DLW is an occasional blog about how people spend the time of their lives (every moment) to enable health, balance, meaning and fulfillment. As a blogspot about doing, it draws from personal stories and from studies of everyday living. It's main idea is that to be well, people must be involved fully in what they do. The activities that occupy our days help to connect us to the world, define who we are, and keep us healthy.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Self-Fulfilling Magic of Belief and Perception

For years, psychologists have known that each person's own "reality" is created through the lenses of their own experiences, personality, and beliefs. Because experience is such a powerful teacher, including the experiences we observe in others, we can be passive participants and still be influenced. This is particularly true when we observe social approval for some acts and disapproval for others. Social approval is one of the most powerful sources of motivation. This explains why so many people are like sheep in determining what to wear, what to do, and sadly, even what to like, dislike or believe.

Additionally, as I have blogged previously, our bodies are known to respond physiologically to the feelings we attach to our perceptions and beliefs. We can signal our bodies to release good hormones or harmful hormones based on our emotions and beliefs. That's "Why Zebras don't get ulcers" as Robert Sapolsky wisely noted. Zebras don't spend time worrying about the consequences of what has happened in the past, or the possibilities of what might happen in the future. They live in the moment. By doing so, Zebras release stress hormones only when it is necessary for their survival.

Which brings me closer to the point of this post. Part of the reason the world economy is tanking is because people are spending so much time behaving as though they believe the sky is falling. The economy will only worsen if group think leads to the emotions and behaviors that make it so. A recession is the opposite of the unbridled euphoria of an economic bubble. People bought property because they believed it would lead to greater wealth. As soon as those beliefs changed collectively, and it was perceived that Armageddon was upon us, people began behaving in ways that began to create the outcomes they feared, and that we now have.

How does the world turn around a collective perception of doom to one that leads to behaviors of investment and optimism? That, my friends, is the central task confronting political leaders everywhere. Can each of us help? Certainly we can, by taking actions ourselves that signal optimism. Need a new washing machine? Buy it. You'll never get a better deal. But purchase it with money saved, not money borrowed. How about the Rolex? On that one, perhaps don't make the purchase. A Rolex is a high priced functional watch. It doesn't keep time better than a less expensive watch, and it's an unnecessary indulgence. Displaying this new purchase will not be greated with much glee in the current environment. But more to the point, such a purchase will not do much to stimulate the economy.

So, what is the intended take away message for today? It is simply this: We can do ourselves and our world a favor by shedding the current mindset of doom and gloom and adopting a self-fulfilling belief that brighter days are ahead. In fact, through our beliefs and behaviors, they can be created just around the corner.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks again for another insightful post... I am mindful that in addition to personal perception, there is collective perception often driven by social forces, the media, internal institutions, etc. ... As I have pondered on topics related to your post on a number of issues (i.e. war, education, health care, the economy), I am mindful that in addition to individual perceptions and actions that here in America we need a collective change of culture in order to have true lasting change. I have especially thought of this with health care. We are often so entitled in what we want, yet used to not paying for it through taxation and yet we too often turn away from the reality that so many are hurting and without insurance. I am prayerful we can slowly shift our thinking in relationship to many of our current national and global issues.
    Thanks again for your post


About Me

I am a writer, lifelong student, former academic and new blogger. My passion continues to be everyday living. I am interested in what people do, how, when and why they do it, and what it means for their their understanding of the world and hence, their well being.