02. Experts Corner

The Power of Belief

August 6, 2020

A surprising finding from neuroscience research is that our beliefs are based on only a tiny fragment of the sensory information available to us. Ultimately our view of reality is subjectively constructed. At Mpowered, we often share with our clients the power of belief, and how our amazing brain creates them, and ultimately, how our beliefs guide our behaviors. So in this article I'll cover the key concepts on how we form our beliefs, and the power our beliefs have in shaping who we are and what we do.

What do you see above?

‘Opportunity nowhere’ or ‘opportunity now here’…?

This is a great example of subconscious filtering. Even when such filtering is subtle, it can dramatically change the way we filter life's experiences, shaping everything we do. When we think of belief, we often think of faith. But at a more fundamental level, belief forms our very view of reality, and accordingly how we act in that reality.

How Our Brain Processes the Ingredients of Beliefs…

The brain is amazing, it is the most complex structure known to mankind, only weighing 2% of the body's total weight, yet taking up 20% of the body’s energy resources. With one hundred thousand chemical reactions happening in the brain every second of everyday, it is the most powerful super computer in the world. Yet unfortunately, it comes with no operating instructions!

So, let’s start at the beginning. We take in information from the world around us in via our different senses at a rate of about 2 million bits per second. That said, our brains simply cannot cope with this amount of information, so it filters this down to 134 bits per second using a few tricks up it’s sleeve. Namely this happens by generalizing, distorting and deleting the information deep in our unconscious mind. It then evaluates the data using our meta programs, being our past experiences, our values and current beliefs, so that the information fits with our current model of the world.

...and then Constructs Beliefs

This whole filtering process is done unconsciously, so we generally don’t get to choose how we filter information coming in from our environment. It is all done by the unconscious mind, focusing on only a tiny bit of the huge amount of data available. The goal is to help us achieve our outcomes and to create a version of the event that fits with our current model of the world, also known in neuroscience as the ‘internal model’. Next we internalize that hugely filtered and changed experience made up from our senses, to create the internal representation or belief about a particular event.

Once we have an internal representation or belief, we log that by applying labels to the experience which is the way we describe it to ourselves - either a good experience or bad experience.

Our Version of Experience

So what we process is a hugely diminished version of what creates our actual experience. Therefore, what we perceive to be real in our minds, is entirely drawn from this very limited pool of information. This means that, in essence, we create a simulation of our perceived reality, which is inherently subjective.

This explains why two people can have the same experience and interpret the situation entirely differently. Imagine if we asked an architect and a policeman to walk down a busy high street and asked them to describe what they noticed about it at the other end. Well the policeman is likely to tell us about the people, traffic and the potential for crime. Whereas an architect would probably tell us about the different styles and ages of the buildings. So if we listen to these two accounts, we probably wouldn’t know they were talking about the same experience. That’s because they have different internal representations.

Freeing Our Perceptions

What is most intriguing is how people cling on to very limiting beliefs, often providing evidence to support a narrow view of an experience - rather than challenging themselves in terms of how they interpret what it can actually mean. This is an easily learned habit to fall into, but it can also severely limit our potential to be aware and act on opportunities all around us.

The key take-away is that once you become mindful and aware of how flexible your interpretation of your experiences can really be, the more open your belief system becomes to the things you can choose to achieve - in literally any situation! It’s all about replacing limiting thought processes, with more empowering beliefs that support positive outcomes.

It's not about what’s right or wrong, it’s about what’s most useful to believe.

If you are interested in delving into the surprising ways we perceive reality on the sports field, then also check out this blog.

Sports Vision for Situational Awareness – Part 1

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