Beliefs are the compass and maps that guide us toward our goals and give us the surety to know we’ll get there. Without beliefs or the ability to tap into them, people can be totally disempowered. They’re like a motorboat without a motor or rudder. With powerful guiding beliefs, you have the power to take action and create the world you want to live in. Beliefs help you see what you want and energize you to get it.
In fact, there’s no more powerful directing force in human behavior than belief. In essence, human history is the history of human belief. The people who had changed history are Christ, Mohammed, Copernicus, Columbus, Edison, or Einstein had been the people who have changed our beliefs. To change our own behaviors we have to start with our own beliefs. If we want to model excellence, we need to learn to model the beliefs of those who achieve excellence.
The more we learn about human behavior, the more we learn about the extraordinary power that beliefs have over our lives. In many ways, that power defies the logical models most of us have. But it’s clear that even at the level of physiology beliefs (congruent internal representations) control reality. A remarkable study was done on schizophrenia not long ago. One case involved a woman with a split personality. Normally, her blood sugar levels were completely normal. But when she believed she was a diabetic, her whole physiology changed to become that of a diabetic. Her belief had become her reality.
In a similar vein, there have been numerous studies in which a person in a hypnotic trance is touched with a piece of ice represented to him as a piece of hot metal. Invariably, a blister will develop at the point of contact. What counted was not reality but belief – the direct unquestioned communication to the nervous system. The brain simply does what it’s told.
Most of us are aware of the placebo effect. People who are told a drug will have a certain effect will many times experience that effect even when given an empty pill with no active properties, Norma Cousins, who learned firsthand the power of belief in eliminating his own illness, concludes, drugs are not always necessary. Belief in recovery always is. One remarkable placebo study concerned a group of patients with bleeding ulcers. They were divided into the two groups. People in the first were told they were being given a new drug that would absolutely produce relief. Those in the second were told they were being given an experimental drug, but that very little was known about its effects. Seventy percent of those in the first group experienced significant relief from their ulcers. Only 25 percent of the second group had a similar result. In both cases patients received a drug with no medicinal properties at all. The only difference was the belief system they adopted. Even more remarkable are the numerous studies of people who, drugs known to have harmful effects, have experienced no ill effects at all when told they would experience a positive outcome.
Studies conducted by Dr Andrew Weil have shown the experiences of drug users correspond almost exactly to their expectations. He found he could lead a person given a dose of an amphetamine to feel sedated or a person given a barbiturate to feel stimulated. The ‘magic’ of drugs resides within the mind of the user, not in the drugs. Weil concluded.
In all these instances, the one constant that most powerfully affected the results was belief, the consistent, congruent messages delivered to the brain and nervous system. For all its power, there is no abstruse magic involved in the process. Belief is nothing but a state, an internal representation that governs behavior. It can be an empowering belief in possibility – a belief that we will succeed in something or achieve something else. It can be a disempowering belief – a belief that we can’t succeed, that our limitations are clear, intractable, and overwhelming. If you believe in success, you’ll be empowered to achieve it. If you believe in failure, those messages will tend to lead you to experience that as well. Remember, whether you say you can do something or you say you can’t you’re right. Both kinds of beliefs have great power.