Last night I read something that discouraged me and I was tempted to believe it. Luckily, I didn’t get too far down that road before I realized that I get to choose my beliefs. It’s easy to forget that they are not automatically generated.
Although some beliefs can be formed subconsciously, we actually have a great deal of control over what we believe. Even so, consciously choosing our beliefs requires awareness.
It is not enough to say that we are only going to believe what is true. If it were that simple, everyone on the planet would share the same beliefs. Since we know this is absolutely NOT true, it is evident that many factors are involved in forming what it is that we believe.
Unless we are altogether stubborn, our beliefs are always changing, too. Anyone who is taking in new information is constantly reviewing and adjusting their beliefs. We can’t help it. In fact, there is wisdom in challenging entrenched beliefs.
Yet, what about what happened to me last night? It wasn’t an entrenched belief that I needed to challenge in that case. Instead, it was the formation of a new and depressing belief that I witnessed taking shape in my psyche.
There I was, lying in bed minding my own business, when it happened. I was thoroughly enjoying reading a book about the human brain until one simple sentence leapt off the page. It said that stress is the number one killer in America because it damages nearly every organ in the body… especially the brain. Uh-oh.
I set the book down and tried not to overreact. After all, it had only been two months since I quit my job due to severe stress. I told myself that even though my brain was still symptomatic, maybe it just needed more time to heal.
Feeling like I had succeeded in reassuring myself, I read on. However, three paragraphs later, the author hammered the nails into my coffin by citing some study having to do with rats. Any remaining hope of recovery dissipated when I found out that with repeated stress the neuron damage was permanent in those innocent little rodents.
After wallowing in misery for a few minutes thinking that I might have irreparable brain damage, I remembered something crucial. It is up to me to choose what I am going to believe. Since I knew that believing I may never fully recover would, in fact, prevent me from fully recovering, I took swift mental action.
I reminded myself that although I may not be a neuroscientist, neither am I a lab rat. Another truth I called to mind is that my body was created with an innate ability to heal itself. Even though progress was slow, I couldn’t deny that my symptoms were improving. I also thought of my neighbor, who attributed her full recovery from two strokes and a broken neck to her faith in God and the power of prayer.
Before I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep, I had chosen what I was going to believe. It’s not that I wanted to naively ignore the facts. It’s that I wanted to consider all the information and put it in a perspective grounded not in despair, but in optimism.
Our beliefs can either work for us or against us. It is paramount, then, that we choose only those which encourage and inspire. Believe THAT!
“Your beliefs pave your way to success or block you.” – Marsha Sinetar
Note: the image of the gerbil riding the horse is real. My daughter perched her pet on a model horse. All I did was change the background.