Our minds are nothing but a flock of values and beliefs. Each of them bleating and chirping inside the two-and-a-half pound meatloaf that sits between our ears. Certain of them cause us a great deal of suffering whereas other don’t. Few of those naughty values becomes a part of our identity and resists to leave like a whining stubborn little kid.

As we all know, stubborn kids are sometimes a pain in the ass. They refuse to change and impossible to convince. The same applies to beliefs. Certain of them could cause us a great deal of suffering than we could ever possibly imagine. One of the ubiquitous and dangerous millennial belief is that “You are special” and “You deserve better”.

This creates in us a sense of entitlement and we place ourselves on a shiny pedestal and expect great things to happen to us. When you get a good grade or win the grand finale of “The Voice” you are happy about it. But what about when things go downhill? Say they kick you out of your new job or your boyfriend ditches you and you think that you deserve to be “happy”. Happiness is not what you look outside of you but lies in you. Got kicked out of your new job? Think about why you were fired, contemplate, rationalize. It’s staring straight right into the bloodshot eyes of fear, embrace it rather than fighting it.

But how do you know that if your values are good enough without questioning them? If you never question your values, you end up being that narcissistic jerk running around in circles preaching “I deserve better” for your entire goddamn life.

Why is it hard to question your own beliefs?

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear

Thomas Jefferson

Questioning your beliefs is like asking a lion to perform a back-flip (That would look cool though). Each of your belief is carved into your identity and it has grown as a part of you. I learned to expand my mine the hard way.

I was fixated that “busy” equals success. I made my days as chaotic as possible. Each passing day was more exhausting the last one but still I felt under worked. To satiate my thirst for busyness, I cut off literally everything other than writing. I got only around 4 hours of shut eye each day.

The catch, I produced not-so-good articles even working round the clock and on the inside I was an insecure, displeased little kid afraid of “losing his progress” if he does anything other than his work. Somewhere around this time I stumbled upon the book “Essentialism”. One of its core philosophies is more doesn’t equal better. The one core philosophy which I constructed my entire life around.

As the pages turned, I found myself to be a total dickhead who himself was responsible for the mess he made. I stopped showing off sleepless nights as a badge of honor. I became less stressed, more energetic and more optimistic about life.

In the beginning I was scared but soon after putting my beliefs to the test I became more mature. These faulty beliefs are like default computer programs. The moment you open your eyes your brain executes this default program like forever.

“You are the average of five people you spend the most time with”

Jim Rohn, American entrepreneur

Just think about the people whom you interact with the most. They are most likely to hold the same beliefs that you hold and each of this barrier makes it that much harder to question some of your basic beliefs.

Now how can this make me a better human?

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible

Frank zappa

Putting a gun on the forehead of your basic beliefs will help you broaden your perspective. You will become,

  1. Better at handling criticism
  2. Be more open-minded
  3. Become more satisfied with what you have
  4. Better in dealing with people with different points of view
  5. Better in handling problems in your life
  6. Can even become a good leader
  7. Become more aware of the environment that we live in
  8. Become more self-aware

How are you going to question your beliefs?

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident

Arthur Schopenhauer

Questioning your beliefs may sound unfathomable. But there are a few easier ways around it.

Read more books

Exposing yourself to good books will make you a better person. If we ponder about its creation, processing from the nauseating first draft to mind blowing book, the hours spent in research, editing, revising etc… you avoid all the hassle and you hold a portion of a person’s life in your hands. Books shed light on different walks of life, questioning your basic narratives and could change you into a better human. Here are some of those you could start with.

  1. Sapiens – A brief history of humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
  2. Stumbling upon happiness by Daniel Gilbert

Adopting a mindset that my beliefs could be wrong

Being skeptical about your most basic beliefs, hunting flaws in them could unlock a gazillion ways of expanding your perspective. This could help you turn into a much more mature person. It helps you accept new perspectives much easier. Just like Tobey Maguire getting rid of the venom from his body, your beliefs slowly detach from your identity once you adopt this mindset.

One of the richest men you have never heard of is Ray Dalio. He bet that the stock market would go broke in 1982. But it was in 1982 had an unprecedented rise. It was his I am always right mindset that made him go broke. He vowed not to make such a mistake again and tries to find shortcomings even in his own theories. [1]

Today Ray Dalio’s net worth is 18.6 billion and still he willingly accepts that his beliefs are flawed if proved right.

That’s Ray Dalio

The main intention of questioning your beliefs is to expand your perspective. There is no point in adopting new mindsets just because someone on the street told you that it’s the new ‘trend’. Exposing your beliefs, having constructive debates on the topic will probably help you understand the world much better and making you better.

Actionable steps:

  1. Join Reddit communities which discuss various topics. This could be a good way to expose yourself. Some topics I recommend are veganism, atheism, Stoicism, Consumerism, etc…
  2. Have debating partners on topics that you are excited to discuss. Be it your parents, siblings, kids or your wife. Instead of keeping mum voice out your opinion. You will probably be criticised. Be open to that and choose what’s side is best for you.
  3. Try blending with people of a different culture. Ex: Living or visiting  a foreign country, having a friend coming from an entirely different background.
  4. Learn a language. Language and culture are codependent. Learning a language helps you to know about their culture too.
  5. Try out different things, Ex: Try various cuisines, try following different routines. The more you are exposed the stronger you are likely to become

Most important of all, don’t pretend to be something that you are not and have fun.

Explore the world and question your basic beliefs. I am questioning mine… How about you?

FOOTNOTES:

[1] 5 Mindsets that create success by Mark Manson


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