There’s a program running in the background of your mind that drives almost all of your behavior. You could call that your philosophy.
Your philosophy is made up of all the beliefs and assumptions that you have about the world. Many of these beliefs and assumptions are never questioned, just followed – sometimes blindly.
Where do your perspectives originate? Is it possible to change your perspectives to create positive changes in your life?
It’s difficult to talk or write about something you don’t have a reference of in your own life. Of course, it’s like that for everyone. We can only speak from what we’ve learned or experienced. Though, some people may claim they know things. The reality sometimes is they are just quoting someone else’s knowledge. But as long as no one asks them to go any deeper into a particular subject, they appear intelligent.
I’ve learned that it’s better to keep my mouth shut if I don’t know what I’m talking about. I might still have an opinion but I also know when to quit talking. Still, every now and then I’ll catch myself trying to “one-up” another person. As soon as I realize I’m doing it, I stop myself. And sometimes I’ll even take back what I said, realizing that I really don’t know what I’m talking about but just repeating what someone else said.
Then I think why did I just say that? What was I trying to accomplish?
I usually end up learning something about myself at that point. Usually some insecurity I didn’t realize was there. For example, before my marriage many years ago, I uttered the statement:
“I will only be with someone who is always learning and growing.”
After I said that, I immediately realized that I was playing an old recording, an old believe that I created a long time ago. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be with people that are always learning and growing, but after I evaluated that statement I realized it was no longer true.
We’re all learning and growing all the time. But the meaning behind what I was saying didn’t feel right anymore. I think it’s because I remember when I originally said it, I wanted to make sure that my relationship never got stale or stagnant. I promised myself that I would always be with someone who was into some sort of personal growth and was doing what she could to improve herself in some way.
I probably said this because of my high desire for my future wife at the time to “get over” her issues. When I think about it now, I’m sure what I really meant was, “I just want you to promise me that you’ll never fall off the bandwagon and always commit to improving yourself everyday.”
In a perfect world, we’d all get exactly what we want regardless of how anyone felt about it. But I was setting high expectations for my future wife. I know it put pressure on her to meet my standards. Years later, I realized how controlling and emotionally abusive this and other behaviors I did were. Comments that are meant to hurt, control or change someone often have emotionally abusive elements.
Years later, I caught myself saying that same comment. I suddenly realized how selfish a statement that was. I’ll admit that I do appreciate being with someone who is into improving herself, but saying it means that I am leaving little or no room for setbacks or flexibility. I am basically setting myself and the person I’m with up for failure.
If my partner has a setback, does that mean she is violating my personal boundaries? If I refuse to be with someone who isn’t always improving herself in some way, should I put her down for violating an important rule in my life?
To my partner, she probably felt like she had to be perfect. The last time those words came out of my mouth, “I will only be with someone who is always learning and growing”, I felt awkward right after I spoke them. It was a belief that’s always been there, but never questioned.
But now I question my beliefs. That’s what us critical thinkers do, we question our beliefs and ask ourselves if they are still valid. We “check in” with ourselves to determine if what we used to believe is still our truth. We may learn that they are. Or perhaps we’ll discover that we have an old tape from many years ago replaying itself over and over again.
Do you catch yourself saying things that are no longer true? It’s probably rare that you do actually.
Ingrained beliefs are often not questioned, they are repeated.
Ingrained beliefs are your deep-rooted, firmly held values and principles that guide you in life. They are rock-solid and and are often followed without question.
The above statement isn’t always true, but it is a good to keep it in mind. Our philosophy is our evaluation system. It’s how we gauge that we’re going in the right direction, or at least a direction that feels right and isn’t violating our boundaries.
Part of my current philosophy is live and let live. It’s an old, tired saying, but powerful when you truly apply it to every area of life. To me, it means I may not agree with what some people are doing with their life, but I won’t take away their right to do it (within reason of course. If I saw someone causing another’s suffering, I would certainly step in).
Many times, I will say or write something down, then evaluate it against that live and let live philosophy. If I notice that what I wrote or said isn’t in alignment with that philosophy, I question if it’s really true.
For example, when I spoke the words, “I will only be with someone who is always learning and growing”, I asked myself if that statement is in alignment with my philosophy. The answer I got surprised me. It’s a personal boundary statement, but it’s worded in a way I don’t like. It is an absolute that no longer applies in my life. So I re-evaluated the boundary and turned it into something I felt more comfortable with.
My new philosophy is that I prefer to be with someone who likes to learn from their challenges in life.
This statement is a lot different and a lot more forgiving. It’s also more true than what I used to say, and something I can implant into my belief system. It is in line with my philosophy and is also more flexible.
Before, I was limiting who would make a good life partner because of the stricter guidelines I created. Now, the doors I open by changing a few words create a much more useful belief system that leaves room for the nuances that bring really special people into my life.
You carry around a set of beliefs and assumptions about the world. Some people call that religion. Others call it spirituality. I call it my philosophy. Whatever you call it, your beliefs and assumptions arethe foundation by which all of your life’s decisions are evaluated.
When someone asks you to do something that may not be legal, you weigh it against your philosophy (or whatever you feel most comfortable calling it), and make a decision. It might be a very fast decision because you know your beliefs inside and out. Or, you may have to think about things to determine if you are willing to be out of alignment with your beliefs and values.
Beliefs are what you hold to be truths for you.
Assumptions are what appear to be true.
A belief you may have is that you are wearing clothes, or sitting down, or blinking your eyes. These are easy to evaluate as true, because you can reveal that truth over and over again. An assumption on the other hand is what you assume will always be true so that you can get through life without having to question every little thing that pops up.
If you’re at a crosswalk, and all the cars stop in both directions, you make an assumption that one of them isn’t going to suddenly step on the gas and run you over. You have to make that assumption, otherwise, you’d never cross the street again. You might also make the assumption that restaurants never drop your food and put it back on your plate. Of course, you could also be in denial about that ever happening hoping that what you think could be true really isn’t.
But, I digress. My point is that your philosophy makes up your foundation, and the decisions you make everyday refer to that philosophy, so it’s vital to make sure that what you have for beliefs and assumptions are still valid today.
When you make decisions and take action from a set of old beliefs, you get the same results as you always have. If your results are good, then you probably have a valid, resourceful philosophy. But if you don’t favor the results you typically get, maybe it’s time to question some of those truths you hold.
It’s hard to question your own truths. Believe me, as a high judger most of my life, I believed I was right about a lot of things. I believed it so much, I lost intimate relationships because of those beliefs. All truth is anyway is a strong belief. Some of you may disagree, and that’s fine. I don’t want you to agree with everything I say.
It’s okay if you agree, and it’s also okay if you don’t. What’s most important is that you do what works for you. The philosophies you follow in life are for you, because of your unique existence and history on this planet. In other words, how you were raised and what you’ve experienced in life is what created the beliefs and assumptions you carry around with you today.
If those who raised you were dysfunctional, some of that dysfunction likely rubbed off on you. Sorry to say that, but it’s more often true than not. We tend to be influenced both negatively and positively by the amount of dysfunction in our family growing up. Or, to be fair, by the lack of dysfunction in some families too.
Our environment creates our behavior. Then when we move away from that environment, we either adjust our behavior for new environments, or keep the old behavior that may not apply to the new environment.
People who pick the same failing relationships over and over again are typically choosing others from a place of old beliefs. They are most attracted to what they are used to. If you keep choosing an abusive partner, it’s likely that you brought some old beliefs from childhood into current situations. These beliefs are based on environments that don’t exist anymore until you create them.
In the example of a person choosing the same type of romantic partner over and over again even though it always ends badly, the person has inside them an old belief system that gets reinforced because they’ve chosen the same type of person they always choose. They’ve recreated the situation they were in as a child.
When you are getting the same results over and over again, it’s because you’re recreating the same environment and situation that gets those results. By recreating the environment, you build references to support your current belief system.
Does that make sense? In other words, the decisions you make today create a situation that supports what you believe, instead of questioning what you believe and changing your situation. Again, if your beliefs are serving you and you’re getting the results you want, then recreating a situation could be very beneficial for you.
But when your results are unfavorable, you need to look inward and figure out if what you hold to be true serves you.
If you believe all men are pigs, you are likely to seek and attract the type of men that exemplify that label because it supports your belief system. If you believe that all women are too sensitive, then you will likely seek and attract overly sensitive women. This is because you grew up believing in certain truths because of the environment you were in and the people you were around.
Since you didn’t experience most of what the world had to offer, you believed what you were exposed to, and that’s it. So your situations shaped your reality. And that reality is how you see the world. So, in the example of seeking a romantic partner, you usually attract those who fit into your model of reality.
This is getting kind of deep I realize, and it almost sounds esoteric, but it’s actually quite logical. If all you know is what you’ve been exposed to, then you are more likely to attract and be attracted to what you know simply because, and I say this a lot I realize, the brain loves patterns.
And when you get that same old person back in your life, you know, the one you keep seeming to choose over and over again? They’re a different person with a different body and a different voice, but they have the same characteristics of the person you just left, their existence reinforces the patterns and beliefs that are already in you, reaffirming that “life never changes” and “things always happen to me”.
When you repeat patterns that don’t work for you, then things do happen to you. You end up asking yourself, “Why me?” and wonder why you have such bad luck. Sometimes it’s not bad luck, sometimes you are unconsciously repeating old behavior in new situations.
But this brings us back to questioning your own truths. This brings us back to critical thinking, full circle. If you are mindlessly going through the motions, believing things without question, you are going to create nothing new in your life. It will be the same old stuff over and over again. And hey, if that’s a good thing for you, keep on doing what you’re doing.
But if you are recreating bad situations, whether it’s in work, relationships, or other areas of life. Maybe it’s time to stop yourself the next time you say something with conviction like I did.
I said, “I will only be with someone who is always learning and growing.” This immediately narrowed my choices to a tiny percentage of people. I didn’t believe this was driving my behavior so strongly and causing me to judge others before I even talked with them.
At first, it sounded like a good belief to have, but in the end, it turned out to be a very limiting belief that kept me judgmental and extremely selective about who I wanted in my life.
Question statements that you make, especially ones you say without thinking. You may be repeating an old recording that doesn’t apply anymore. It probably worked at the time, but maybe it’s preventing you from enjoying life to the fullest. If you question a belief you have, and you believe that belief is still valid today, then compare that belief to your results. Are you getting what you want?
This is true philosophical thinking of course. It’s meant to bend the mind a little. After all, the mind can’t create anything new with an old pattern. Old patterns equal old results.
The brain remembers patterns and likes to refer back to them over and over because it’s fast and comfortable. It’s that comfort zone thing. So even bad people we don’t want in our lives come back time and time again, sometimes as different people, because we get stuck in our brain’s patterns.
About a month after my stepfather left my mom, she thought she might actually take him back if he said he wanted to come back. My stepfather is an abusive alcoholic that made her life a living hell, but that pattern was so ingrained in my mom’s head that she actually considered taking him back.
What she needed was enough time away from him where the old pattern of being comfortable with neglect and abuse was overwritten with peace and harmony day after day without him.
It took about a month and a half for this to happen, but when it did, her entire world changed. She did a complete 180 and came to an absolute decision for her life. She said she would never let him back in the house again. Ever.
Talk about a giant shift in just a few weeks. This is what happens though. When we’re too close to the situation, time wise, we are still thinking from an old pattern. When enough time has passed and old patterns are written over, old beliefs and assumptions about the world shift.
In other words, a new philosophy is born. And once that happens, you make decisions and take action from a whole new space inside you.
This shift can happen to any one of us given enough time away from the people and environments that influence us most. Once we figure out who we are and what we think without the typical people or situations that we are normally in and that influence us, we realize then what we want most for ourselves. Old patterns disappear, and new thoughts and ideas materialize.
This is what happened to me. When my wife left our marriage, I was suddenly alone with my own thoughts without any type of influence or alternative ideas. Just me. And what came out of me was The Overwhelmed Brain blog, podcast, and now ebook. Sometimes you have no clue what you are capable of when you are traveling over the same path over and over again until someone pushes you off that path, and you are forced to think of things differently.
But this is sometimes hard to achieve when you are in the same environment everyday. I remember a few years ago when I was trying to find work. I had to get out of the house and visit a coffee shop with my laptop just so that new ideas would come to me. If I stayed home, I did the same things, and was completely unmotivated to look for work. When I was in my familiar environment with the people I knew well, I got comfortable and wasn’t as passionate about finding work. But when I went to the coffee shop, I saw new people everyday, and I had none of conveniences or influences of home.
I guess sometimes you are more motivated when you put yourself in new situations with new people. I did feel more motivated by leaving the house everyday. This is why some people have trouble working from home, because everything is too convenient and easy. Others do great and can make it work. But some of us, well, get lazy. Not on purpose, but because all of our needs are met and we are comfortable.
Be okay with not being comfortable all the time. Comfort is great when you’ve achieved some of the goals you’re after, but if you’re still trying to achieve those goals, get out of your environment every now and then to gain a fresh perspective and new ideas.
Something may come to mind that never did before. You just might need to give your brain a break from being too relaxed in order to discover that it had some great ideas all along.
I always say “Do what works”, because what doesn’t work for someone else, may work perfectly for you, and vice versa. It’s like a friend of mine who had a business that he was building. Everything was going along great, and the business was starting to grow.
Then he took advice he didn’t necessarily agree with, and the business failed. He lost money, and eventually had to call it quits and start working for someone else again. The advice he got was solid advice too, as it worked great for other businesses. And even though he didn’t think it would work for his, he decided to go forward with it anyway.
His belief that it wouldn’t work wasn’t strong enough to supersede the results he was convinced that he’d get if he followed this person’s advice. In other words, he decided to ignore his intuition. So instead of staying on the path he was on, continuing to climb the ladder to success, he went against his instincts and followed the recommended path that lead to his business’s eventual demise.
His truth was serving him, yet he went against it, and it caused his business to fail. He saw bigger riches and wanted to take a faster route to get there, but took advice that didn’t work for him. The advice worked for lots of other people, but it just wasn’t right for him. He strayed from doing what worked because he chose to believe that someone else must know better.
This isn’t always the case. I mean, sometimes it is, but not always. Sometimes you simply know what works for you, and you keep following that path until it’s proven to be wrong. Other times, you do something different, and it works ten times better than before.
The point is that you and your situation are unique; therefore, you require a belief system that is unique to you and no one else.
If you’re reading between the lines here, it really boils down to not falling into the status of sheople. You ever heard that term, sheople (or is it sheeple?)? It’s when people act like sheep and follow the flock anywhere the flock takes them.
Sheople will follow very specific belief systems that may or may not apply to their lives, and will go where ever the flock is told to go. And I won’t lie, some people need this structure and guidance. I wanted to be part of the flock of sheople until I decided that I wanted to venture off to greener pastures by myself.
Even up to 2013 I was working for someone else until I ventured into the world of doing my own thing. It doesn’t mean I’ll never work for anyone else again, it just means I am going to try to make this work until I figure out if it’s going to be sustainable or not. If not, then I will seek something else.
With The Overwhelmed Brain, I decided not to create another cookie-cutter interview show that asks the same questions to different people over and over again. There’s nothing wrong with that format, but I wanted to do something different that really stood out and brought value to people.
A big part of my philosophy is to bring value in all my interactions with others. If I can somehow enrich someone else’s life, I feel like I am contributing by creating good things in the world. I honestly want to give as much as possible to others, but also make a good living doing what I love. In order to do those things, I need to create a situation that supports it. I do that by always moving in the direction of that situation. Some people call this their vision.
When you do something that supports your vision, then everything you do adds up and your vision gets closer and closer to fruition all the time. But as soon as you take another road that isn’t in line with your vision, you start losing traction and momentum.
This is what I mean when I say to evaluate what you do and say against your philosophy. If your philosophy in life supports your ultimate vision, then you’re going to continue creating situations for yourself that allow you to stay on the path of that vision. This is focus and determination and persistence.
You don’t create situations that don’t support your vision. For example, I was given the opportunity to speak at a business conference on a tropical island. I decided to turn it down because I wanted to support my ultimate vision of writing my first book. I got laser focused and had to say “no” to several lucrative opportunities all because I kept that vision in mind.
Because of that, I wrote and finished my book. And I’ve writen a couple more since. A funny thing happens when you start working towards your vision: You get offered other opportunities. It’s like the day you get married, suddenly a bunch of single people are attracted to you. You’re not available, but they come out of the woodwork!
What you do every day creates a situation that supports what you believe. If your beliefs aren’t serving you, then your situations will not be what you want. If I went to do that talk, I would not have gotten my book finished. It was a great opportunity, but there’ll be others. I just chose to continue to follow my vision until I accomplished my goal.
What I’m trying to do is plant a question in your mind about beliefs. When you hear yourself say something, question yourself if it’s true for you. When you hear someone else say something that you’re not 100% sure about, evaluate it against your beliefs.
A mind that questions is a mind that expands. It doesn’t mean that you question everything all the time, because that’s what assumptions are for. It’s nice to have assumptions in our lives so we’re not paranoid about everything going on around us all the time.
In other words, it’s nice to be able to relax into what you assume to be true sometimes, because you can’t prove everything. In fact, sometimes you choose not to prove anything and rely on faith.
And whether you’re religious, spiritual or something else, always continue to rely on what works in your life and do what serves you best.
Do what works until it doesn’t.
And don’t be afraid to question your beliefs or have your beliefs questioned. Faith in what you believe can lead to amazing life transformations, but learning to adapt to change and the allowing yourself to adopt new ideas can sometimes get you closer to the truths that work for you.
I realize I’m skating on very thin ice with this article because some people are extremely faithful and follow their beliefs no matter what. And if you are someone who has absolute faith in something, I don’t want you to change a thing. But I do ask that you check in with yourself on occasion to make sure that you don’t have any old recordings still playing in the background of your mind that no longer apply.
Sometimes your beliefs are like a well-traveled road. You know them so well, you never think that there might be another road to take. The old road can appear to be a trusted friend, even when it leads you to places that aren’t in your best interest.
Questioning your beliefs can lead to change, but it can also lead to reaffirming what you already believe, strengthening your beliefs even more. Either way, you benefit from knowing just a little more of what is true for you.
I’ve gone a little bit of everywhere in this article. From what we believe, to what we assume, to the truths we hold, to the patterns our brain follows. We’ve covered the basic philosophical blueprint that makes up our foundation.
I think it’s important to know what makes up our foundation, because that is where our motivations come from. We are motivated to behave, talk and relate a certain way based on our beliefs and assumptions about people and the world.
When those beliefs and assumptions have been implanted in us from infancy, and not ever questioned, we have to rely on the hope that those who implanted them were mentally healthy, giving us tools that serve us.
If the people who raised us were not so healthy at the time, we may have developed incorrect or skewed beliefs and assumptions about the world. This is when self-empowerment needs to happen. That way we can question our own thoughts and behaviors to make sure we are going down a good path leading to good results. Or we’ll end up on a path that isn’t so good, giving us the same old bad results over and over again.
Self-empowerment is when you realize that something could improve in your life, and you take the steps needed to start that process. Your life ends up improving whether you succeed or not because you have forward momentum and are always working toward regaining your power. When you are empowered, then if you miss your target, you can simply aim for the next one. You never fail, you only readjust your aim continually until a target is met.
Your philosophy is a blueprint for your decisions and behavior. It’s also the determiner of your results. This is why I state the importance of questioning your beliefs when you keep getting results you don’t want.
In all of my relationships, my partners left me. It was never the other way around. I finally took responsibility and looked inward at what I was doing that caused them to leave and found quite a few old beliefs about relationships.
I now stay open and adaptive when I am in a relationship because I know I’ve held incorrect beliefs before so I know it could happen again if I’m not careful. After all, when you’re the common denominator for the same, familiar problems that keep showing up in your life, it’s good to start within and work your way out.
Stay open about your beliefs and assumptions about how the world works. Ralph Marston of greatday.com, the person responsible for The Daily Motivator said the following:
What is so great about being “right” that makes it worth fighting and arguing about? Being right does not put money in the bank. It does not add to the quality of your life.
Proving to someone else that you are right does nothing to help either you or them. It only injects tension into the relationship. A spirited debate, in the interest of learning and exchanging ideas, is great. But simply trying to show you’re “right”, or saying “I told you so” has little value to anyone.
Let go of your attachment to being right and suddenly your mind is more open. You’re able to benefit from the unique viewpoints of others, without being crippled by your own judgment.
We’re all different. Everyone has their own unique point of view. Every point of view has value when you take the time to thoughtfully consider it. Look for ways to accept and agree, and you open yourself to a world of possibilities.
What is your philosophy in life? Is it religious, or spiritual, or something entirely different? Regardless of what it is, do what works. We are typically bombarded with how and what we should think all the time, so just remember that what works for someone else may not work for you. And of course, what works for someone else could be the exact solution you’re looking for.
The idea is to approach all thinking from an open mind. Believe me, there are some beliefs and ideas about the world that I simply cannot adopt, but just because I don’t believe in them doesn’t mean I’m not completely discounting any validity they may have for those who do.
For example, I may not believe that there’s a spaceship coming to pick us up and take us to another planet, but I am open to the possibility of such a thing. Does it mean I’m going to pursue that idea? No. But it does mean I won’t laugh in the face of the person who believes it.
We all have a piece of the puzzle, and some are more brilliant and others are not so much. But we all bring some sort of knowledge and wisdom to the table, because we’ve all learned something different about the world we live in. Our experience is what shapes our mind and our reality.
Your philosophy shapes your future. When your beliefs and assumptions serve you, you get the results you want. When they don’t, it’s time to ask yourself what’s really true for you.
You have more potential than you could ever imagine so just allow yourself to experience life to the fullest with all your faults and fears and just go for it.