Our Beliefs Can Limit Us. Here’s How to Think Beyond Your Beliefs:
We are born profoundly incapable of sustaining our own lives. It’s part of the human condition to learn life skills from people who cannot imagine the future world their offspring will inhabit. As consciousness grows, we learn from watching the people who care for us, and by the time we are 7 years old, we’ve developed the basic habits that unconsciously govern our lives.
Essentially, we learned coping skills from people whose circumstances, events and technologies were very different from today. Those teachings solidified into the beliefs that now structure our lives. A belief feels like the truth, beyond questioning. When acting on a belief, you are convinced that you are doing the right thing. But your beliefs are an echo of people who lived in the past.
So, the question is, how relevant are the mores and skills of our ancestors to today’s world?
My grandparents were born into a world of horse drawn carriages, ice boxes and operator-controlled telephones. Their early years were dominated by two World Wars and the Great Depression. They trusted the government.
During my parents’ childhood years, the Polio vaccine and color TV were invented. As young adults, they witnessed Brown vs Board, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the assassination of JFK. They trusted Walter Cronkite.
I had to adapt the skills of my grandparents and parents to a world where neither the government nor the news is above question, a world of unprecedented technological growth, both connected by and siloed by social media.
Communication has changed, and we’ve got to acknowledge it.
One of the beliefs I had to learn beyond is what it means to communicate effectively. Sandwiched between my “outdated” parents and my tech-obsessed kids, I’ve always believed that my way of communicating is ideal. But with a changing world, adaptation is needed to survive. Now, we’ve reached an era where an influx of information outstrips our brain’s ability to process and respond effectively. Our attention is demanded constantly, so much so that ads are served to us in our most personal spaces, like email and text. In an attempt to deal with the cacophony of stimuli, we default to the operating system that we absorbed as children — the beliefs instilled by people who may not have lived to see the world we live in.
An interesting and relevant example is how video communications technologies exploded during the pandemic. Those of us in business are familiar with the benefits, as well as challenges.
Employees have embraced the good parts – spending less time commuting, more uninterrupted time to work, access to specialized help in geographically distant locations, and cross-pollination from people with ideas from other parts of the world, to name a few.
But we’ve been slower to deal with the downsides of video communication. How do we handle zoom fatigue? What’s the protocol for camera and microphone etiquette, or paying attention during meetings? How often should employees be required to physically be in the office? The debate on how to integrate continues.
So, when you run into an issue that’s causing struggle or disagreement, take a look at your beliefs. It’s a good bet that how you are approaching the problem is a habit from the past. A bit of curiosity and open mindedness will help step beyond what you know into an effective solution.
4 Steps to Think Beyond What You Believe when something isn’t working:
- Ask questions. What’s the overall intent we are trying to accomplish? What are the pros and cons? What’s working here? What’s not working?
- Be aware of how emotionally charged you feel about the answers. (Those emotions mean your beliefs are in question.) Why do you feel the way you do? Do those feelings make sense in the context of what you are attempting to accomplish?
- Engage everyone who participates in the communication with the same questions, and listen to their answers without judgment. Step outside of emotions that come up. Does that you are hearing make sense?
- Design a new solution or protocol. Be willing to work with it, applying the above process, and be willing to make adjustments until the process works.
This kind of thinking will work in any situation where things aren’t going the way you’d like. In my next article, we’ll look at how a tool designed to look at challenges in 3D will bring fresh new insights. Stay tuned!