Belief – the Driving Force Behind Our Lives

Few things are as powerful as what people believe.

In a global sense, beliefs can drive persons to do wonderful or terrible things. Charities are based in beliefs about caring for the less fortunate. Wars are fought over differences in beliefs.

On a more individual basis, our beliefs help shape us and provide headlights for our lives. They guide us.

Think about it. Every choice is based on some kind of belief. Every action taken is based on some kind of belief. People hold religious, cultural, professional and familial beliefs about themselves, others, and/or a higher power. People act out of those beliefs when interacting with others, making professional and personal choices, and finding or not finding satisfaction in life.

What do you believe?

What do you believe about yourself? About life? About your purpose in life? About why you do what you do? Religious, cultural and familial ties may be unseen forces shaping how persons interact at work and home.

For example, a person from a family where assertiveness was discouraged may hold the belief he/she cannot make a difference. He or she may be hesitant to speak up at staff meetings or home out of this belief. Persons who grew up with the belief they can impact their environment may take a more active role in policy changes for themselves or others.

Such beliefs are not formally “taught” but are the result of experience and observation.

Other beliefs, such as those from religious or cultural backgrounds, may be formally taught.

Cultural ties give people “rules” to live by. Cultural norms dictate ways of reacting to persons and situations. Some cultures emphasize the individual’s achievements, while some place the greatest meaning on working together with others. How one relates to different genders and ages may also be culturally influenced.

One’s responsibility toward others is shaped by such beliefs. Persons coming from a religious and/or cultural expectation of helping one’s fellow man may have a different orientation towards work or social ties than someone who does not. They may think of living out their faith through relationships.

Beliefs can change as persons adapt to new environments and larger cultures. However, many beliefs are very strong and may form a ‘default position” for a person even when new beliefs have been assimilated into their lives. This may be especially true during times of crisis.

When a person’s actions are incongruent with his or her beliefs, that person usually experiences great inner conflict. This happens when a person makes choices or in is an environment where he or she in doing something that opposes what he or she believes should be done.

(This article was adapted from Stephanie Hittle’s Heath Care Today column and is used by permission of the Dayton Daily News.)

Disclaimer: Information provided on these pages is general in nature and should not be used in place of individual counseling.