Why does what we believe matter so much? And how do beliefs affect our behaviour? As someone who has always been curious about why people believe what they believe, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and reading about this topic.
How we act depends on what we believe, which means when we think something is good, we will do more, whereas if we think that something is terrible, we will avoid it and discourage others from doing it. Regardless of what we do, our actions are driven by our beliefs.
What we believe matters because it determines how we will act. So it’s important to be considerate of our ideas and how they affect the way we see the world.
Keep reading, and I will share why I think what we believe matters so much.
Why Does What We Believe Matter?
When someone does something that we don’t like or understand, we might suggest they are doing it for no reason, but this is never the case. Everything that everyone does is done for a reason, and those reasons are always influenced by what they believe.
To given an example, if you are driving to work and someone pulls in front of you and cuts you off, you might slam the brakes and spill your coffee. Clearly, in this situation, you would be upset, partly because you might have made a mess, but mainly because the person who cut you off was a total jerk about it. But what if you knew that person and knew that there was an emergency that they were responding to? Would you feel any different?
While that example might not be great, what you believe about the situation dramatically affects how you respond to it.
Not knowing anything about the other person’s intentions, we’d assume they were careless, but knowing they had a reason, we might be more understanding. Thinking of it differently, if we were to cut someone else off, would we realize our mistake, or would we disregard it because it was unavoidable.
Put another way, what we think about a situation determines how we will respond to it. If we believe we’ve been wronged, we might be more likely to get upset and overreact. If we assume the other person made an unintentional mistake, we might be more forgiving and move on.
In many situations, we might not know the other person’s motivation, so it is hard to judge the situation fairly. However, if we have a clear set of beliefs, we can be consistent in our actions and responses to what happens around us.
Another way to think about this is to consider how we look at the world.
If we don’t have any personal beliefs, we might accept what everyone else believes.
In some situations, this doesn’t matter too much because there aren’t any consequences. But when it comes to making big decisions, we want to make sure that we align our beliefs and what we want out of life.
If you believe that life doesn’t matter, you might waste your time doing things that don’t matter. However, if you think that what you do is important, you might think twice about wasting time. In other words, you will focus on what is important to you and not what other people think you should care about.
What we believe is important because it serves as a framework for making choices and what we are willing to accept or try to change. If you have a set of beliefs that aim to make the world a better place, you will work towards that, whereas you might not have any motivations with no such convictions.
Why do we believe what we believe?
It is hard to know where our beliefs come from, but we can assume our culture plays an important role. You might not know precisely why you believe that murder is wrong, but you intuitively feel that killing someone is not the right thing to do.
In many ways, our morality might come from the predominant religion of the place where we live. We might not believe in religion, but it is a part of our culture, and so it has a lot of influence over the information that we get from the media and the people around us.
Cultures adapt over time, but they also capture the beliefs of the people at any given moment.
Another essential source of what we believe is what our parents or family teach us. In many ways, we might learn the big ideas from outside the family, but most of our day-to-day activities happen with our family. So the way our family treats each other serves as a model for how we should treat people.
If your family is ok with eating with your feet, no one will raise an eyebrow when you grab something with your toes. But if you were to do the same thing at a function with strangers, they would be surprised to see such behaviour.
What is right and wrong is relative to the people we are around, so what we believe might come from our family, but how we act is determined by the people around us.
Some other ways that we come to believe what we believe tend to stem from our education, be that at school or what we learn on our own. What is important here is that we can believe things differently from what the people around us think.
As someone who has always been curious, there are lots of things I’ve come to believe that my family thinks are crazy, but often they just don’t know the truth.
What we believe matters comes down to our experiences and the people we spend the most time with.
Our beliefs are important because they influence our behaviour and our sense of right and wrong. Without thought, we wouldn’t have much of anything else.
Why are our beliefs important?
Our beliefs are important because they make us who we are and influence how we act. Our ideas also guide us in our decision-making and direct the choices we make. If we think that something is good, we will do more of it; if we believe it is terrible, we will avoid it as much as possible.
One place where beliefs are essential in our lives is when it comes to what we should do with our lives or where we find our purpose. Some people don’t believe in positivity or optimism, or they are so practical that they can’t imagine that meaning can be anything more than putting food on the table.
But what we think about purpose matters a lot when it comes to finding our purpose in life.
If you believe that you should seek meaning or purpose in your life, then it is something you will put some effort into. Whereas if you think it is a stupid idea, you will ignore it altogether. The right choice is debatable, as who is to say that purpose is suitable for everyone. But what matters is the benefits that we can get out of ideas likes purpose and meaning.
Previously I talked about the science of why purpose is important, one of the reasons was that people who have a sense of purpose live longer. While it wasn’t clear why it happened, it suggests that what we believe matters because if we have a purpose, we will likely live longer and be happier.
What you believe is personal and up to you, and you don’t need to justify it to anyone else.
Regardless of how you act, what you think matters as it affects so many other aspects of life, be it your sense of satisfaction or life expectancy. So for these reasons, don’t neglect your beliefs and take time to make sure your thoughts are consistent with each other; you don’t want to believe the wrong things for the wrong reasons.
At the same time, if you want to live a more meaningful life, it is vital to believe that life is meaningful. While it might be challenging to believe this without any evidence, it is possible to convince yourself that it is true; you need to open your mind to that belief.
If you are looking for a boast in that direction, you might enjoy my book called How To Be Amazing, A Manifesto. The book covers 42 ways to live a meaningful life and takes life experience, science and stories to connect everything together. Check it out at the link above.