Why Do You Need To Cultivate The Art Of Challenging Your Beliefs

By Rochi | Self Improvement

Aug 11

There’s a woman who comes into the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston for surgery.

Beth Israel is a teaching hospital for Harvard, one of the best hospitals in the country.

So, this woman comes, she’s anesthetized, the surgeon operates her, stitches her back and she’s out of the recovery room.

Everything seems to have worked out fine.

Except, it didn’t.

She woke up and found the wrong side of her body in bandages. The operation that had to be performed on the right side of her leg was wrongly done on the left side.

The vice president for health care quality at Beth Israel said in reference to this incident,

“For whatever reason, the surgeon simply felt that he was on the right side of the patient.”

So, do you know what being wrong feels like? It feels like being right.

How often do you find yourself wrong about any idea you’ve had? If you’re like most people, you’re answer is not very often.

It’s the same with the beliefs you hold about your life. Like, everything happens for a reason. God has punished me because I have done something bad in my past life.

All these beliefs are so integrated in your system that you hardly question them anymore.

When certain beliefs occupy your mind for years, it’s hard to debate them and see beyond it. Even if you’re wrong, you feel like you’re right.

You feel like that surgeon from Beth Israel.

And that’s a problem. Because soon enough, we operate a patient on the wrong side which feels the right side.

Now, you might ask,

What’s Wrong With Being Right (All The Time)?

You might have a lonely childhood which has caused you to believe that any friend you ever have is going to be a dickhead. As an adult, you don’t have a social circle and feel as lonely as you felt when you were 6.

Now, if you don’t get rid of this belief, it’s going to harm you and your well being. And you’ll waste a whole lot of time confirming this false belief (because, hello, confirmation bias is a monster).

You’ll search for more certainty. You’ll want that feeling of “rightness” so you’ll attract people that screw you up.

See what you just did? You dug your own grave for your social life by holding on to a stupid belief.

Why did you do that? Because you didn’t want to be wrong. Because you didn’t want to accept that what you believe was a mistake.

You’ve spent most of your life trying to avoid making mistakes.

But you know, no matter how hard you try, there’s no escaping.

You thought you’re going to marry your childhood sweetheart and live a perfect life together, but something else happened instead.

You thought you’d be happy with this job, that promotion, 500,000$, but something else happened instead.

You thought things will never work out in your 20s, but something else happened instead.

This internal sense of rightness is often not a reliable guide to the real world.

And if you close your hand, clutch these beliefs and refuse to let go, they’ll get released as a hurdle to your progress. Their heads will float in between reasonable and meaningful conversations.

Why do you want to be constantly right about everything, anyway?

Why It Feels So Good To Be Right

There’s a difference between being wrong and realizing you’re wrong.

When you’re wrong but don’t know it yet, you feel like you’re right.

But, what do you feel when you realize you’re wrong? Embarrassing. Scary. Stupid. Unworthy. Uncomfortable.

Who would want to feel that, right? But, who associated these feelings with making mistakes?

Of course, you. Your classmates laughed at you when you shouted 2+2=5 and you refused to forget it. Everyone judged you when you screwed up. So you that’s what realizing you’re wrong is supposed to feel like.

The one who’s wrong is always the loser.

And the one who is right gets attention. The one who is right is intelligent. The one who is right has all of it figured out.

Being right is addictive in itself. When you’re right about something, your brain releases adrenaline and dopamine, which is an out of body experience.

It feels so good that the next time, we want to be right again.

But instead of getting addicted to this feeling, we can approach things with another chemical.

Oxytocin, the love hormone. 

If you go towards things with an open mind, completely rejecting the assumptions you’ve built up, you can allow oxytocin to work its magic.

Instead of going, “Hey buddy, you’re wrong” with a bitch face, take a deep breath.

Then you might say,

“Maybe I’m wrong. I’ve never thought of it this way before.”

You should get started with the basics. The basics actually are the most overlooked, yet the most important part of getting started.

Questioning Your Core Beliefs

I have a friend who recently told me that he believes that money is everything, at least for him. It’s his alpha and his omega, the beginning and the end of every problem.

When I started a healthy discussion about this with him, he backed out. He just shrugged his shoulders and went “Meh.”

I wondered why wouldn’t he want to see the world in another lens, another viewpoint, another perspective. Doesn’t it feel refreshing to do that?

He told me he’s been everywhere. And what he has realized is that he’s special, that he’s not meant for all this mediocrity.

Do you recognize the core beliefs he holds on to here?

  1. Money will give me happiness
  2. I’m not average

Core beliefs are beliefs that control how you see your life, how you see others and how you see the world.

In the above scenario, my friend sees the world in bank accounts, others as mediocre and himself as above average.

All of us have certain core beliefs that we hold on to. Ironically, the most common core belief is “The one who’s right is the winner, the one who’s wrong is the loser.”

Now, some of these core beliefs can be useful (“Everything should be tested with logic and rationality”), some of them can be vague (“Everyone has a passion”), and some of them can be self-limiting (“Everyone is a dickhead so I shouldn’t make friends”).

I want you to think of a belief that you hold in all these three categories, right now.

Done? Great. Write them down.

Ask yourself now, “When was the last time that I checked on this belief? Is it still applicable?”

Some of your beliefs might not even make any sense to you. You might get shocked at some. It might surprise you how they have made your decisions for you all along. 

Talk to someone who wouldn’t share the same belief as you wrote. Listen to them with an open mind. Read a book of an author whose opinion you disagree with.

And if it’s a self-limiting belief that has stemmed from your childhood or a traumatic incident, get rid of it. Question it. Edit it ruthlessly. Why do you hold on to it? Who told you this? How long have you been believing this? Are your decisions affected by this belief? Have you been seeing the world with this preconceived notion? And finally,

Can you improve this belief to a new idea, a better one?

“Wow. I’ve never seen it this way before. Maybe I’m wrong”, you’ll say. 

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