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Are You Stuck? Change Your Beliefs to Change Your Life

Are You Stuck? Change Your Beliefs to Change Your Life - Alpha Doctrine

I’ll make a wager with you, let’s risk $10. My bet is that you have not consciously chosen the beliefs that are dictating your success, happiness and way of interacting with other humans. That’s unfortunate.. If you do nothing about it the consequences will be dire, a mediocre life! Thankfully it’s not that hard to make a change. This article looks at how beliefs work, an easy way to crowdsource better beliefs and how to adopt them.

Why We Have Beliefs and Where They Come From

Life would be too overwhelming if our brains didn’t filter our experiences through a set of beliefs. These beliefs allow us to make sense of reality, which would be too complex otherwise. Unfortunately, in most cases we have not chosen the beliefs that we use as filters to make sense of reality. This impacts every facet of our lives because the because our beliefs determine what bits of reality we focus on.

For example, when I was a young lad I held the belief that I suck with girls. Whether not it was actually true was irrelevant, that was just what I told myself. If I talked to a girl and it went well, that didn’t fit my belief structures and the experience was tossed aside. But if I talked to a girl and I made an ass of myself, I registered and internalized the experience. I continued to reinforce the belief by cherry picking evidence.

To break free of this shit cycle I had to make a conscious change. Instead of telling myself that I suck with girls, I began telling myself that girls love me. I still was not so smooth, however, occasionally a girl would like me and I’d amp that up. I’d mentally loop that good experience, using it to strengthen the reality that girls like me. After a while I began cherry picking evidence that girls like me and discarding all evidence to the contrary. A much better situation!

This works because beliefs are subjective. Our brains don’t care whether our beliefs are empowering or shit. The brain simply needs some beliefs, any will do, and so it picks the first ones that come in. Perhaps as a child you failed a math test and now you believe you’re bad at math. Maybe in Kindergarten you had a hard time making friends so you believe you’re shy. Or you had parents who belittled your efforts so you believe that you’ll never be successful. Two big problems here.

  1. You didn’t consciously choose the belief, a random experience instilled the belief in you.
  2. These beliefs are not based on reality.

Maybe if you had taken a different math test you would have aced it and spent your life believing that you’re good at math. If you had gone to a different school the kids would have been nicer and you’d always consider yourself an extrovert. If I’d hit a home run with the first girl I met instead of striking out, I might have grown up believing that girls love me. And so forth. The way beliefs get created is so subjective it’s ridiculous. So, what the hell can we do about it?

How to Change Your Beliefs

The first step is to pick one area to focus on. For me it was girls. For you, it’s whatever matters most. What’s your number one goal? Become better at public speaking, make more friends, be happier, write better, learn to play the guitar, what? Pick one thing and focus on that. Now, name the beliefs that you have about that thing. Let’s take the guitar, here are some beliefs that a person may hold.

  • I’m not good at music, I have no rhythm.
  • Learning the guitar is too difficult for me, I fail at most things I try.
  • I’ll never be as good as my friend, he’s so amazing!
  • I can’t learn to play the guitar, nobody in my family plays an instrument.
  • This is too hard and I don’t have any natural talent.

None of these beliefs will help you to learn the guitar, you have to wipe them out and replace them with a set of empowering beliefs. For example..

  • I can learn to play the guitar.
  • I can become as good as my friend, he’s only better because he’s practiced more.
  • Practicing is way more important than having innate talent.
  • If one man can learn to do something, so can I.
  • Every time I mess something up I learn a lesson. The more mistakes I make the better I’ll get.

After you’ve picked a skill and created a new set of empowering beliefs, you may want to write them down. Refer to them often, focus on them, burn them into your cerebellum. These beliefs will become your new reality, they are what your brain will use to interpret reality. However, change isn’t going to happen overnight. In fact it might take months or years to fully inculcate these beliefs. That’s OK. At some point this new way of thinking will become automatic.

How Beliefs Work

The strength of a belief depends on how much evidence you have to support it. For example, my belief that I suck with girls was strong because I had a lifetime of cherry picked experiences to back it up. It took me more than a year, and talking to ~2,000 women to reach the point where my unconscious belief is that girls love me. You can’t change a belief by repeating an affirmation. If you tell yourself affirmations that aren’t true and don’t get experience to back them up, you’re essentially lying to yourself! For example, if you tell a depressed person to do nothing but repeat the mantra that I’m happy and life is amazing, it won’t do shit unless they go and get experience to back it up.

On the other hand, a too-common problem is that people start practicing without changing their existing beliefs. This is a recipe for early failure. Imagine that you start practicing the guitar but, subconsciously, you still believe those unhelpful things I listed above. Odds are good you won’t practice long before giving up. However, if you inculcate the new beliefs and then practice, you’ll begin to reinforce a new set of healthy beliefs and the chances that you stick with it are higher.

How to Pick the Most Effective Beliefs

It’s not always clear what the best set of beliefs is. When I’m uncertain, I like to adopt the belief structure of someone who has “made it”. For example, I know of a guy who is top 0.1% with girls, a real genius at it. He’s written extensively and I’ve spent dozens of hours reading what he has to say. From that I’ve been able to build a highly refined belief structure which I reinforce when I go out to talk to girls. Some examples.

  • I don’t look to women for happiness, no woman’s validation can make me as happy as I make myself.
  • Sex is not a big deal, it’s just an expression of fun.
  • I am the source of fun and good emotions, if a woman rejects me she’s missing the opportunity of a lifetime.
  • I’m unique and amazing, a girl would be crazy to not want to be with me.
  • I have an abundance of women in my life, no single women is too important to lose.

And so on. These are subtle, awesome ideas that may take years to internalize. But once you have them you’ll have them for life. I don’t know what area or skill you’d like to develop. However, whatever it is, surely there’s already another guy or girl who you can model yourself on. Hopefully they’ve done some interviews, written a book, written blog posts or left a mark on the world. Use that information to determine their beliefs and then inculcate them. This is a great way to adopt the proper mindset that will bring long term success.

Using Warren Buffet’s 25-5 Rule to Reach Mastery

Warren Buffet 25 5 Rule

Warren Buffet is currently the third richest person in the world so when I heard about his 25-5 rule, I took it seriously. It makes intuitive sense, especially as it relates to the pursuit of greatness.

The 25-5 Rule

1. Write down a list of the 25 things that you want to accomplish in life. For me, a few included:

  • Speak five languages fluently
  • Ski a black diamond hill
  • Travel to 50 countries
  • Become an accomplished chess player
  • Learn how to code in C+
  • Etc.

One doesn’t reach Buffet’s level of success without a laser focus in a small number of directions

Keep going until you have 25 things that you want to do before you die. These should be tasks that take a considerable amount of time (become a chess champion), not things that can be done in a weekend (beat your brother at chess). Now that you have your list, circle the five goals that are the most important to you and…

2. Spend your life doing those five things, forget about the other twenty..

The 5 you’ve chosen are your most important goals and they should receive all of your attention. If you work on all 25 things you’ll never become great at any of them. Of course, if you accomplish your top five goals you can always work your way down the list. The mistake is to focus on too many things and not do any of them exceptionally. As Angela Duckworth says in her exceptional book Grit:

It soon became clear that doing one thing better and better might be more satisfying than staying an amateur at many different things.

If you find this idea intriguing you can find out more about Buffet’s 25-5 rule on Jamesclear.com

Three Changes to the 10,000 Hour Rule

The 10,000 hour rule claims that to reach the top 0.01% level of skill you’ll need 10,000 or more hours of practice. As a conceptualization of mastery this is a good idea. However, we must address several caveats.

  1. One can be unbelievably talented with less than 10,000 hours of practice. In fact, by the time you’ve put in a couple of thousand hours you’re probably already in the top 5% or less.
  2. Becoming famous or “blowing up” does not require 10,000 hours. It’s easy to recognize singers, actors and writers who have become famous without an absurd level of talent.
  3. There is a difference between 10,000 hours of mindless practice and 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. Practicing a skill without reflection, feedback or goal setting is ineffective. Mastery requires deliberate practice.

10,000 Hour Rule Criticisms & Deliberate Practice

Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule theory has helped many people to understand mastery, but it’s not bulletproof

Malcolm Gladwell is the person most associated with the 10,000 hour rule. He repeatedly mentions it in his book Outliers, which spent 11 weeks on the bestseller list. This popularized the idea, however, Gladwell has faced criticism for his claims. For example, this article on Salon points out that,

  • Gladwell chose 10,000 hours because it’s a nice round number. In reality, it’s not like this point marks some magical change. Depending on the circumstances a person could be world class with fewer hours of practice. Or it may require even more!
  • Gladwell didn’t distinguish between the type of practice that the musicians in our study did — a very specific sort of practice referred to as “deliberate practice” which involves constantly pushing oneself beyond one’s comfort zone, following training activities designed by an expert to develop specific abilities, and using feedback to identify weaknesses and work on them.

This last point is key. Deliberate practice is a conscious effort. It involves a critical self examination for strengths and weaknesses, a careful review of performance and the setting of future goals. It’s not as catchy, but perhaps a better name for the 10,000 hour rule would: Plus or minus 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.