You may have heard of the term confirmation bias. It is the tendency to search for, interpret, or recall information in a way that confirms your preexisting beliefs or theories.
Usually, when people talk about confirmation bias, it is in the context of pointing out someone's faulty logic or biased thinking.
It’s true that this cognitive quirk can cloud your reasoning, especially if you are trying to think in a strictly scientific way. However, what you may not realize is that it can also help you create better beliefs if you use it cleverly enough.
What Is True?
Most of the beliefs that hold us back from being, doing, or having what we want in life are not necessarily true. They may seem true to us, but they are not absolute laws of nature. They are little more than stories we tell ourselves.
For example, a belief that you're not a good public speaker is largely a matter of perspective and opinion -- a subjective reality. On the other hand, the physical law of gravity is true regardless of your perspective or opinion -- an objective reality. (Although, on a side note, it's interesting to note that even our modern understanding of gravity is likely flawed, according to many physicists).
Confirmation bias has the ability to change your perception of your subjective reality and more importantly, how you act in the context of that reality.
This is something I discuss in depth in my Mindset Shifts Masterclass.
Googling Your Symptoms
Here’s an example of confirmation bias you might relate to:
Have you ever made the mistake of googling your symptoms when you thought you had a particular illness? If so, you probably found that whatever condition you suspected yourself to have, there was plenty of information on the Internet to back up your theory.
The truth is, you probably selectively overlooked many other symptoms and diagnoses that didn’t match the one you thought you had. But your brain discarded those because they didn't align with your hunch. Instead, you only saw evidence that supported the diagnosis you originally gave yourself!
When you think something might be true, your brain goes to work to find evidence that supports your theory. This becomes a self-reinforcing cycle of belief that works in both directions, positively and negatively. It's the reason your beliefs seem so real to you.
It might seem like confirmation bias is nothing more than a glitch in our brains but it actually serves a purpose. It is an evolutionary adaptation that helped early humans quickly recognize patterns in their environment. It enabled us to survive when rational deliberation would have taken far too long.
Using Confirmation Bias To Create Empowering Beliefs
So how does this information help you?
Most people operate at the mercy of this psychological phenomenon, letting their brains run wild collecting evidence that supports negative beliefs.
Instead, what I'm proposing is that you intentionally redirect your focus to find evidence that supports new, empowering beliefs that enable you to be, do, and have what you want in life.
You can create new beliefs about virtually anything if you find enough evidence to support it.
3 Steps To Creating New Beliefs
1. Identify a limiting or negative belief you have. (See this previous blog post for a couple strategies to help you uncover limiting beliefs).
2. Choose a new belief to replace the old belief. If your old belief was: “I don't have enough money to start a business,” then your new belief might be something like: “There are other resources besides money that I can leverage to start a business.”
3. Look for evidence around you that supports the new belief you want to adopt. For example, if you want to reinforce the story that you don't need a lot of money to start a business, look for examples of successful businesses that were started with little to no capital and read their stories (Amazon and Apple were started in garages, for example).
You’ll be surprised at how well your brain follows your direction when you tell it what to focus on. Once you have gathered enough evidence for a particular belief, the "jury" in your mind will come to a unanimous decision that it is true.
There you have it! Hopefully this post has given you some useful knowledge and practical strategies for exercising greater control when cultivating your beliefs.
What questions or comments do you have about this post? Let me know in the comments below!
Ruben Chavez is a lifestyle philosopher, influencer, and personal development educator. His passion for personal development inspired him to create the Instagram account, ThinkGrowProsper, which has amassed over 3 million followers. Along with his blog, these platforms are his way of inspiring and connecting with thoughtful, creative, and ambitious people just like you.
P.S. Want to learn more about how to create empowering beliefs? The Mindset Shifts Masterclass is a 6-week course that will help you identify old beliefs that are holding you back and create new stories that empower you to be, do, and have what you want in life. Registration will only be open for a limited time. You can read more about the Masterclass here.