2023 February 14 Beliefs and identity

Feb 14, 2023

Hi, this is Jim Cranston from 7EveryMinute and 7EveryMinute.com, the podcast and website by, for, and about reimagining your life. Thanks for joining me tonight for more on recreating our future. Let's get started. If you like what you hear tonight, please leave a like and tell your friends and send me a message.


Happy Valentine's Day, whether it's with someone else in your life, or just a reminder to yourself to remember that your own happiness counts, too. So on the last episode a week ago, on February 7th, 2023, we started our review of how to reimagine your life by setting SMART goals that align with our purpose. Then we spent some time talking about how our brain actually processes all the stimuli we receive from the world around us.


We left off at how the brain automates the process of being aware of an external stimulus and then automating that thought-emotion pair into a belief. Tonight we'll pick up there and talk not only about how beliefs are actually hardwired into an automatic response, but how beliefs are really what form our identity. How the world perceives us, and perhaps more importantly, how we perceive ourselves. 


So what is a belief? A belief is just an automation or a shortcut, a way for our brain to quickly evaluate a situation or a stimulus, even a complex one, and come into an initial answer or response. There are three things to keep in mind. Our brain's primary function is to keep us alive, the world is often a dangerous place, and our brain takes a lot of energy to run. Those three realities mean that it's desirable from an evolutionary standpoint to automate common or unknown experiences.


We automate the common ones so that we don't waste a lot of brain energy always thinking about normal occurrences. We learn things like that squeak in the front door, the one we hear all the time, so it barely even registers with us. But if you hear creaking from a tree breaking in a storm, we still recognize that as a dangerous unknown experience.


However, they have to be quickly decoded into either dangerous or safe. If you're on a dark street and someone comes walking towards you and they reach into their pocket, you might immediately be focused on what they are taking out of their pocket, because your brain has matched that pattern with previous experiences, whether they're real, imagined or learned, and they may have consequences that result in a dangerous situation. But the last sentence has some interesting aspects to it. Note that your experience doesn't have to be real. You do not have to personally firsthand experience something to have incorporated it into a belief. 


Also, note that danger doesn't have to be a physical threat. It may be something like speaking to a crowd, walking into a party, or trying to learn a new language and actually use it with somebody. It can be anything that makes us uncomfortable. So while this automation can lead to many unfortunate beliefs, it can also be used to advantage in training our brain how to respond to situations.


That's the basis of what we teach. But one of the interesting things about beliefs is that the automations actually ultimately get hardwired into your brain's processing stream. By that, I actually mean there's actually changes in the way your brain is physically wiring the synapses together so that it can very quickly process these known situations into a couple of different categories.


When a new stimulus comes in for processing, it's quickly matched against known or similar patterns. If a match is found, the answer is just pulled from the belief pile. Further processing is typically not done. Answer found, next thought, on it goes. Unfortunately, this leads to a tremendous bias. We tend to interpret the world in order to be consistent with our beliefs. That's another whole story and an important one. We'll do that another day. 


The other offshoot of this consistency bias is that it then becomes very difficult to dislodge a belief, because it literally is physiologically programmed into our brain. Our brain now has a bias to not believe things that challenge an existing belief. That could be something even as simple as some food makes you feel good. I use food a lot because pretty much all of us eat. Some food makes you feel good. Then you see a news story. It says wine has health benefits. Oh, I believe that. Then there's 48 studies that say wine really isn't very good. Alcohol is not very good for you. I just saw this story about how wine is good for you. You ignore the other 48. That's a kind of preexisting bias. Your brain really wants to make sure its beliefs are right. So it looks at the world through that filter, and hones in on things that support the beliefs you already have.


Our beliefs do this all the time with food. You say something like, Well, I don't like olives. It may mean that you might not even try something that supposedly has olives in it, whether it does or not. Or if you tried it and liked it, then later on decided you didn't like it that much because later on you found out it had olives in it. I thought I tasted olives. Food is a particularly good example,  because it's so regional. It's cultural, and it's ethnic, so it varies widely throughout the world. 


However, we all have fundamentally the same physiology. One would expect we would have similar nutritional requirements. We do, but we have learned since childhood what is good food. You have these tremendously different cuisines approaching the same nutritional needs from very different perspectives. Everyone is generally pretty sure their cuisine is the best in the world. 


Now we know how beliefs can be formed, how they're strongly embedded into processing the world around us. But that brings us then, to what is identity? From Wikipedia, identity is the qualities, beliefs, personality traits, appearance, and or expressions that characterize a person. One could argue that those four descriptors of qualities, personality traits, appearance, and or expressions, are really just actualizations of a person's beliefs.


So whether they're just actualizations of a belief or at least likely strongly influenced by your beliefs, it should be obvious that your beliefs have a very strong impact upon who you are in every sense of the word: quite literally your own identity. If you believe that guys are strong and scary, most likely you will either act and look at the world in a way to either be strong and scary, perhaps to fear that stereotype and act and see the world in a way that you both aren't strong and scary and aren't a target.


You are still the same you, but what has changed is how you perceive yourself and the world filtered through your belief system. This is super important. This means you can change many things about yourself, by changing who you believe you are, by changing your belief system.


I personally know a number of individuals have been through the US Marine Corps. Other veterans often have the same transformation from other branches of the service. They go in as kids with perhaps no real purpose in life. Maybe they're not too sure of themselves, and they come out confident, focus, capable. It's the same person, but they learn to have faith in themselves. They usually have the same sense of humor, the same general likes and dislikes, but they became self-confident because they believed they were capable of doing what they needed to do to succeed. They changed their beliefs about themselves.


You've probably seen stories of the person who went to prison for some crime, maybe even a serious crime. While there, they decided they could live their life in a different way by changing their belief system to one that modeled the person they wanted to become. Then they actually became that person. 


I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I'd been through the Tony Robbins challenge recently. In my cohort, there were at least two ex-convicts who were out of prison - totally clean, working, starting their own businesses. Both of them were coaching kids on the street, how to find a better way to live their life than being a punk in the neighborhood: a hundred percent reversal in their lives because they changed who they believed they were.


Now you can see how your identity is really just the actualization of all your beliefs, whether it's the food you eat, how you perceive your job or yourself, or how you speak your language. All these are a result of the beliefs that you've been accumulating since before your birth. By changing those beliefs, you can change your identity to support your life goals and to become the person you want to become, or change your life in whatever positive way you desire.


We'll return to discussing beliefs and identity next week with the basic review done. I said we're going to go through a review of all the core tenants and we have now, we may move into the next stage of decision. As I mentioned, this is all being assembled into an introductory course. Your Future Transformed, which we’ll cover all this and much more in greater depth.


That's it for the evening. Here’s the reminder for the link to all the sites where you can make donations to the people of Ukraine  UKR7.com. Please remember the war in Ukraine. If you're able to, please consider making a donation,   They definitely need help in every way.


Also, the World Central Kitchen is there. WCK.org.  Remember we spoke about that group, they're awesome. They do nothing but just make food for the people who've been displaced. They're totally humanitarian. Whatever you can do to help aid Ukraine, please take a look at it. I know right now it is competing with Turkey and Syria, also important. 


A lot of people in the world need care. So whatever is most important to you, I would encourage you, please try and make some donations to somebody right now and in whatever way you can. If you don't have the money, there's other ways you can do it. Remind people about this situation, that they can donate, too. 


Remember, the best way to care for yourself is to care for others. If you can and you're able, please help either the people in Ukraine, people in Turkey, people in Syria. There's a lot of aid being needed right now. Of course, there's things going on in the world all the time, so I encourage you all the time to think about being generous and helping others.


We're very, very fortunate here in North America to live a very blessed life. So, keep that in mind. A lot of people truly can't even fathom all the abundance that we have around us, and I know a lot of people in difficult situations, and I certainly appreciate that, but we're very fortunate people still.


So thank you very much for stopping by. If you found something interesting or useful, please pass it along and please hit that like button. And if not, please drop me a comment as to what you'd like to hear. Have a great week. Remember to live the life that you dreamed of because that’s the path to true contentment. Love and encouragement to everyone, and see you next week on 7EveryMinute and 7EveryMinute.com. Thank you.


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