For anyone involved in self-development, transformation, or self-actualization circles as I am, inevitably, discussion comes around to the concept of our beliefs. Obviously, our beliefs have a powerful, direct impact on what each of us will experience, and I would say it directly affects what we can experience, as I’ve discussed here and here.
On that note, there has been a lively ongoing discussion in one of my social groups pertaining to the idea of determining which comes first: a belief or the evidence? Is a belief the foundation from which evidence is derived, or is evidence the necessary bedrock upon which a belief is built?
From an objective point of view, the answer seems obvious. That is to say, if one is firmly entrenched in the mainstream idea that we are each separate beings, existing within an objective reality that is external from us, then it is clear that along with everything else, the evidence we may seek it exists somewhere “out there.” And if we wish to change our belief, it also seems obvious that “evidence gathering” would be appropriate, in order to feel supported in the belief change we are looking to make.
This particular discussion went something like this:
– One person was unsure as to whether or not the Universe would provide for them.
– A second person stated that believing that it will was “the trick.”
– And a third person, who I’ll refer to as “Christian,” had this to say [edited for the purpose of clarity here]:
“I’ll settle for belief based on evidence. Proof is harder to come by… And no, the evidence doesn’t just come after belief… Evidence is foundational to belief.”
In response to this, I’d like to submit the following alternative view, as I have come to experience it, which begins by elucidating three points:
Number One: We are not consciously aware of all the beliefs we are currently actively supporting.
Number Two: Beliefs and actions are synonymous. If we say, “I believe X is true,” but we are not acting in accord with that belief, that is a clear indication that we actually believe that something else is true (see Number One).
Therefore, Number Three: Believing that something is possible is itself a new belief, and evidence may then be gathered from that new vantage point.
Frequently, we confuse the issue when it comes to our own beliefs. We may have an intellectual understanding of the concept, say for instance, that “I am supported by the Universe/God/Creation.” We may even say we believe this, but if we are still running around, trying to make ends meet, trying to “survive,” it is clear that our intellectual understanding is not in accord with our belief. The belief in this case would be, more accurately, that “the only support I have is that which I go out and acquire for myself, and if I stop, so does the support.” Quite the contrary belief to what we perhaps thought we were giving our energy to.
The idea of “looking for evidence first” is built upon a false premise. It’s based on the idea that you are separate from your reality – that there is “stuff out there” – objective evidence – for you to gather and make use of. But there is no objective evidence, because there is no “out there.” It’s all within you.
Put another way, you are always the one looking at the evidence, viewing it from your perspective, coloring it with your own perceptions, interpreting it from your own (likely unconscious) currently held beliefs. The evidence does not exist without your experience of it.
For instance, how is it decided that something even qualifies as evidence? You guessed it, our beliefs.
Let’s take the idea of the Law of Attraction (LOA) for example. There are many people who have misunderstood this idea, with the interpretation that one can change their reality through thought alone. But LOA is not about sitting on the couch, imagining really hard for “X” to happen, and then waiting and expecting for X to magically manifest while still sitting on the couch. No.
Law of Attraction is about spending time imagining what the new reality will look like, and then taking the appropriate action as if that reality already exists. Because it does.
Part of the “action” one must then take, in order to see X made manifest, is in the purposeful elimination of all the things one was doing before hand, the things that are part of the “old” reality, the things that are incongruent with X.
Put another way, the “you” that exists in that new, “X has manifested” reality doesn’t spend all of their time on the couch, just imagining things. Some of the time they are, sure, but more often than not, they are out doing things, living the experience of that reality. So if all you’re doing is sitting on the couch, you aren’t doing the things that that version of you does. You aren’t being congruent with that “X manifested” reality.
But I digress. Getting back to the main topic, let’s take this a step deeper into the idea presented above, number two, that belief and action are synonymous.
With that in mind, a person wishing to adopt a change begins with a belief, as demonstrated by their actions. And that belief is that X is not possible.
To illustrate this, let’s take something simple: If you dropped your keys on the floor, you would immediately take the action of picking them up. You would not need to change anything about your beliefs to do this. You would know that you could pick up the keys, and your behavior would align with that belief; you would act accordingly. Barring physical impairments, there would be no reason to believe that picking up the keys would be impossible, so no time would be spent contemplating whether it would be possible or not. You’d believe that you could, and so you would pick them up. Belief = action.
So it follows that, if one becomes open to a change, it means that already a belief shift has taken place. And that belief is that X is now (at least) possible. That is an entirely different belief than the previous one, demonstrated through one’s actions, that X is not possible. One must begin to change with the new belief, that now, the possibility exists that (at least) X could work.
Let’s flip this to illustrate what I mean.
If you knew that X was absolutely, categorically impossible, you would not be able to find any evidence to the contrary. Even if I handed you some, you’d be working to disprove it, or call it anomalous, or chance, or any number of other ways to explain it away. Why? Because you hold the belief that X is not possible.
In order to find any shred of “evidence” that X is possible, you must first be open to the idea of those possibilities existing at all.
Would you be open to evidence of humans being able to fly without technology? No you likely would not. You would laugh it off. Because your belief trumps the evidence. Cognitive dissonance comes into play here – the inability to view evidence objectively, because it runs counter to one’s own beliefs.
Let’s get back to some further points Christian made from the group pertaining to beliefs and evidence [again, edited for clarity here]:
“I think LOA belief is based on evidence too. When I [asked about this] everyone began sharing “spiritual” things they had experiences in their pasts to support it (sic). We all do…”
The idea that belief precedes evidence does not invalidate evidence. I would definitely agree that all of us use evidence to support our statements and experiences. All of us do this afterwards. This is not in dispute. But we still start with the belief.
“Beginners see the evidence in others’ lives and begin experimenting based on that. If nobody got actual results, nobody would be preaching it.”
Not true. “Beginners,” in this context, are still operating from a new belief, from their point of view – the belief that something they formerly believed it was impossible (as demonstrated through their actions) is now possibly true for them.
Now, before we move on, it’s important to point out that different beliefs contain different degrees of strength behind them, and as such, will produce different degrees of results.
Whatever evidence you acquire reflects the degree of belief you put out to begin with; what you put out is what you get back. So if you start with a wishy-washy belief, you get mixed results.
Belief that X is merely “possible” is not a very strong position.
Belief that “maybe X can work for me also” is similarly milquetoast.
On the other hand, knowing something, like you know that the sun will rise tomorrow, is the strongest degree of belief I have personally come across. Operating from this perspective will produce dramatically more effective results.
Case in point: before the year 1954, it was firmly believed by collective humanity that it was impossible for a human being to run a mile in under four minutes. It was referred to as the “four-minute barrier.” Everyone who had attempted to break this barrier had failed. Olympic athletes had come close, but to no avail.
There was literally zero evidence to support the idea that this four-minute barrier could be broken by a human being. Zero. Literally all of the collective, objective known evidence in existence at the time supported the undeniable “truth” of this physically impossibility.
Until Roger Bannister came along.
Bannister chose to believe that it was possible, despite having nothing to support his belief. But he did not just believe it was “possible.” Bannister believed, beyond any doubt, despite zero evidence in existence to support him, that he would break that barrier, personally.
And break it, he did.
This action, this feat could not have happened unless Bannister believed he could do it first, because there was no evidence, at all, to build any belief upon. There was nothing there. Nada. Zip.
The same holds true for every single innovation and breakthrough our civilization has ever made, every creation that leaped beyond the supporting evidence of what came before it.
Let’s continue one last time with one of Christian’s assertions:
“The result of acting on that evidence produces results that provide the evidence for a growing belief. It is a positive reinforcement cycle.”
I could not agree more. This is a powerful tool to be sure, but this positive reinforcement cycle is built upon the new belief that such a thing is possible, not the other way around.
Taking the example I mentioned above, after Bannister broke the four minute mile, many others began to follow suit. A quick google search brought up the following quote:
“The “4 minute barrier” has since been broken by many athletes, and is now the standard of all male professional middle distance runners.”
Bannister’s accomplishment gave those that followed permission to build upon their own new belief: that if the four-minute mile was possible for Bannister, then it might also be possible for them. Did these runners have any personal evidence that they could do this? No.
But, the evidence they saw in others did support their own new belief that such a thing was possible for them, despite the fact that their previously held belief (again, demonstrated by their actions, but likely unconsciously to them) indicated that they could not do this.
Now, all of the above said, as part of the experience of being on this physical plane, we are also dealing with the beliefs of the collective, as a reflection. This has a strong influence on our own beliefs, whether we realize it or not, but it is not insurmountable. The collective belief that the four-minute mile was impossible was a formidable aspect that Bannister had to contend with in his time, in holding to his own contrary belief.
Few would join him there, out on that limb, so far astray from the collectively held presumptions. But that did not sway his belief.
It should further be noted that there are also issues as to whether what you are wanting, “X,” is actually relevant for you, specifically, to experience. Depending on what “X”is, it may not be relevant for you.
But if becoming X is truly relevant for you, and you know that in your heart, as Bannister did, then you take your first steps in that new belief, that it is possible for you, no matter what evidence, or lack thereof, is there to support it.
Then, and only then, after taking those steps, will you eventually find the evidence to support that belief, and engage that powerful positive reinforcement cycle to further drive you forward.
And from there, as you forge a new path, you bridge the gap from imagination into the physical, 3-D reality. You experience the act of creation, as the Creator that each of us actually is.
And it all starts with belief.