Beliefs Shape Decisions
It is an old axiom in psychology that beliefs are important to health. Beliefs are the assumptions upon which we build our lives. Beliefs shape how we make decisions. Decisions determine our actions. Our actions bring us results. Results create the life we lead.
If we are dissatisfied with the results of our life-if we are not happy-then we spend a great deal of time trying to change our actions but not the beliefs. I have seen that strategy fail more often than not.
- Outside the clinic we have a bus bench. Frequently men will be on that bench sharing a bottle from the local liquor store. The men will say "I'm gonna get me a job so I can buy nice things."
- A few weeks back a young man who smoked 4-5 blunts of marijuana a day, told me, for the second or third time, he was going back to school to learn a trade.
- Every week we see people who struggle with weight who say they are going to eat less desserts tomorrow.
All of these people focus on their actions not their beliefs. They are trying to change what they don't like about their lives by changing their actions. Frequently, they fail and with failure they tell more lies. "I wasn't ready yet. I will change next week." It's not their actions which is the problem. It's their beliefs.
Now, let me be completely honest. We all have issues with our beliefs. All of us tell ourselves little lies that allow us to engage in actions which are not healthy. Some frequent lies we believe include:
- It is only a quick text; I can still drive.
- I really don't need my blood pressure medicine
- I will exercise next week.
- I have got the patch so I can give up smoking later.
- I know he(she) will change.
It is at this level that prayer and meditation are effective. Many of the beliefs we have are old, unconscious and central to our being. The practice of prayer and meditation calms the brain and open us up to change.
Imagine, being in your health practitioner's office and hearing your blood pressure is so high it will kill you. Imagine just for a moment what would go through your mind. What are all the things you would miss? Who would you leave behind? In that quiet time right after hearing such news, you are questioning long held assumptions. New actions can finally happen on a long term basis because the basic beliefs are changing.