May 22, 2013

Tom Asacker | The Business of Belief (part 2)

Yesterday, I posted part one of a conversation I had with my colleague Tom Asacker who has published his latest book The Business of Belief.

This is the second part of our conversation.

You write: “We choose what we choose because we believe in it. And those beliefs are driven by our desires.” Can you expand on that?

Tom: Belief is what humans do. Our personal beliefs and desires drive our choices. And in most cases, like fish in water, we’re unaware of that reality. Let’s take a relevant example. Right now someone is reading this blog post. If you were able to ask them why, they might respond, “I enjoy Kneale’s perspective, or I like Kneale.”

If you dug deeper, you may hear, “I was bored and intrigued by the subject matter.” If you go deep enough, you’ll eventually discover that whoever is reading this is reading it because they believe it’s the right decision for them to be making at this time. And why? Because they want to!

It sounds really simple, and it is. But how and why our minds work to create and nourish our beliefs is largely hidden from us. If you become aware of how and why it happens, you’ll know how to better motivate yourself and influence others.

You write there is nothing more powerful than our beliefs and in order to change the world, we need to change our beliefs, but how do we ensure they are our beliefs and not what society or industry or a boss or friend may have convinced us because of their beliefs?

Tom: That’s a great question. And I’m not sure I can answer it in a way that would “ensure” an unbiased assessment. We are all products of our past our upbringing, experiences, acculturation, genetics, etc. It’s simply not possible to scrub our brains of all of that influence. The challenge is to develop a personal philosophy of life and living, and then consciously consider our decisions and choices within that framework. That’s what makes leaders great, and people special.

If you suggest beliefs are nothing more than working assumptions, how do our beliefs become habits or unconscious actions?

Tom: It’s simple, really. If we develop a working assumption, say that a particular brand will do the job for us because we like the price, people, design, et al., and then it DOES that job, we now have evidence to support our belief. And so, we don’t have to spend time and energy considering that particular choice in the future. The process is the same for all of our decisions.

What have been some of the influences in changing your beliefs?

Tom: I’m probably a bit different than most, in that I make it my business to know why people do the things they do. So I’m always looking for the underlying reasons behind various decisions, including my own. And it’s that process, of questioning, that has influenced most of my changes. Of course, I have been influenced by others, including my friends and the media. But I try to make sure that those influences mesh with and contribute to my personal philosophies and evolving narrative. We all do.

Our minds are motivated by various stimuli, how can we shape that data to stay focused on the beliefs that will be helpful to us and those around us?

Tom: Desire will do the shaping for you. The stronger it is, the more influence it will have over your mind’s assessment of the various stimuli. It will screen and interpret the data to reinforce your desires and beliefs. This process is neither good nor bad; it’s simply how the brain works.

You also write in the book that our feeling mind and impulses can lead us astray, so trust our guts or not?

Tom: Know when to trust your gut. If you’ve developed expertise in a particular field or domain, pay attention to the signals being sent from your unconscious with regards to that domain. But, in general, be very skeptical of your feeling mind. It’s a short-term thinker. It’s an impulsive, impatient, and quite fearful companion.

What are the key hopes you have for anyone reading this book?

Tom: To be more conscious, of their beliefs, their choices, their words and actions and to live life on purpose, with caring and daring.

Thanks Tom! The Business of Belief is out now.
Kneale Mann | Leadership and Culture strategist, writer, speaker, executive coach engaging leaders, collaborative teams, and strong business results.

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