Just incase I never mentioned it, I was scouted to play for Southampton FC youth team when I was 11 years old. Keep that to yourself though… I get embarrassed when people find out.
Back to the story. The truth is, I knew I was lacking in something as a young footballer. I ‘knew’ I wasn’t quite as good as a lot of the other players. In my own mind, one way I skipped around this inadequacy was to buy the best gear. I had matching Puma King shinpads and boots. Also, if my boots weren’t clean before the match, I knew I wasn’t ready and my game would suffer.
Clearly this was nonsense. I had just manufactured ‘beliefs’ in my mind… one about my ability and the other about clean boots giving me magical powers. I just wish I replaced some of the boot cleaning with more practice. (By the way, in the picture, that’s me – looking cool – second in from the left in the front row).
So what are these ‘beliefs’ and why did they make me want shiny new boots? In my interview with him, Dave Stroud mentions belief systems and touches upon how powerful they can be for us humans.
The point is, if you’re like me, you may have spent most of your life thinking that the word ‘belief’ mostly applies to either:
- the state of mind of those who follow some sort of religion
- the state of mind most people try to find when they are trying to overcome an obstacle, win a race or competition
From looking deeper into belief systems, it’s clear that although the above still applies, ‘beliefs’ also appear to control absolutely EVERYTHING we do on a daily basis. It’s as simple as saying, if I ‘believe’ I am supposed to say ‘thank you’ when someone is kind to me, then guess what? I’ll probably say “thank you” to the next person who holds a door open for me.
“Good one Steve, nothing gets past you” I hear you say. I know. This may be amazingly obvious to you, but stick with me. The most fascinating part of this research for me is just how much our environment governs what we believe. And by ‘environment’ I mean ‘everything’. The room we’re currently stood in. The people we talk to everyday. The newspapers we read. And not just the environment we are currently experiencing. The environment we have been in throughout entire life has given us a ton of beliefs that we carry with us today.
“We believe stuff. Cool. And everything around us affects what we believe. SO WHAT??” Did you see the part where I wrote ‘if I believe i’m supposed to say “thank you”, then I’ll actually say “thank you”?
Beliefs make us act. Beliefs are the fuel for our behaviour. This is extremely powerful. Just for example, somewhere in the world, ‘beliefs’ arguably make people do socially unacceptable things which can have a horrifying outcome. I’m thinking September 11th.
In his article (linked below) Mark Tyrrell does a great job of explaining all of this but there are two points that really stick out for me:
- we can create beliefs from inaccurate or skewed information
- if our emotions are raised, we are more likely to believe something
Why did I believe I wasn’t good enough as a young footballer? Clearly that was inaccurate. Also, I think it’s clear to see my vulnerability governed my ‘need’ for clean boots. My emotions were negatively raised and I so I clearly believed new boots would help my game.
In another conversation with Dave, we discussed that ‘beliefs’ often hold a stigma and can be perceived as being obsessive or damaging. Although this can be true, it isn’t always. It’s our job to figure out exactly what our beliefs are and whether they serve our life in a positive way, or not. If they don’t, it may be time to reconsider. Believe it or not (excuse the pun), despite proving difficult, we can alter our beliefs. Which, in turn, alters our behaviour.
‘Belief awareness’ as I have personally coined it, is still an ongoing research topic for me, but I can see it’s value going forward. What beliefs are school kids forming and how much influence do we have (as teachers) on these beliefs?
I can see the power in regularly asking the question ‘what do I believe’ and more importantly… ‘WHY do I believe it’?