Thursday, July 31, 2008

Belief, Bacon and Botox

The power of our beliefs is so strong it influences every decision we make and WE DON'T EVEN KNOW IT! It's actually kind of scary if you think about it. Let me give you a very simple example from Predictably Irrational. In blind taste tests a majority of people choose Pepsi over Coke. If the labels are revealed before the test, a majority choose Coke. We see the Coke label and choose Coke, but we actually like the way Pepsi tastes better. We believe we like Coke better and thus we choose Coke. Our belief creates our reality rather than our actual experience.

This happens to all of us many times a day. Let's say you are female (or fat or a minority or have a slight limp or etc. etc. etc.) and you are ignored at a car dealership. This happened to me, and I assumed it was because I was female (insert your perceived reason for what you see as a slight - fat, minority, etc. here) and was seen as having no buying power or that I would come back with the man in my life to actually make a purchase. Now I have no idea if this is the reason I was ignored. Maybe everyone was just busy. But to this day, I believe it was because I was a woman alone. See how our beliefs can impact us? I saw a slight where none may have existed.

I've found the recent horror stories about the economy impacting me. Let's face it, you can't live on this planet and not hear regularly about the mortgage crisis, people getting kicked out of their homes, layoffs, the price of gas, the stock market falling, AAAIIIEEE! It's the Grapes of Wrath!! We are all one step away from a Frigidaire box under a bridge!!! Grab your children - start collecting aluminum cans - dump your evil SUV, get a Prius - we are going down!!!!

Now, if I look at my situation, I am doing fine! My income is up over last year, financially I am doing very well. But hearing all this day in and day out is changing my beliefs. Instead of planning a big trip this year, I'm paying off my mortgage. I'm being much more careful with my money. I'm more risk averse. (Of course, if everyone is doing this, it only makes the economy worse, but that's a blog for someone else to write.) The media is very powerful in shaping our beliefs - it's very scary how much so.

Don't like the economic example? How about how we feel about our bodies? The shade of our teeth? Our hair? Our wrinkles? When women get poison injected into their foreheads and can no longer convey emotion, things have gotten a bit scary. The belief is that aging is bad and smoother skin is worth giving up your time, money, and ability to express emotion for. This, of course, is a losing battle - but belief (I must be eternally young to be loved and have value) offsets rationality (I can't be eternally young and my value has nothing to do with the appearance of my forehead).

I wonder if I would have liked the Chocolate Bacon Bar if I hadn't know it had bacon in it - if I thought it had nuts or something else salty? I wonder if I would be better off to say, "Damn the economy, I'm going to Disneyland!" I wonder how many times my own insecurities have pushed someone away? What beliefs do you hold that influence your actions and experiences? I think the key to happiness is figuring out what they are and making sure you really want to hang onto them.

1 comment:

Heidi said...

It's a delicate balance, deciding whether your beliefs are having a positive or negative influence over your life choices. Sometimes the beliefs may make your choices feel worse ... like seizing the moments of each day. But other times, the beliefs challenge us to become better people, even if we must self-deny in the short-term. It's hard to make the decision whether to fling all to the wind and say, "I only live once," or to live judiciously, knowing that the payoff will be so much bigger later on.
Hard to know sometimes. This was great food for thought for me! Thanks!