All emotions are pure which gather you and lift you up; that emotion is impure which seizes only one side of your being and so distorts you.
-Rainer Maria Rilke
My blogs from the past two days have dealt with Anthony Robbins’ first two levels of belief. Those levels affect the decisions we make each day, but they are not the underlying reasons that truly dictate how we behave. That honor is reserved for our “convictions”.
Convictions are beliefs that have been reinforced so many times and with so much emotion that they are unshakable. A quote from Awaken the Giant Within describes it in this way, “A person with a conviction is… totally resistant to new input…”. We often see this a bad thing, we believe that people should be flexible in their beliefs and views. These convictions can be a powerful source of confidence and motivation. Many of the people who have changed the world were convinced that they could achieve things that no one else thought was possible.
An often used, but appropriate, example of this kind of conviction is the story of the first man to run a mile in less than four minutes. Roger Bannister had a driving conviction that he was capable of running a mile faster than any man had before. At the time, there were doctors who believed that the human body was physically not capable of running a mile in such a short amount of time. It was simply impossible. Despite this fact Roger Bannister did in fact run a mile in less than four minutes. The most interesting part of higher story for me is what happened after Bannister’s achievement. By the end of that year thirty-seven other people had run a mile in under four minutes? Why had they not been capable of this before? Because their conviction that it was beyond their abilities limited them.
There are times, however, where such an unyielding belief can be detrimental. For instance, as long as I can remember, I have had two competing visions for how I would like to live my life. In the first, I work an average nine-to-five job and my family is happy. In the second, I am a very important person, doing some unspecified important work to dramatically change the way future of the world unfolds, and my family is happy. Until recently I had a strong conviction that the second vision was the “right” direction. There was no real logic behind it, but is was a solid, unshakable belief. It wasn’t until I fell of that Niagara Syndrome cliff that I really began to look at that vision and realize what was actually most important to me – that my family would be happy. What I did as a career paled in comparison to the desire that I be a good father, and the hope that my wife and daughter would always know that I loved them. Identifying that fact both refocused my life and provided me with intense satisfaction. I can now live my life according to my true convictions – I can do the things that will actually bring me joy.
Both David A. Bednar and Neil A. Maxwell observe that this level, “Doctrine” Bednar calls it, is home to relatively few beliefs. If we trace the roots of our actions as far back as we can possibly go, there will only be a few endings. These are the convictions Robbins talks about. An additional insight Bednar adds is that these things often answer the question of “why”. Why do I look for a job? To provide for my family. Why do I want to provide for my family? Because I love them. Why do I love them? Because they help give my life meaning? Why do they give my life meaning? Because I believe that a part of God’s plan for His children is that they create loving, compassionate families. This conviction is the real reason why I look for a job. Not for the job itself, but for that last ultimate reason.
Understanding the relative scarcity (by this definition) of my convictions and the power that these convictions exert in my life is incredibly empowering. Until a few weeks ago I had been living my life by simply making changes to my first level of belief. I changed my opinions or applications. I would try a different technique to get myself motivated for classes, or switch what I was studying all together, hoping that these changes would bring more purpose to my life – and for a while they would. Without addressing the underlying convictions – the doctrine of my life – it is no wonder that there was never any lasting change. I had never really changed what I wanted. I still have ways to go in defining what I really want out of my life, but the simple recognition that my previous beliefs and convictions were not what I wanted has provided so much excitement that I am completely confident in my ability to complete that task.
What Have I Learned Today?
I learned that in is imperative that I reinforce a behavior I am striving to cultivate immediately after I do that behavior – at least initially.
What did I contribute or improve?
I helped my brother get set up for a python class he and I are taking together.
What did I enjoy?
Along the road to my brother’s apartment there is a row of trees that is just beginning to bud. They are amazing shades of pink and green – a combination I never would have assumed was so breathtaking.