It’s a great thing that you can believe what you want about every topic in the world. That’s what Independence Days really celebrate (regardless of what country you live in). You can be conservative or liberal or neither, you can adhere strictly to different lifestyles, like materialism or minimalism. Generally, it feels comfortable to reside in what we already believe in. The myriad of different beliefs from different individuals around the world makes things interesting, instead of boring. (Imagine how much fun Mormons get to have in a given day 🙂

As the book 1984 taught us, everything can be taken from a person – at least on a physical level. But when it comes to getting inside and controlling/altering someone’s mind? Much more difficult. We know this from simple debates we’ve had with friends. You can’t change what someone believes (unless they’re already tip-toeing toward that belief and you just give them a little push). Still, it’s entirely their decision.

However, let’s push all that gooey, awesome, freedom-loving stuff to the side for a second. The rarely-considered aspect of freedom is this: our freedom to believe whatever we want can drastically impact our individual lives. More importantly, it can impact how much we let ourselves enjoy our lives.

For example, let’s say you have a relative who really gets under your skin. You really believe that they should change or live differently, and you can clearly see how their choices harm them in certain ways (e.g. a relative that smokes too much and has lung problems). Our natural inclination is to try to force that person into doing what we believe they should do (e.g. start using “the patch,” go to therapy, quit cold turkey, whatever). However! – by constantly focusing on these beliefs we have about them, we are setting ourselves up for repetitive, stagnant interactions with that person (e.g. you try tough love, they ignore you, you get upset and angry, repeat).

So the truth is, people don’t benefit from our stubborn, negatively-focused beliefs – even if we mean well. What people always benefit from is a person who is stress-free, happy, and focusing positively. You might be surprised to find that when you shift from a belief like “so-and-so is always doing the wrong thing” to a belief like “they mean well, and they’re doing the best they can,” those people actually become more open to your beliefs and suggestions.

In other words, you can’t help anyone from a place of negativity or harshness.

The same goes for yourself. You can believe what you want – BUT – you can’t berate yourself into success by believing that you need to work through your exhaustion and try harder. For example, you can’t get healthy by believing you have to restrict yourself from even more foods. Negatively focused beliefs with a positive intention are often useless.

More on beliefs? Check out Burn Your Beliefs…Literally.