Above video: TED talk, Rory Sutherland: Perspective is everything.
This post is a continuation of the previous post: Greatest human ability. There, I started a discussion on a psychological model for empowering ourselves with pleasant emotions in whatever circumstances in which we find ourselves. When we examine the lives of revolutionary thinkers, whether it be Johannes Kepler, Galileo, Gandhi, or MLK Jr., we see a common theme of facing adversity, including their encounters with those who opposed their ways of thinking. Yet, I think it’s a reasonable assumption that the vast majority of people seek to avoid what they perceive as adversity.
So, I put the question to myself as to whether it was possible to develop a powerful psychological model that enables all of us to face and thrive in situations that would ordinarily be regarded as adverse or negative, seeing that facing such situations are necessary for achieving superior results. In other words, was it possible to systematically and rapidly empower all human beings in order to realize a new era of enlightenment?
I find that the answer to that question is a resounding yes. In the previous post, I began to outline the workings of this method. There, I provided an operating definition for positive and negative beliefs. The video above offers some examples of positive and negative beliefs (“perspectives”). To further illustrate, here are more examples that demonstrate the power of beliefs:
Starting a business
- One person sees entrepreneurship as risky and fraught with difficult challenges.
- Another person sees it as an extreme sport with great rewards in learning, regardless of the outcome, and potentially as a financially superior occupation in the long-term.
- Katy walks into a room, screams in horror, and darts out of the room.
- Jessica thinks she knows what happened with Katy. So she walks into the room, picks up the snake on the floor, and informs Katy that it’s her pet snake of several years.
In the above examples, as wells as in the video, we see that people’s emotional reactions to a given situation vary according to what they believe about that situation. Hence, by adjusting our beliefs, we can attain a life experience that is more emotionally pleasant. As discussed in the last post, we can adjust our “cup” of beliefs by increasing the number of positive beliefs we hold, while reducing the count of negative beliefs we harbor.
To adjust our beliefs, we can start by recognizing that beliefs typically come from external sources and sometimes internally by conjecture (guessing). I regard the internally arising beliefs as much less of a problem because we are in control of our own thoughts and can direct them to be more positive and less negative. The externally arising beliefs can be more of a problem because we might find ourselves in situations that constantly communicate negative beliefs but not positive ones as often. Through relentless exposure (repetition), we can come to internalize the negative beliefs, leading to unpleasant emotions (fear, anxiety, depression, etc.).
The logical conclusion, then, is that we must have the freedom to filter what beliefs we assimilate in order to take control of our own emotions. Since beliefs are created and transmitted by people, we can assess whether a source of information mostly communicates positive or negative beliefs by examining the motives of the people behind that source. We can then maximize or minimize our exposure to that source of information, respectively.
In general, I find that positive beliefs are generated by people who are motivated to encourage individuals to trust their own senses and to discover their own path to happiness in accordance with the unique circumstances that each individual faces (“internally driven”). Similarly, I find that negative beliefs are created or propagated by people who have other priorities that take precedence over the emotional wellbeing of those with whom they interact. Such people, in their role as belief sources, are therefore motivated to consciously or unconsciously compel individuals to conform to or adopt values that may contradict what is best for each unique individual (“externally driven”).
Anyone can harbor and communicate internally or externally driven beliefs. With these two profiles, we can thus select the sources of beliefs to which we expose ourselves, knowing that through repeated exposure to particular beliefs, we will tend to adopt those beliefs. To conclude, I provide some examples of sources of beliefs and note whether they transmit internally or externally driven beliefs:
News sources are primarily motivated to increase their readership, typically because that increases their advertising revenues. Therefore, news sources will tend to serve provocative, fear-inducing, or shocking information that convey or give rise to negative beliefs. I thus describe many of the people behind the news as tending to be motivated toward propagating externally driven beliefs. Therefore, I find it to be good practice to limit my exposure to the “news.”
Not surprisingly, advertising will tend to transmit whatever beliefs are necessary to sell products and services. These beliefs are often negative (ex. induce dissatisfaction with self, leading to purchase of product or service to correct perceived deficiencies). Hence, advertisers frequently have strong incentives to communicate externally driven beliefs.
TED is a mixed bag. I’ve used many TED talks on this blog. Since speakers with a variety of backgrounds present on TED, some of them have primarily shared internally driven beliefs, whereas some others have offered mostly externally driven concepts. Here are two talks from a speaker that I consider to be motivated toward communicating internally-driven beliefs and whom therefore I find to be a reliable source of positive beliefs:
People in general
People are a mixed bag. We can strive to spend most of our time with those who are motivated toward maximizing their adoption and communication of internally driven beliefs at the exclusion of externally driven beliefs. When we occasionally spend time with those who tend to hold and propagate externally driven beliefs, we can strive to inspire them to adopt a mindset that is more aware of the unique issues each individual faces.
Some sources I consider to be largely internally driven:
- Effortless Success by Michael Neill (Audio book)
- Self-Esteem by Matthew McKay & Patrick Fanning (Text or audio book)
- The Student Success Manifesto: How to Create a Life of Passion, Purpose, and Prosperity by Michael Simmons (Book aimed at students, but helpful to anyone)
- Gandhi (Movie, 1982)
As one can imagine, a multitude of information sources exist that maximize the transmission of positive beliefs (internally driven) while minimizing negative content (externally driven). By surrounding and immersing ourselves with such sources and avoiding those that tend to communicate or reinforce negative beliefs, we can maintain emotional bliss and have the courage to dare greatly.