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Audit Your Beliefs (And Your Life Will Change)

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There have been exactly 2 times in my life where my core beliefs crumbled:

  1. I was a 14 year old Catholic who learned that Atheists exist.

  2. I was a 24 year old Atheist who witnessed someone take their last breath.

The first time it happened, I felt traumatized.

I started to experience depression, existential angst, self-loathing, anxiety, external locus of control, and a lack of purpose.

The second time, I felt liberated.

It led to freedom, motivation, a tranquil mind, a healthy body, more confidence, accountability, and direction.

What changed and how can you feel better?

It’s easier than you might think.


PS: I usually send out these articles via my personal email list. You can sign up at the top of this page to join!


I went to a Catholic school from pre-k to 8th grade.

The kids I met in pre-k were more or less the same people I knew 10 years later.

We wore the same uniform, learned the same things, and held the same beliefs.

When 8th grade came, I wanted a change. I decided to attend a public high school.

I was standing outside of my Freshman year English class with two of my new classmates. We were having a normal conversation until they were looking at me like I had 5 heads.


They looked at each other and back to me.

“…we don’t believe in God.”

It was like a movie.

The whole world stopped.

I could see their lips moving in slow motion.

I tried to play it cool. “What do you mean?”

“When our parents got divorced, the Church all but kicked us out. We don’t believe in that anymore.”

This is the moment where all hell broke loose in my life.

Until now, I wrapped up my identity with Catholicism without question. The first thought that popped into my head was, “How could I have been so stupid?”

For the next few months, I asked them countless questions. They were so confident in their beliefs that I started to side with them. I turned away from my family and turned towards these truth-tellers.

This loss of identity and faith, along with the new belief that I was stupid, wreaked havoc on my life.

10 years later, my grandmother moved into our home and went on hospice.

In her last week, we’d look to see if her chest was still moving.

We sat with her day after day, night after night.

We would play Elvis as we waited.

Sometimes, she would smile.

Thursday came.

She went.

The rise and fall of a breathing chest is subtle. When it falls for the final time, you think your eyes have deceived you. You wait in case it goes up once more. When it doesn’t, you’re left with the body of a person you once loved.

And a million questions.

This experience put me in quite the pickle.

I looked up at the stars that night. All I could think about was Nana reuniting with her husband in a field of purple and yellow wildflowers. I felt I owed it to her to believe it could be true. Hell, I wanted to believe it could be true.

I heard the voice inside my head say, “You can’t believe that.”

My internal dialogue pushed back and said, “Why not? You can believe anything you want to believe. That’s the point.”

Holy sh*t.


What Is A Belief?

You are not born with preset beliefs. Every belief, including those about yourself, is learned and conditioned through experience. — James Clear, Atomic Habits

Beliefs are like mental patterns or habits — ideas that the brain has become accustomed to.

We base our beliefs on what we perceive through our senses. These perceptions come from the world around us and our own thoughts and feelings. ¹

Our experiences “create patterns of activity that explain how our brains code our thoughts, memories, skills, and sense of self.” ² The difference between beliefs and simple knowledge is strong emotions.

What happens if we disrupt our mental patterns?

Step 1: When we’re exposed to new information that doesn’t match our existing belief, our brain freaks out. It’s like handing our brain a manilla folder filled with documents and it saying, “AHHH! Where am I supposed to put this? It doesn’t fit into the filing cabinet I made!”

Step 2: For our brain to accept the new information, it must be “transformed into familiar, ‘comfortable’ information, which comes to be considered reliable.” ³ In other words, our brain tries to find a way to make the folder fit.

Step 3: If our brain finds a way to make the folder fit, then the documents become integrated and feel reliable. If our brain cannot find a way to shove that folder in, it has to create a new filing cabinet.

In high school, my brain couldn’t find a way to make the Atheist folder fit.

It created two new filing cabinets: “God is dead” and “I am stupid.”

Over time, these filled up with new documents.


How Does Our Brain Find Evidence?

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't - you're right.” ― Henry Ford

Your brain has evolved over millions of years to help you survive. It doesn’t necessarily care about what is true or accurate. It cares about giving you information and allowing you to react.

The Reticular Activating System (RAS) is your brain’s filter. Your sensory organs, except your nose, are bombarding it with information all day long.

The RAS selects the most important information for your conscious mind to pay attention to and what can be safely ignored.

If you live near an airport, chances are you won’t wake up when a plane flies overhead — you’re accustomed to the noise and it poses little to no risk. If your baby starts crying in the other room, however, you’re awake within seconds. It’s important to soothe them.

That is your RAS at work.

Here’s another example. Let’s say you buy a silver Honda Civic. Ever notice how you start seeing silver Honda Civic’s everywhere you go?

It’s not that everyone and their mother bought a silver Honda Civic the same day you did. There were always silver Honda Civics on the road. You weren’t paying attention to them because your filter didn’t deem them as important.

The minute you started thinking about buying a silver Honda Civic, you made it mean something to you. Thus, your filter let more in.

Remember when I said your brain doesn’t necessarily care about what is true or accurate?

Enter: Confirmation Bias.


The Dreaded Enemy

“You like to imagine yourself in control of your fate, consciously planning the course of your life as best you can. But you are largely unaware of how deeply your emotions dominate you. They make you veer toward ideas that soothe your ego. They make you look for evidence that confirms what you already want to believe.” — Robert Greene, The Laws of Human Nature

Humans have flaws.

One category of flaw is cognitive bias — repeated mental errors that affect how we think and act. Scientists have found over 150 of the bastards. They can make us misinterpret information in the world around us, judge others based on stereotypes, and even mis-remember events from our past.

Confirmation bias is “the tendency to gather evidence that confirms preexisting expectations, typically by emphasizing or pursuing supporting evidence while dismissing or failing to seek contradictory evidence.”

In other words, we look for evidence that support our beliefs and tend to ignore the rest.

This Confirmation Bias chart shows how we look for evidence that support our beliefs and ignore the rest. Knowing how Confirmation Bias works can help us change our beliefs.

Confirmation bias hijacked my brain’s filing system when I was 14.

Instead of seeing silver Honda Civics everywhere I went, I saw proof that I was stupid and that God was dead. I kept adding folders to my new filing cabinets and shredded any document that didn’t fit.

I ignored the good, focused on the bad, and kept reaffirming my negative beliefs.


Audit Your Beliefs and Your Life Will Change

“The greatest damage done by neglect, trauma or emotional loss is not the immediate pain they inflict but the long-term distortions they induce in the way a developing child will continue to interpret the world and her situation in it. All too often these ill-conditioned implicit beliefs become self-fulfilling prophecies in our lives. We create meanings from our unconscious interpretation of early events, and then we forge our present experiences from the meaning we’ve created. Unwittingly, we write the story of our future from narratives based on the past.” ― Gabor Maté

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been asking questions.

I like to learn how and why things work.

I’m curious by nature.

I’m a sponge.

The problem with sponges?

They start to stink if you don’t wring them out.

Food gets stuck in the crevices and bacteria multiply.

I spent so much time absorbing everything I could I forgot to squeeze myself out.

People’s opinions got stuck in my head and their beliefs multiplied.

I had no reasoning skills or systems to reject them.

I had to find evidence for them.

The more evidence I found, the more I closed myself off.

I never performed a systematic review of the evidence.

I accepted my new reality at face value.

The other problem with sponges?

They get rigid and hard if you let them dry out.

You have to keep the water running to let the sponge absorb it.

Witnessing the end of a life was the running water I needed.


The Fixed Belief Cycle

“You can’t escape from a prison until you recognize you are in one. People who have chosen to live within the limits of their old beliefs continue to have the same experiences. It takes effort and commitment to break old patterns.” — Bob Proctor

Since beliefs are ideas that the brain has become accustomed to based on our perceptions, we need to be:

  1. aware of our perceptions

  2. aware of the meaning we're assigning to our perceptions

Confirmation bias is like quicksand. Before you realize what’s going on, it’s already too late — you’re stuck. You’ve got piles of folders that confirm your beliefs and you’ve sorted them into the existing filing cabinets.

I got stuck in the Fixed Belief Cycle.

  • I thought and felt a certain way

  • I rationalized the thought and feeling by finding evidence for it

  • I affirmed the thought and feeling by accepting certain evidence as truth

  • I embodied the thought and feeling by over-identifying with it, resulting in more of the same thoughts and feelings

The Fixed Belief Cycle is when you think and feel a certain way, rationalize the thought and feeling by finding evidence for them, affirm the thought and feeling by accepting certain evidence as truth, and embody the thought and feeling by over identifying with it.

When new information challenged my fixed belief and led to the thoughts "God is dead" and "I am stupid," I created two new Fixed Belief Cycles and repeated the same mental process.

This finite system made me sink deeper into the quicksand.


The Dynamic Belief Loop

“Choice begins the moment you disidentify from the mind and its conditioned patterns, the moment you become present. Until you reach that point, you are unconscious.” — Eckhart Tolle

I entered into an infinite system when I had the novel experience of witnessing life come to an end. The Dynamic Belief Loop offered space for pause, reflection, and choice. This system got me un-stuck and will help you audit your beliefs.

 The Dynamic Belief Loop teaches you a way to rewrite and redefine your beliefs. When you have a thought and feeling, you can either accept it or reject it. The outcome depends on what route you choose.

This is how it works:

  1. Thought/Feeling: What am I currently thinking and feeling?

  2. Identify: Who or what made me think and feel this way?

  3. Question: Is thinking and feeling this way helping or hurting me?

  4. Categorize: Decide the answer.

    1. If Helping, then:

      1. Accept

      2. Affirm

      3. Embody

      4. Think and feel more of it

      5. Continue the infinite loop

    2. If Hurting, then:

      1. Reject

      2. Challenge: What would I rather think and feel instead?

      3. Evidence: What evidence can I pay attention to that will make me think and feel that way?

      4. New Thought/Feeling: Think the new thought and feel the new emotion

      5. Continue the infinite loop

When I was looking up at the stars and realized I had a choice in my beliefs, it freed me from the box I trapped myself in.

I opened the filing cabinets and got to work.

I started to notice what I was thinking and feeling.

I started to identify who and what led me down that path.

I weighed the pros and cons of thinking and feeling those ways.

I got clear on what I wanted to think about and feel instead.

I finally paid attention to the evidence that I was ignoring.

I became the auditor of my own beliefs.


The Everlasting Process

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

This process isn’t about changing long-lasting beliefs overnight. It’s about continually finding evidence for new ones. With time, the new beliefs take over and the old ones fade into the distance.

There will be times where your old, unhelpful beliefs rear their ugly heads. Using the Dynamic Belief Loop to identify, question, and categorize will help in these moments.

New information will present itself to you for the rest of your life. When it does, you have a choice to make:

  1. Settle for who the world conditioned you to be, never realize your full potential, become ill and disgruntled, regret this later in life.

  2. Question the beliefs you hold, align with who you truly are deep down, become well and tickled pink, feel satisfied and whole.

I know what choice I’m making.

Do you?


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I write about the connection between personal growth, online business, and psychology to offer you tangible steps for your own transformation.

I'm emma

Actor, Writer, & Content Creator

Small changes,

big impact:

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