by John G. Johnson
Like it or not humans are always learning. And we learn quickly. It’s not just our minds that learn, but our bodies as well.Sometimes a single experience is all it takes. Rapid learning can occur when an experience is unique, novel and accompanied by a heightened emotion. What’s interesting is that the more this learning event occurs, the more it becomes a stronger aspect of our being, hard-wired, so to speak, thus leading us to create “conclusions,” “rules” “a point of view” “beliefs,” etc. about this unique event. Take for example, going to a restaurant and eating a meal that upsets your stomach. The next time around, you’ll most likely be cautious of either the restaurant in question or the same meal. However, if you decide to give the same place and meal another try, and if the same thing occurs - again - then you’ll definitely build even stronger conclusions either about that establishment or the meal. In fact, it’s how phobias are created - the body has learned to respond in a particular way that’s usually undesirable.
There’s another way we learn and acquire knowledge, and that’s through detecting patterns. Our minds are continuously scanning for and cataloging patterns in our environment. The interesting thing is that this pattern-detection activity takes place at a level that’s - below our awareness! Inferences are then derived from these patterns, manifesting in the form of, attitudes, beliefs or ideas, etc.
There are times, however, when these patterns are made available to our conscious minds. This gives now us the opportunity to discover the source of our present attitudes and conclusions about a provocative subject in question. This revelation also now puts us in an immediate position to decide whether a specific attitude, belief, etc is useful to hold onto - or not.
But oftentimes these patterns aren't made available to us consciously. And all that we are aware of are just the “conclusions,” and their various forms, be that attitudes, beliefs, gut-feelings, rules, ideas etc., that seem to just “exist” without a source. A simple exercise to prove this is to list as many of the attitudes, beliefs, conclusions and ideas you are aware of, and then ask yourself how did you come to acquire them. This unconscious pattern-detection mechanism has kept our species alive for millions of years. So, too, has our ability to infer and to generalize from these patterns as well. We use what we have concluded, (attitudes, beliefs, gut-feelings, rules, ideas etc.) as rudders in our lives which influence our: behaviors, thoughts and how we see the world. But this mechanism does have its flaws:
IF YOU are having trouble accomplishing a sought-after goal or activity, regardless of whatever field you are in (personal or professional), or are dissatisfied with your level of performance in a specific arena, then it’s useful to examine your attitudes, beliefs, even the excuses you create as to why a certain outcome is the way it is surrounding the context in question. And then - challenge them!:
- Are they helping you to move in the direction of your choice?
- Are there counter-examples to what you believe to be true?
- Are there more useful beliefs, attitudes and points of views to adopt that can serve you better?
We don’t have to prisoners of our thoughts and experiences.Success in any endeavor requires that useful beliefs, ways of seeing and even attitudes be adopted, because, as stated before, they act as rudders influencing our behaviors and the choices we make that push and pull us in the direction we choose.
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