I do not remember the exact day I stopped believing in the Three Wise Men. I do not remember either how it happened. But I do have some vague memories. For example, when I was 4 years old I saw my parents getting home with big bags few days before the 6th of January. When I asked them what was in those bags, they answered “nothing, just food and cloths”. Although I knew it was not true, part of me did not want to keep enquiring any further.
I also remember the day a friend of mine told us in the school’s playground that the Three Wise Men did not exist and that it was our parents’ secret. That day, I remember making fun of him and many of us ignored the idea.
Another year, I remember staying up several hours on the Three Wise Men’s night and getting out of bed stealthily to catch my parents infraganti placing presents and sweets under the Christmas tree.
In a period of approximately seven years, I experienced a process, in which a belief I had changed for good. Simplifying it a bit, the process was:
1. “The Three Wise Men exist”
For a while, for me the Three Wise Men were absolutely real, and they existed undoubtedly. If someone suggested the contrary, I could ignore it, without even considering their position.
2. “The Three Wise Men exist even though there is something that does not fit”
There was another time when I started having some doubts, but I still believed they existed (or I wished they did), but at the same time I payed more attention to some informations that could contradict my belief.
3. “I am almost sure the Three Wise Men do not exist”
In that time, I was sure that the Three Wise Men were our parents, but I was not 100% sure of it because they did not accept it and because I had not any conclusive proof. Part of me was still holding on the idea they had to exist.
4. “The Three Wise Men do not exist, as they are our parents”
And there was a time when I already knew the truth before my parents would accept it. In my case, shortly after I knew it, my parents recognized it.
We can imagine “the Three Wise Men exist” or any other belief as a solid and hard wall that holds some behaviours of our childhood (“I will behave properly so the Three Wise Men will give me many presents”). This wall is exposed to many facts that can either reinforce it (e.g. presents magically appear under the Christmas tree) or open cracks on it (e.g. a school friend tells me they do not exist). Usually, we are more receptive to everything that justifies our beliefs.
However, any day a certain information may come and generate a little crack on the wall of our belief (a strange behaviour of my parents, for example). The wall stays the same, but it surely has a crack. From this moment on, we are more open to spot informations that can make the crack even bigger (e.g. being aware of my parents the previous days of January the 6th or staying up late the very same night). Every thing we notice which contradicts our belief makes the crack deeper and, day by day, the wall becomes more and more deteriorated until it eventually falls down (e.g. the Three Wise Men do not exist, it is no longer our parents’ secret, it is also mine).
A belief is something that I asume as absolutely true. In other words, it is something that, in my understanding of the outer reality (the world as I see it), is definitely certain. Ultimately, beliefs are sentences saved in our minds that determine our performance. Any sentence we take for granted can be considered a belief. For example:
- “People who work in Marketing have no clue in selling anything on the street”
- “In our company we do not know how to negotiate with providers”
- “I am very bad with computers”
- “When it comes to learning something new, I can make it with effort”
- “I am very good at languages”
- “All clients who try us, become loyal”
Every single belief, due to being an inner reality, determines our behaviour.
Depending on the impact that beliefs have on our daily performance, we talk about two types of beliefs: limiting and empowering beliefs.
- Limiting belief: if I think “I am very bad with computers”, it is probable that I avoid using them, so I will never learn how to use them, which reinforces my belief even more. It becomes a vicious cycle.
- Empowering belief: if I think that “when I have to learn something new, I can make it with effort” and I am told to learn a difficult computer programme, it is probable that I put a lot of effort not only with time but also with predisposition, with which I will eventually learn it easily, making my belief stronger again.
But, how can we eliminate a limiting belief that pleases us?
Here comes the good thing: existing beliefs in our minds cannot be removed, but they can rather be replaced by other beliefs. We spend our lives changing beliefs for different ones (“The Three Wise Men exist” for “they are our parents”). Nevertheless, there are techniques that allow us to question beliefs effectively, making cracks on the wall. We can apply it in our work teams: do you imagine making a collaborator stop thinking they are good at something to become better at it?
Let’s start by noticing our own limiting and empowering beliefs deeply rooted in ourselves.
Do you recognise any belief which has changed lately? Let’s then just take a moment to consider what helped to make it change.
Miguel Ángel Marfil Rubio.
Managing Partner at focus inside