Your beliefs establish your attitude and priorities
Alex Bellini broke into tears. Alone, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean he shouted out into the howling wind, “I’m exhausted. I want to go home. I want to be lying on the couch, with my wife. Next to her, not alone out here”. He had climbed alone into his boat to cross the Pacific Ocean on 21st February 2008, to journey from Peru to Australia. He needed to cross 10 time zones, 17,000 km and do more than 5 million row strokes. Alex learned that the value of a man cannot be judged measuring his successes, but with the dreams and convictions that give him life.
What’s happening deep down with you? Really deep. Inside you. Gaining insight into our often-unconscious dreams and convictions helps us build our intentions. In becoming conscious of ‘what has the opportunity to be’, we find ourselves in a better place when our goals are aligned with our understanding of our convictions, and our emotional well-being is enhanced. Research has shown that our sense of well-being tends to grow as our conscious goals and unconscious motives become more aligned or congruent. For example, we should not focus on a career that gives us money and power if the outcomes are not important to us. But how do we achieve such harmony? Try to imagine, as vividly and in as much detail as possible, how things would be if your most passionate wish came true. Would it make you happier? If you don’t feel like it would, then you may have a lack of alignment.
The Destiny is a Choice model shows how your fundamental conviction translates into cycle of empowerment. As your conviction (who you are being) grows, you begin to know what could be, and start to exhibit what you will be in your chosen future (your destiny). It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, both good and bad. It is within each of us to recognise and unveil the positive potential latent in us and kickstart the virtuous circle of destiny by choice. And even if you don’t realize every choice, decision or action you take, affects others. You are an integral part of a network of humans based on connections that stretch out well beyond your immediate circles. Like ripples in an ocean.
Do you sometimes feel lost, with a sense of purposeless? To establish congruence, we have to first “find ourselves”. Most people believe that they have an essential core, a true self or inner essence. Who they truly are is evinced primarily in their beliefs and values, and is relatively stable. While other preferences may change, the true self remains the same. In contrast, our model asserts that while your core essence indeed is relatively stable, your belief system has the capacity to be shaped by your journey and the growth that ensues. We may not have a crystal sharp image of our purpose, but we all do have an internal guide to meaning, an instinct if you will, known as our orienting reflex. This sits somewhere on the cusp of stasis and transformation, where we understand what is, what is important, but also what has the opportunity to be.
Happiness is a choice and with this mindset I started to surround myself with a positive energy
As shown visually in the Destiny is a Choice model, psychology is beginning to make it clear that the self is not a “thing” but rather a process of continual adaptation to changing circumstances. Our internal “orienting reflex” works to focus on the things (stimuli) that have meaning for us, so we are naturally drawn to something that can affect what matters. With a growth, rather than fixed, mindset, our minds are open to change as our internal wiring is pruned and shaped with our experience and understanding.
In aligning your convictions, beliefs and values with your possible future, you are ready to begin consciously making it happen by concentrating on what’s important to you.
But do you even know what’s really important to you? Who you are? No one other than you, yourself, has direct knowledge of every thought, feeling, and experience you’ve ever had. Who could possibly know you better than you, right? Your “self” lies before you like an open book. Just open it and read: who you are, your likes and dislikes, your hopes and fears; they are all there, ready to be understood. Not true. The erroneous belief that we know ourselves is an “introspection illusion” according to Princeton University psychologist Emily Pronin. Think of your very own car: just because you own it, doesn’t mean you know why and how the engine stopped. When we try to scrutinise ourselves, it’s like peering through a thick fog. The way we view ourselves is distorted, but we do not realize it. We are just too close to the action and our – often flattering – self-image is affected by processes that remain unconscious.
According to researchers, self-knowledge is even more difficult to attain than has been thought. Contemporary psychology has fundamentally questioned the notion that we can know ourselves objectively and with finality.
So how can we really know ourselves? Keeping a journal, pausing for self-reflection (“introspection” from Latin – looking into ourselves) and having probing conversations with others can broaden the insights we have to ourselves. “Letting go” is also helpful because it provides some distance. Mindfulness meditation improves one’s self-knowledge by overcoming distorted thinking and ego protection. The practice of mindfulness teaches us to allow our thoughts to simply drift by and to identify with them as little as possible. Thoughts, after all, are “only thoughts” and not the absolute truth. Frequently, stepping out of oneself in this way and simply observing what your mind is doing, fosters clarity.
Some characterise the quest to know ourselves as “finding your passion“. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love is known for the passion that comes across in the book. Now however she believes the word “passion” can trigger feelings of stress, anxiety and urgency. Many of the people she most admired and loved in her life have had “very unusual and convoluted paths on the way to finding where they were ultimately supposed to be,” she said. People in their 40s, 50s and 60s, who are still trying to figure who they are going to be when they grow up. Instead she tells people to follow their curiosity instead. “It is gentler, kinder and more humane”, she says. So instead of forcing it, reframe it. Ask yourself what are you interested in? What are you curious about? What seems fascinating to you? This unleashes many thoughts that will serve you well as you learn more about what makes you tick.
“Adventure …is the shorter path to yourself”
Alex Bellini’s beliefs have shaped his destiny. He is an Italian adventurer and endurance athlete who grew up in a small village in the Italian Alps, Alex developed a passion for sport and adventure, spending the winter months competing in downhill skiing events and the off season running, cycling and climbing in the mountains. He has devoted his life to exploring some of the most hostile environments in the world in pursuit of his passion for adventure, overcoming solitude, exhaustion, extreme cold and unbearable heat to realise his dreams.
Alex has explored and tackled the most hostile environments over the last 14 years. Alex ran the Marathon des Sables, pulled a sledge 2000km across Alaska, and before rowed alone across the Pacific Ocean, he single-handedly completed a 226-day solo voyage from Genoa to Fortaleza in Brazil – the only person to row across the Mediterranean and the Atlantic in one journey.
Alex believes that adventure is the shorter path to yourself. “My main motivation for an expedition …is about the belief that experiences (especially the tough ones and those we would rather avoid) are the best teachers. Every time I return home I have a strong feeling that I grew up a little, somehow. I feel I came a step closer to my real self.”
On whether you can do anything you choose, he believes that anyone could do any of the things that he has done. “I believe it because there is no real preparation for them, it is just a matter of how hard you want it. I remember the first night of my second attempt of rowing across the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. I broke down and cried at the prospect of all the effort, the distance and the time I had to go through before reaching the other side of the ocean. I felt lost, but the day after I said to myself: ‘Okay, here I am, you can do it, now let’s take one step at a time and enjoy it’ ”. In other words, apart from some important technical skills, the real difference is the belief in yourself.
He believes that it is the journey that really counts. Sure, it is important that it starts with an end in mind – a goal. “This gives you a sense of direction that guides you through the darkness, but the further you go the less important the finish line becomes.” While sometimes life doesn’t go according to your plan, we all have an ocean to cross. Alex experiences deep meaning in doing adventures that might not proceed as planned – almost as a metaphor for life in general. “What really changed me is the journey. It is the profundity.”
Growing is achieved through moving beyond your comfort zone. Experience stress and uncomfortable situations where your current capability is stretched out. It doesn’t have to be extreme courage, just a tiny bit, like raising your hand in a crowded meeting room, run an extra mile or resist the temptation of an immediate reward.
Our belief of our ability to change and grow means we are inclined to work on it more. When we have a setback, we see it as an invitation to do better next time.
But is starts with working on yourself first.
ZUBER HACK LEAN INTO YOUR DESTINY
1. Learn who you are. Ideas to do this are:
- Keeping a diary or journal. A journal focused on gratitude has also been shown to reduce inflammation and heart failure risk.
- Pause for self-reflection and living in a mindful way, conscious of the present and avoiding distractions.
- Connect and have meaningful conversations with others.
- Meditation builds self-awareness
2. Rather than being fixated on have a passion that ignites you, ask yourself this. “What am I curious about?” Ask yourself what are you interested in? What seems fascinating to you? This unleashes many thoughts that will serve you well as you learn more about what makes you tick.
3. Start to think about what is important to you and what you need to focus on.
- Think about your options and ideas. Try to imagine, as vividly and in as much detail as possible, how things would be if the option came to fruition. Would it make you happier? If you don’t feel like it would, then you may have a lack of alignment.
- Ask yourself, am I being driven by my own essence and convictions?
I AM: The Power of Discovering Who You Really Are, September 2, 2010, Howard Falco