Our deepest beliefs run our lives, and often we’re not even aware of it or even what those beliefs are.
What’s more, we believe the things we believe because we choose to believe them. We often make our decisions to believe what we believe unconsciously, or at a young age.
And once we form beliefs about ourselves, other people, or the world around us, we often hold onto those beliefs for the rest of our lives. The problem with this is that these beliefs are often wrong.
I participated in a workshop last year in which the instructor said that each of us has three separate, powerful experiences between early childhood and young adulthood that profoundly influence our identity. This is true, the instructor said, regardless of upbringing, sex, class, culture, or any other factor, and there is absolutely no way to prevent it.
In other words, each of us has experiences early in our lives that we respond to by deciding to be a certain way from then on in order to protect ourselves or to prevent that sort of thing from happening again. We form our identities from singular experiences and we often don’t recognize that we’ve even done it.
The first experience, the instructor said, occurs roughly between the ages of four and six, and it’s a situation where we have the awareness that “something’s wrong.” The second experience usually occurs around the ages of 10 and 13, and it’s one where we have the feeling “I don’t belong.” The third experience occurs sometime in our late teens and it comes as a powerful sense that “I’m on my own.”
The instructor asked the participants to look for these experiences from their own lives, and invited a few of us to share at a microphone.
A lady in her late forties volunteered to share her “I don’t belong” experience. It occurred when she was just barely a teenager, on the first day she transferred to a new middle school. Her class was having an assembly that day. The class stood up to leave for the assembly and she stood up to go with them. The teacher said, “You stay here. This assembly is only for the smart kids.” All of the other students then left the room with the teacher.
The lady shared her sadness at having to spend the entire class period sitting alone with her head down at her desk in a darkened classroom, sobbing.
When the lady was done sharing her experience, the instructor asked, “Did you make a decision in that moment?” The lady said that she did indeed— that right then and there she decided that she was going to be smart. She then shared her subsequent stellar academic performance, the fact that she graduated from college with honors, then quickly ascended the corporate ladder while participating in a variety of charitable activities and raising a family.
I searched for the identity-forming experiences from my own life and was able to find them (though I’ll save those for a later blog post). I came away from that workshop believing that we do in fact forge entire aspects of our identities from what we might later look back on as small and simple occurrences.
Faith seems to be another area where we believe what we believe because we choose to believe it. I once heard a religious leader describe faith as “a choice, not a feeling.” I have thought on that for a long time, and I think it’s pretty remarkable. I also think it’s true.
The implications of this are huge. Huge because once you understand that you are the one who has chosen your identity, you understand that you can change it to be any way you wish. You are free to create your future from your future.
It’s also significant because what flows from our self-decided, core-level beliefs are 1) our THOUGHTS, which then give rise to 2) our EMOTIONS, which then lead to 3) our ACTIONS, which then yield 4) the RESULTS in our lives.
T. Harv Eker tells us, “If you want to change the fruits, you first have to change the roots. To change the visible, first you have to change the invisible.”
Now if only someone would only tell us how. Sounds like a topic for another blog post, doesn’t it?
What do you think about the idea that we form our identities from single events early in our lives? Do you agree? Can you find these areas in your own life?