Several weeks ago a colleague shared their view that it is only by challenging our entrenched beliefs that learning becomes possible. They saw this as likely to be viewed as politically incorrect by some, and I understood completely. I understood, because I had to admit that a decade or two ago I would have rejected their idea as heresy.
Now that I have grown beyond rigid thinking, I not only embrace new information but am constantly searching for it. Now, I can see that there is real wisdom in challenging entrenched beliefs. This is particularly true in the area of science. Louis Pasteur immediately comes to mind.
People mocked Pasteur and thought him crazy while he relentlessly worked to prove that tiny microorganisms called ‘germs’ were the cause of disease. But physicians eventually started sanitizing their hands and surgical tools before moving on to the next patient. When they did, the resulting decline in mortality rates caused many to exchange their mockery of Pasteur for applause. Had Pasteur not challenged the entrenched beliefs of the day, many lives would have been lost. In fact, some of us would not even exist!
In my early years, I would have thought it wrong to challenge certain beliefs, particularly religious beliefs. Yet, as I have matured and learned more about the origins of those beliefs, I have let quite a number of them go. If they were not based on truth, but on following someone else’s rules, I tossed them out.
Of course, there are also those beliefs that I am going to hold fast to. The idea of challenging entrenched beliefs surely doesn’t mean that we toss them all out. All it means is that we open ourselves up to new possibilities.
As part of a personal challenge, I have spent the last week asking myself what beliefs I hold that are no longer a fit for me. The most significant one that I discovered has taken months of struggle to unearth from the trenches of my subconscious. My thinking mind would never have listed it among the beliefs that I hold. Yet, when I stepped back and observed my behaviors, attitudes, and fears, I was finally able to identify it.
Here is the entrenched belief that I discovered… I believe that if I am someone’s wife or girlfriend, then I will feel ‘owned’ by them. As a result, I will be hindered in my ability to pursue my full potential and to accomplish my dreams.
Wow! I had no idea that this belief was residing in my psyche! Once it was exposed, it was obvious to my thinking mind that it is a belief that is definitely worth challenging.
Intellectually, I know that it cannot be true. My past experience, on the other hand, supports this belief and is surely the origin of it. However, now that I see it clearly, I am ready to challenge myself to believe differently. I am ready to open myself up to the possibility that a real love might not tether me at all. In fact, it may very well give me wings enabling me to soar even higher than I could by myself!
“You can have anything you want if you are willing to give up the belief that you can’t have it.” – Robert Anthony