I’ve been writing about self-awareness, inner monologue, and how we can improve our connections to others through better self-knowledge. So much of what we interpret and assume to be truth is simply what we choose to believe.
This next exercise builds on the previous exercise where you simply write down your inner monologue. It is a little harder because it requires you to pay attention to your beliefs and assumptions and write them down. During a week or more, write down about a dozen beliefs or interpretations gathered from your self-talk.
We generally don’t notice how our minds work with beliefs. For one thing, they are embedded, we take them for granted, and we assume they are universal truths. But beliefs are a way the mind filters out information. The brain forms a mental model or a representation of reality so that we don’t get overwhelmed with too many incoming perceptions.
Most people confuse their perception of the environment with the actual environment, concluding they can’t change things because that’s the way things are. If we remember that our perceptions are simply a map and not the territory, then we realize we can be flexible in changing our beliefs and considering alternatives.
Unfortunately, most of us pride ourselves on quick thinking and the ability to size up people and situations, and thus we forget that our interpretation of reality is not reality.
What to Do
- Carry a notebook, smart phone, tablet, or recording device.
- When you notice a belief or interpretation of reality, write it down as best you can, a few lines at a time.
Some beliefs that you notice will annoy you and others you will defend vigorously. The idea is to raise your awareness levels, not to make judgments.
Reflection and Learning
Next, reflect on your beliefs.
- What did you notice most?
- Did you notice any trends
- How hard was it to be non-judgmental?
Many people are resistant to changing life-long beliefs, but remember, a belief is merely an interpretation we’ve chosen at one time because it helped us understand reality. We are always at liberty to choose alternative beliefs if they are better suited to a new reality.
“People’s greatest resistance to grow and develop often stems from inflexibility in changing beliefs or considering alternatives.” Joshua Spodek, Leadership Step by Step: Becoming the Person Others Follow