Be Careful What You Believe!

 In Better Life

Our beliefs about ourselves and the world around us truly shape our reality. They can hold us back from fulfilling our real potential or they can propel us forward to living our dreams. Have you ever heard of Roger Bannister? He was the first person to break the 4 minute mile barrier. Before his feat in 1954, scientists said it wasn’t humanly possible and everyone believed it was true because no one had done it. But just one year after Roger demonstrated that the belief was wrong, 37 people followed his lead, also running a mile in under 4 minutes and 2 years later that number was up to more than 300 people. Amazing what is possible when we change our beliefs!

Our beliefs not only affect our expectations, they can also have an impact on us physically. Have you ever heard of the placebo effect or sugar pill effect? If you believe that a pill (or a surgery) will help you, there is a significant chance it will. The most common reports cite that a sugar pill is 60 to 70% as effective as codeine for relieving pain. Studies have shown, time and again, that placebos can lead to changes in pulse rate, blood pressure, electrical skin resistance, gastric function, and skin conditions. One of my favorite studies was done with 13 people who were highly allergic to poison ivy. They were told that the plant the scientists were rubbing on their arms was poison ivy. Sure enough, most of them broke out with a rash. The scientist then rubbed their other arm with a different plant, saying it was not poison ivy, just a regular plant. Only 2 people broke out with a rash. Can you guess the twist? If you guessed that the study switched the plants, you are right. The first plant was not poison ivy, even though they were told it was and they tended to have a reaction, while the “regular” plant really was poison ivy. Hmmmm….

So we need to pay attention to our thoughts, because, as Henry Ford stated so well, “If you think you can or if you think you can’t, you are right.”


Tina Hallis, Ph.D., is a professional speaker and consultant for The Positive Edge, a company dedicated to helping people and organizations fulfill their true potential using strategies from the science of Positive Psychology.

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