top of page


“He was bitter and cruel, an alcoholic and drug addict who almost killed himself several times. Today he serves a life sentence in prison for the murder of a liquor store cashier who "got in his way." He has two sons, born a mere eleven months apart, one of whom grew up to be "just like Dad": a drug addict who lived by stealing and threatening others until he, too, was put in jail for attempted murder. His brother, however, is a different story: a man who's raising three kids, enjoys his marriage, and appears to be truly happy. As regional manager for a major national concern, he finds his work both challenging and rewarding. He's physically fit, and has no alcohol or drug addictions! How could these two young men have turned out so differently, having grown up in virtually the same environment? Both were asked privately, unbeknownst to the other, "Why has your life turned out this way?" Surprisingly, they both provided the exact same answer: "What else could I have become, having grown up with a father like that?" So often we're seduced into believing that events control our lives and that our environment has shaped who we are today. No greater lie was ever told. It's not the events of our lives that shape us, but our beliefs as to what those events mean. Two men are shot down in Vietnam and imprisoned in the infamous Hoa Lo prison. They are isolated, chained to cement slabs, and continuously beaten with rusty shackles and tortured for information. Yet although these men are receiving the same abuse, they form radically different beliefs about their experience. One man decides that his life is over, and in order to avoid any additional pain, commits suicide. The other pulls from these brutalizing events a deeper belief in himself, his fellow man, and his Creator than he's ever had before. Captain Gerald Coffee uses his experience of this to remind people all over the world of the power of the human spirit to overcome virtually any level of pain, any challenge, or any problem. Two women turn seventy years old, yet each takes a different meaning from the event. One "knows" that her life is coming to an end. To her, seven decades of living mean that her body must be breaking down and she'd better start winding up her affairs. The other woman decides that what a person is capable of at any age depends upon her belief, and sets a higher standard for herself. She decides that mountain climbing might be a good sport to begin at the age of seventy. For the next twenty five years she devotes herself to this new adventure in mastery, scaling some of the highest peaks in the world, until today, in her nineties, Hulda Crooks has become the oldest woman to ascend Mount Fuji. You see, it's never the environment; it's never the events of our lives, but the meaning we attach to the events—how we interpret them—that shapes who we are today and who we'll become tomorrow. Beliefs are what make the difference between a lifetime of joyous contribution and one of misery and devastation. Beliefs are what separate a Mozart from a Manson. Beliefs are what cause some individuals to become heroes, while others "lead lives of quiet desperation." What are our beliefs designed for? They're the guiding force to tell us what will lead to pain and what will lead to pleasure. Whenever something happens in your life, your brain asks two questions: 1) Will this mean pain or pleasure? 2) What must I do now to avoid pain and/or gain pleasure? The answers to these two questions are based on our beliefs, and our beliefs are driven by our generalizations about what we've learned could lead to pain and pleasure. These generalizations guide all of our actions and thus the direction and quality of our lives. Generalizations can be very useful; they are simply the identification of similar patterns. For example, what allows you to open a door?. You look down at a handle and, although you've never seen this specific one before, you can generally feel certain that this door will open if you turn the handle right or left, if you push or pull it. Why do you believe this? Simply, your experience of doors has provided enough references to create a sense of certainty that allows you to follow through. Without this sense of certainty, we would virtually be unable to leave the house, drive our cars, use a telephone, or do any one of the dozens of things we do in a day. Generalizations simplify our lives and allow us to function. Unfortunately, generalizations in more complex areas of our lives can oversimplify and sometimes create limiting beliefs. Maybe you've failed to follow through on various endeavors a few times in your life, and based on that, you developed a belief that you are incompetent. Once you believe this is true, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. You may say, "Why even try if I'm not going to follow through anyway?" Or perhaps you've made a few poor decisions in business or in relationships, and have interpreted that to mean you will always "sabotage" yourself. Or maybe in school you didn't learn as quickly as you thought other kids did, and rather than considering the idea that you had a different learning strategy, you may have decided that you were "learning- disabled." On another level, isn't racial prejudice fueled by a wholesale generalization about an entire group of people? The challenge with all these beliefs is that they become limitations for future decisions about who you are and what you're capable of. We need to remember that most of our beliefs are generalizations about our past, based on our interpretations of painful and pleasurable experiences. The challenge is threefold: 1) most of us do not consciously decide what we're going to believe; 2) often our beliefs are based on misinterpretation of past experiences; and 3) once we adopt a belief, we forget it's merely an interpretation. We begin to treat our beliefs as if they're realities, as if they are gospel. In fact, we rarely, if ever, question our long-held beliefs. If you ever wonder why people do what they do, again, you need to remember that human beings are not random creatures: all of our actions are the result of our beliefs. Whatever we do, it is out of our conscious or unconscious beliefs about what will lead to pleasure or away from pain. If you want to create long-term and consistent changes in your behaviors, you must change the beliefs that are holding you back.”-Page 45, “Awaken the Giant Within” by Tony Robbins

306 views0 comments
bottom of page