27 September 2023

Believe it or not: How long-held beliefs can be held for too long

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Lisa Earle McLeod* says it is sometimes necessary to question once firmly-held beliefs in order to find if they have become a bar to our success and happiness over time.

What are your loadbearing neural pathways?

In construction, a loadbearing wall is vital to supporting the structure.

A loadbearing neural pathway is much the same. It’s a belief that supports 100 other beliefs.

For example, I have a friend who was once highly engaged in a strict religious culture.

The religion’s belief system was a concrete pillar of his life and worldview.

As he grew older, he began to see small contradictions; but he shoved them down.

Then one day, he said: “I was in the men’s room at work. I was literally sitting in a stall.

“I began thinking about one of our beliefs, I realised it wasn’t true! I came out of the stall hyperventilating.”

He continues: “I stood facing the mirror, just staring.

“I realised if that one thing isn’t true, then all these other things might not be true either.

“Looking into my reflection that day, it was like watching a huge house of cards fall.

“I pulled out one thing, and my whole belief system just crumbled in front of me in the mirror.”

He said after that, there was no turning back.

The loadbearing neural pathway had been knocked down; the rest of the house fell apart.

We all have our own loadbearing neural pathways. In my friend’s case it was a narrow religious belief.

Letting it go was dramatic, and painful.

Yet it enabled him to create his own belief system, one that expanded to include a more compassionate, openhearted religious life for himself and his family.

Here are three examples of load bearing neural pathways.

Rich people are shallow and materialistic:

I confess this was a prevailing belief in my family.

The win for holding onto this neural pathway is self-righteousness.

Every time you see wealth, you have the satisfaction of disdain.

We’re good guys, we have strong values, those rich guys are shallow; they only care about money.

As someone whose family clung to this belief like a religion, I can promise you, disdain for rich people ensures you’ll never become one of them.

Once I realised, sure there are also plenty of nice rich people, the wall crumbled.

I found it a lot easier to envision (and take) steps towards increasing my own financial status.

Success requires sacrificing your personal life:

There are entire organisations built on this belief system.

When your organisation measures success in terms of work quantity, billable hours, face time etc., it’s easy to think 80 hours a week is the only way to the top.

Giving up this belief enables you to consider other models.

Instead of “I have to give up family time to get the next promotion”, you can start thinking: “How can I create success on my terms?”

The answers generate more creative options.

Work is about making money, not personal fulfilment:

We encounter this one frequently in our consulting practice.

When you’ve been told work should be awful, and it’s been awful for you, people resist the idea work should be meaningful and even fun.

An expectation of meaningful work belief puts pressure on leaders to act differently.

It means coming face-to-face with what may have been a false mental construct.

A loadbearing neural pathway feeds so many other beliefs and decisions you don’t even realise its impact.

Sometimes it’s a solid wall, and sometimes, you’re better off taking the whole structure down.

*Lisa Earle McLeod is the leadership expert best known for creating the popular business concept Noble Purpose. She is the author of Selling with Noble Purpose and Leading with Noble Purpose. She can be contacted at mcleodandmore.com.

This article first appeared on Lisa’s blogsite.

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