Beliefs and how they work

The dictionary definition of a belief system is “a set of principles or tenets which together form the basis of a religion, philosophy, or moral code.” Basically, a belief system, any belief system is a set of rules that help us understand how we should live our lives.

I won’t go anywhere near the reason why we might need someone or some kind of authority to give us such a system to follow in the first place. So, today I will examine what it is and why it is necessary for us to have both at an individual and collective, societal level.

Belief, of course, philosophy tells us is the attitude that something is true. However, takes the slightly different and, arguably, more realistic point of view, that a belief system is a simple form of mental representation that allows the brain to model the world and conscious thought.

To create a comparison point between these two views consider the case of Harry Potter. We all, I hope, understand that “the boy who lived” is an imaginary creation that exists only between the pages of a series of books and on the silver screen, yet most of us are familiar with his life, tribulations, struggle and triumphs.

We may, even, be more familiar with Harry Potter’s lifestory and background than most of those we consider to be friends. The realness of the magical boy is no different to the realness we feel for brands which are equally imaginary and promissory and with which we are equally familiar.

Neuroscientists are beginning to accumulate more evidence that “believing is a human brain function which results in probabilistic representations with attributes of personal meaning and value and thereby guides individuals’ behavior.” Beliefs then are “internal commands” to the brain which guide it to interpret its observations of the outside world.

As such, it should come as no surprise that religion (as an example) helped shape part of the brain’s wiring by reinforcing specific neural pathways that are activated by the brain’s processing and subsequent modelling and interpretation of sensory input.

Such is the need we feel in that particular aspect of our lives, as a matter of fact, that brains seem to be hardwired for belief.

If we change our beliefs we also change our world view. If we change our worldview we also need to change the way we think about ourselves in the world. These two elements work together. One cannot truly function without the other. What we choose to believe is more than whimsy and more than circumstantial responses to transient stimuli. It goes way deeper than that.

This, hopefully, helps you realize the need to work from a mental (and belief system) perspective that serves you best in terms of inherent bias. It also, hopefully, allows you to realize that you can choose to live your life in a way that it becomes more productive, successful and personally more satisfying by applying your own set of rules.

We are each a product of our choices and the sum of our actions. Our decisions take us down paths that define what we each value. Wisdom comes from the realization that we need to minimize the mistakes we make and increase the opportunities to make better choices.

It’s that day of the week. You need coffee. You need sweet things to accompany it. I hope you have at least some cookies, donuts, croissants and chocolate cake at hand. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.

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