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  • Writer's pictureTony Richards

The Role of Beliefs in Goal Setting

The philosopher Anton Chekhov gave us the principle that mankind is what he or she believes they are. Our beliefs deliver direct commands to our nervous system. If our beliefs deliver powerful forces of positivity to our system, then they are tremendous forces of good things in our lives. On the other hand, if our beliefs head more in a negative direction or a limited direction, then these thoughts and actions can be devastating. Just understanding this, can you see how this would affect our goals when we set them and also the corresponding actions needed to achieve them?

Beliefs are like a compass for direction and maps for understanding the territory we cover. They give us either the certainty we will achieve or the certainty we will fail. If our beliefs are taking us in the wrong direction and into the wrong areas of achievement, then we are doomed before we begin. Beliefs can really empower you or disempower and sabotage all your plans. What often counts the most is not the reality of the situation but rather our belief about the situation. Our brains simply direct us to action based on what it is told about the situation through our beliefs. We have all heard of the placebo effect, the pill could actually contain no medicinal value, but if we believe it does, our body responds to our beliefs, not the reality of the efficacy of the pill.

Our beliefs are our states of certainty which governs our behavior. The great thing about beliefs is that they are a result of your own personal choice.

We all decide what our beliefs are going to be. We can also change or exchange our beliefs in a matter of moments. I have seen people change what they believe in a quick moment of time. I have also seen people refuse to change what they believe with overwhelming evidence to the contrary to what they believe. They could have changed, but they refused. This can be because they were not convinced or because they were convinced but their ego and pride would not allow them to change their belief system. This is played out right in from of us as leaders every day.

This not only affects the goal setting process but also execution. You will not execute something with precision and excellence if your beliefs do not line up with the desired outcome. Where do our beliefs originate or come from? Here are a few examples of sources for beliefs:

  1. Environment. This is probably the single most potent generator of beliefs. There are examples of people who have overcome their environment, and these are the hero stories we gravitate toward. Unfortunately, they are few and far between.

  2. Events. There are positive, neutral and negative events in our lives which create experiences that shape our beliefs. A recently divorced female may believe there are no good men out there or that she will never marry again. A patient who contracts a disease may form the belief they will not make it and others may decide to believe they will overcome it and win.

  3. Knowledge. Sometimes limited knowledge can limit our beliefs because we just aren’t informed. On the other hand, revealed knowledge to us can cause us to count the information as valid and we buy in to what we’ve learned.

  4. Past Outcomes. Sometimes because we have achieved something positive once, we begin to think we can produce the same positive results each time. On the other hand, if we failed once, we begin to limit our beliefs on what we can achieve from that one past outcome.

These are paramount when doing your strategic thinking around your goals for the year, the quarter, the week or the day. Can you see how beliefs shape your thinking and therefore why and how you set your goals? The belief that generates the thought “someone like me can never ________” will sabotage your ability to accomplish that goal. The belief that generates the thought “why not me?” will push, energize and empower you to accomplish that goal. The failure belief system will breed failure and the success beliefs will breed success.

So, the bottom line is, when you are doing your goal setting process, take some time to examine your beliefs. Some people actually write down and summarize their belief system and philosophy, this is called a manifesto. Search the internet for some manifestos, read them carefully and see the power of the writer’s belief system. What does your belief system look like and does it support the goals you are setting?

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