In his book, What Matters Most, Hyrum W. Smith explains why so many people feel something is missing from their lives: conflicts between actions and personal values. Like many people, you may not have heard of a Belief Window before, but it affects many of the decisions you make every day and how you behave in every situation. In this article, you’ll learn how your Belief Window works for and against you and how you can change it to live a more fulfilling life.
You cannot actually see your Belief Window, but we all have one. It is figuratively attached to your head and hangs in front of your face. You look at the world through it, and what you see is filtered back to you through it, helping you make sense of the world around you. It influences the way you perceive others, the way you read situations, and the feelings you have about yourself. Our beliefs are the things that we think, accept, or believe are true and by which we live our lives. For example “I never win at conflict, therefore I avoid it”, “big dogs bite, therefore I avoid them”, “If I don’t wear nice clothes people will not like me or they’ll think I am not important”, “If I don’t do what people ask of me then they will not love me”, “To be a good mother I must give up my own needs”, etc. Most of these beliefs are an attempt to meet a basic human need, such as: to live safely, to avoid pain, to love and be loved, to feel important, or to increase variety and excitement. Whether they reflect reality or are subjective, we believe them to be true and we will behave as if they are – because our beliefs drive our behavior.
Because our Belief Window exerts such a powerful influence on our actions and behavior, changing our habits can be a very difficult task. Even though we know intellectually that a certain behavior, such as smoking, is detrimental, a strongly held belief such as “It won’t happen to me” will keep us from making the necessary changes in our life. Erroneous perceptions on our Belief Windows can be a major detriment to our efforts to align our actions more consistently with our most deeply held values.
So how do we know if we are holding onto a false belief? The key is to perform tests on our beliefs–either actively or through observation–to see if they are true, false, or just matters of opinion. We must look at the results our beliefs give us, and ask important questions: What are the results of our behaviors? Will those results meet our needs? Unfortunately, results can often take years to measure. That’s why we must look not only at our own experiences, but at other’s experiences as well. For example, if you have a belief that you can drive safely and effectively significantly above the speed limit, even though your experience so far shows you this is true, data involving other drivers will tell you otherwise. The trick is figuring out if that behavior benefits you in the long-term. If it does, you’ll continue to do so and will find inner-peace. If it doesn’t work in the long-run, it causes stress and pain.
Each of us has a Belief Window through which we see what we believe to be true about ourselves, our world, and other people. If we feel conflicted or concerned in our daily lives, then it may be that our beliefs are not meeting our needs and we should sit down and examine them to find the source of this conflict. Unless our Belief Window truly reflects reality–things as they really are, not as we wish they were or think they should be–we find that we can easily fool ourselves and potentially damage our chances for success in any activity we undertake. The GREAT news is that once we have recognized and accepted that we have held a false Belief Window, our minds can quickly be reprogrammed to incorporate new truths.