When I was in middle school, I had this kinda nerdy, kinda cute, young biology teacher who unintentionally messed me up. He set me up to be a rather obnoxious young woman who had a difficult time with belief and commitment.
One class, he asked us if we knew what 1+1 was, and of course we did.
“Are you sure?” Yes.
“How sure? 90%? 99%? 100%?” Of course we were all 100% sure.
He asked us multiple times. He made a big deal out of it. He made us stand up and walk to different places in the room if we were 100% sure and yada yada.
“You are wrong.” He then went through some logic problem, I forget the details, where he proved that 1 person + 1 person = 1 pair. Therefore 1 + 1 = 1. We were all dutifully humiliated.
He was a science teacher, and he wanted to teach us to be objective, precise and never to make assumptions and a bunch of other things that make sense in the world of science and research.
But there were two BIG unintended consequences for me, and this is where he led me astray.
First, I learned that it was a big deal to be wrong. Wrong is embarrassing, so it is really important to be right. I believed that for a loong time.
The need to always be right is exhausting. Plus it made me a really obnoxious person to be around. It really wasn’t until my early thirties that I learned that it’s okay to be wrong (okay for anyone. That made it much nicer to be me and to be around me.
Second, I learned that truth, fact and precision are imperative. Like Prime Directive stuff. Never believe something unless you can prove that it is true, that it is a fact. Objectively. Boy, did that set me up for Freshman philosophy debates!
Maybe this sounds good on the surface, but it really isn’t. It’s a lot of work to prove things. It’s almost impossible to prove most things, which means living in a lot of doubt and uncertainty.
Combine the two: You have to be right and you have to be able to prove it. There’s not much wiggle room there. So I spent a lot of time “on the fence”, not really wanting to commit to things in case they weren’t really true. Didn’t want to make a choice, in case I got it wrong.
Imagine my surprise (and relief) when I learned this about the brain (thanks, neuroscience!): the brain likes beliefs, because they save time and are efficient. The brain does not require facts before it hardwires a belief. The brain creates beliefs out of thoughts all the time. ALL THE TIME. Those thoughts don’t have to be “right”. They just have to be repetitive. Think them enough times and you will believe they are true.
New combination: I can believe things and be wrong. You can believe things and be wrong. You can believe things ABOUT ME and be wrong. Happens all the time.
OH NO! WHATEVER SHALL WE DO?
Here’s what I choose to do: think thoughts that serve me, over and over again, so that they become my beliefs. Look for evidence to support them, not to disprove them.
BTW, here’s how I know a thought serves me: it feels, good, powerful, authentic and leads me to be and do my best. Simple.
So sorry, Mr. Hipkiss, I am 100% sure that you were wrong. And I believed you anyway. That’s okay, I’ve adjusted my beliefs now.
And remember: in all things – progress, not perfection!
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