obsessed abstract thinker here to help you extract the hidden lessons behind your day-to-day experience.
Integrity Health is a franchise company residing in New Hampshire. We specialize in health coaching centers combining fitness with weight loss to optimize and promote optimal health. We are also the national purveyors of the EZCOACH Fitness Prescription System licensed by fitness professionals.