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  • Tom Goldstein

Better Quality of Life: The Surprising Impact of Beliefs


Woman in bright pullover considering her beliefs in an autumn forest

The impact of beliefs on quality of life

Our beliefs and the stories we tell ourselves are far more than just background thoughts. They are the architects of our reality and the sculptors of our success. These internal narratives shape how we perceive and interact with the world. They influence our decisions, actions, and our life's trajectory. If we are conscious of it, these beliefs act as a lens through which we view ourselves. They profoundly affect our personal and professional lives.


In this article, we explore recognising and harnessing this power. It can be the key to unlocking your fullest potential and achieving your greatest successes. This is more than just an optimistic view, it is the impact of beliefs on quality of life!


The Impact of Beliefs on Health

Studies have shown that our beliefs about the quality of our sleep can have a significant impact on our health. In a fascinating intersection of perception and reality, studies on sleep have found unexpected results. Individuals who believe they've slept well, regardless of whether they actually have, often report better concentration, mood, and overall health. On the other hand, those who perceive their sleep as poor, regardless of its actual quality, report higher levels of fatigue and impaired functioning.


This phenomenon, known as "placebo sleep," suggests that the perception of restful sleep can be almost as beneficial as the sleep itself. We can enhance not just our perception of rest, but also the state of our health and performance. I find it amazing that shifting our belief about our sleep can have such an impact.


Stress: A Matter of Perception

Similarly to the sleep studies; often, the harm we experience from stress is not just because of the stress itself. The negative impact of stress depends mainly on our belief that stress is harmful. Often perceived as a negative force, stress actually embodies a dual nature, heavily influenced by our personal beliefs and attitudes.

When we view stress as a debilitating threat, it can lead to adverse physical and psychological effects, hindering our performance and well-being. When reframed as a challenge or a catalyst for growth, stress can become a powerful motivator, spurring us to higher levels of productivity and resilience.

This perspective shift on stress is not just wishful thinking; it's rooted in how our brain processes and responds to stressors. If we believe stress is an opportunity to learn and adapt, our body's response aligns with this belief, often resulting in a more focused and energetic state. This positive approach can transform the typical stress response into a source of strength and determination, allowing us to navigate difficult situations with greater ease and confidence.


This adaptive view of stress encourages a more proactive approach to life's challenges. It fosters a mindset that seeks solutions and learning opportunities in the face of adversity, rather than succumbing to feelings of overwhelm or defeat. By altering our internal stories about stress, we not only improve our immediate response to stressful situations but also develop a stronger, more resilient mindset for future challenges.


Changing Our Self-Narrative

Understanding the power of belief and expectation enables us to reshape our self-narratives. By adjusting the stories we tell ourself, we can influence our life and work dramatically.


  1. Self-Reflection and Awareness: Begin by becoming more aware of your current beliefs. Keeping a journal to track your thoughts, especially during challenging situations, can help you identify and understand your prevailing narratives.

  2. Challenge Negative Beliefs: Actively challenge any negative or limiting beliefs you identify. Question their accuracy and relevancy to your current life. This process can often reveal that many of these beliefs are based on experiences that no longer serve you.

  3. Positive Affirmations and Visualisation: Use positive affirmations to reinforce the new narrative you want to create. Complement this with visualisation, where you imagine yourself succeeding or achieving your goals, to help solidify these new beliefs in your mind.

  4. Set Realistic Goals: Create achievable goals that align with your new narrative. Achieving these goals, even if they are small, can provide tangible evidence of your capabilities and help reinforce your positive beliefs.

  5. Practice Gratitude: Cultivate a habit of gratitude. Regularly acknowledging and appreciating what you have can shift your focus from negative thoughts to positive ones, helping to foster a more optimistic and constructive mindset.


Performance at Work

Our inner stories and beliefs play a pivotal role in shaping our professional performance. For instance, consider the concept of 'imposter syndrome', common amongst high performing professionals. This phenomenon, where individuals doubt their abilities and fear being exposed as a fraud, can significantly hinder performance and career progression.


People who believe they are undeserving of their position are less likely to take on challenging projects or assert their ideas in meetings. This belief then limits their growth and potential contributions to their organisation. Conversely, those who foster a belief in their capabilities and embrace a growth mindset are more likely to tackle challenges head-on. When we believe in ourselves, we will seek learning opportunities, and display resilience in the face of setbacks.


Another example is a salesperson who believes in their persuasive skills and product knowledge. They are actually more likely to close deals and build strong customer relationships.

These shifts in perception not only boost individual performance but can also create a more positive, dynamic work environment, encouraging teamwork, creativity, and overall job satisfaction.

Exploring the evidence

  • Imposter Syndrome: This concept, discussed in Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In" and Amy Cuddy's "Presence," is a lack of confidence where individuals feel they don't deserve their position or fear being exposed as a fraud. It stems from an inability to accurately and objectively assess one's abilities, and it can hinder performance.

  • Relationship Between Belief and Performance: A study published in PLOS ONE discussed the importance of belief in decision-making. Effective decision-making, especially in uncertain situations, requires that individuals form and maintain beliefs about the correctness of their choices, which is a process called meta-cognition. The study highlights that prediction of future outcomes and self-monitoring are only effective if belief closely matches behavioural performance.

  • For more information, I suggest checking out David Robson's book "The Expectation Effect". He references many scientific studies that show what we think and expect shapes our reality in significant ways.


Conclusion

Self-belief and confidence play a crucial role in work performance, decision-making, and overall professional success. By consciously altering our internal narratives, we unlock a powerful tool for personal and professional development. Harnessing the power of our beliefs, allows us to positively affect our health and overall well-being. It's an interesting reminder of the strength of our beliefs in shaping our reality.


If you’re interested in exploring any of these topics and how they apply to you, please get in touch!

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