I have two seemingly conflicting beliefs. The first is that whenever possible, it is best to know the truth. By default I think that we sometimes avoid the truth, and we sometimes avoid giving the truth. In almost every case, though, having a clear picture of the truth will allow you to operate more correctly. At the same time, I also believe that holding certain beliefs will benefit you whether they're true or not.
One such belief is that anything is possible. Even in the face of seemingly impossible tasks, I like to believe that maybe I can do it. It's a little bit insane for me to believe that a two-man team of Todd and me can compete against WordPress and Tumblr, but I really believe that we can. Now that we've built something that people really like it's not so crazy, but it was really crazy when we first started. When I got into pickup, I had to believe that I could go from being extremely introverted and awkward to extroverted and sociable. There was little evidence to support that possibility.
I say that these two ideas seem to conflict because I believe that they are actually quite compatible. When looking at the history of others, as well as my own history, I've noticed that we consistently underestimate what we are capable of. Our idea of an honest look at our capabilities is actually further from the real truth than is the assumption that we can do everything.
Rounding up to the nearest 'everything' is not only more accurate than our best critical assessment, it's also much more valuable. The cost of being wrong is usually illusory. If you think that you can become a master violinist, act like it, and turn out to be wrong, you'll still make more progress than if you believe that the ceiling on your ability is lower. At the same time, the cost of incorrectly capping expectations is to provide an artificial ceiling on your achievement. I'm not sure I've ever seen someone progress further than they believed they could.
Believing you can do things that don't seem realistic is a self-supporting belief. You go on faith for a while, and then you actually do exceed a more "realistic" view of your capabilities. That proves to your brain that, at least sometimes, believing that you can do anything is closer to the truth than your best self-assessment. The next time you act on a mix of faith and tentative optimism. Go through enough of these successes and your realistic assessment starts creeping up to believing you can do anything, and the belief becomes easy to support.
Could you become a great artist? Could you start an successful company? Could you date someone amazing? Could you change that crippling bad habit you've lived with forever? Could you give up a lifestyle you're unhappy with and switch to a new one? If self doubt has been holding you back, my suggestion is to try on the belief of "Maybe I Can", and act accordingly. Personally, I believe that you can do just about anything.
EDIT: The meetup is on THURSDAY at 7:15pm at Casa De Luz on Toomey Road in Austin, TX. I accidentally scheduled posts out of order!
In poker, you make money whenever your opponent plays differently than he would if he knew what cards you have. When you do the same, you lose money. In other words, whenever you act in a way that you wouldn't if you knew the truth, you're making a mistake.
The same could be said for a lot of life. The more of the truth you face and accept, the better off you're going to be. Sometimes it's hard to hear the truth and sometimes it's even harder to accept it, but we're always better off when we do. This is one of the reasons my good friends and I always give each other harsh criticism: it helps us see and accept the truth.
There's one counterpoint to this idea that I'll suggest: sometimes you're better off intentionally believing things that aren't true, even when you know they aren't true. This is a special sort of of belief, though, because you know that it's not completely accurate, but you decide to act as though it is, and to truly try to feel as though it is.
I'll give you a few examples that I hold:
I started reading a book entitled You Are Not Your Brain written by Jeffrey Schwartz and Rebecca Gladding. The authors specialize in a field of study called neuroplasticity, which is when neural pathways change in the brain due to changes in behavior or the environment, for better or worse. In their book, they claim that we can direct these changes as opposed to having them change against our will.
They use the example of a woman who suffered from a stroke and her journey through rehabilitation and recovery. Parts of her brain shut down as a consequence of that event, but through effort, she was able to regain certain functions that were ultimately assigned to other active parts of her brain. She used her behavior and her environment to recover from otherwise tragic circumstances. She was persuaded that by making the changes necessary, she could reverse the damage.
The word "persuaded" is important because it comes up whenever Jesus talks about faith. You see, faith is being persuaded and convicted by truth. Sometimes, when Jesus healed someone, he would tell them that their faith made them well. And other times he would tell the people that he healed to go and sin no more. So, there's an element of belief and another of action. Remember that time Jesus couldn't heal anyone in a town that had so little faith? (It's in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew.)
So, how do neuroplasticity and Jesus go together?
As I read this new book and when I reflect on the gospels, I see Jesus directing more than doing. I see him teaching, conducting, and persuading. He's showing people that they can be restored, but they have to do two things: