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How Your Beliefs Can Supercharge or Sabotage Your Success

Your life is dictated by beliefs and biases that drive your thinking, behaviors, and decisions

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Your Beliefs Can Supercharge or Sabotage Your Success (1)
Image Credit: Midjourney

Pause for a moment and ponder two pandemic-era beliefs: First, closing schools will control the spread of a serious virus. Second, the consequences of such school closures—particularly social interruption and the prevention of immunity—are worse than becoming sick with the virus.

A common goal of controlling the virus could have created a new or modified version of school policies to accommodate both beliefs. But no common paths forward were researched or considered. Instead, adversaries chose to disagree and caused obstructions to collaborative governance.

Have you ever believed that you were the best person for a new job, only not to be selected? Was your self-opinion overconfident? And what did you assume about the other candidates? Your beliefs include your biases, which are made up of your opinions and assumptions. Your life, in turn, is dictated by beliefs and biases that drive your thinking, behaviors, and decisions. 

Understanding your beliefs and biases

Beliefs translate your values into supporting behaviors and decisions. Biases are usually beliefs that come from a more personal perspective, such as your nature and nurture, your life experiences, your community influences, or the uncertainties in your world. 

You might have a belief that vacations are good but a personal bias against beaches and relaxation.  Beliefs and biases are not good or bad; they simply impact your decisions and outcomes. Understand them—and use them wisely.  

Observing others can help you to see your own beliefs and biases. So whenever you find yourself cringing at other people’s behaviors or decisions, consider what might be prompting you to feel that way. Then ask yourself what their beliefs or biases might be to have prompted such behaviors or decisions. And think, too, about why you find those things to be offensive. 

Now check in on one of your recent behaviors or decisions and consider the beliefs or biases that may have sparked it. Odds are you’ll find a belief or a bias buried in your unconscious mind. Or, conversely, it could be, quite obviously, in your conscious mind. 

Using the “Five Whys” approach—a method of inquiry in which you ask yourself “why” sequentially five times—can help you identify your beliefs and biases and if you actually agree with them today. 

Sometimes your behaviors and decisions are rooted in old beliefs that are no longer valid, such as a fear of losing when you have actually mastered an expertise that was once lacking. 

Finally, ask yourself if your beliefs are aligned to your values. Beliefs add another layer of clarity to your values in the context of particular people or projects. 

For example, if you value honesty, do your beliefs about a certain team member demonstrate that value?  If you value learning, do you believe in others’ thinking in brainstorming or problem-solving sessions? Are your beliefs leading to good behaviors and decisions? Or are they causing obstacles to your work and decisions? 

What might the school-closures folks have believed? And how did those beliefs serve their behaviors and decisions? 

“Your chances of success in any undertaking can always be measured by your belief in yourself.” – Robert Collier

Using your beliefs and biases

It is not too strong of a statement to say that your beliefs and biases will likely impact your work and decisions. Areas of impacts can include:

  • Research. Your beliefs can eliminate inquiry into areas that do not align to your beliefs. If you believe that socially oriented perspectives are useless in cost-benefit analyses, you might ignore the research of behavioral economists, which credits beliefs with driving decision-making in most scenarios.
  • Behaviors and decisions. When everyone on a team believes together, that creates a belief that binds (Dr. Jon Shane, professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY). That can be positive in propelling a project to success, as there will be no divergent behaviors or decisions. But an in-group and an out-group can emerge, creating intolerance for the out-group’s beliefs. As a result, no consideration is given to the out-group’s work or decisions, even though they have an impact on behaviors and decision-making.  
  • Options. Your beliefs can overlook options that come from another perspective.  If you believe a leader is incompetent, you likely won’t consider a suggestion from that leader that may very well be a valid solution to a problem.
  • Outside-the-box thinking. Your beliefs can create strong and secure boundaries that restrict your thinking. If you believe that something is off limits, such as a niche market for a new product, you probably won’t consider its possible value.

Here are some proven ways to use your beliefs and biases to supercharge your success.

  • Clarify your goals and values that can propel you toward success.
  • Identify beliefs and subsequent behaviors and decisions to support that success.  
  • Confer with your team to adjust and confirm your goals, values, and beliefs in order to create positive bonds.
  • Articulate your beliefs regularly to ensure positivity toward your goals.
  • Continue to test for alignment within your team.

In closing, checking your goals, values, and beliefs with those of your collaborators will not only give you insights into your own thinking, but give you food for thought on how to manage your beliefs toward your success.

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