Last week in a presentation on The New Psychology of Money given by my To Be A Woman business partner, a gentleman in the audience suggested to her that women are dependent on men because we depend on men to make money for us to live. You could literally feel people cringing in the room – and not just the women.
This was a reflection of his belief system, not a universal truth, and my business partner (a strong, successful and financially independent woman) told him so. She told him very respectfully that she has a different belief system. He was an older gentleman from a European country who had clearly grown up being taught a set of beliefs that represent a particular way of looking at the world, which is in essence what a belief system is.
How we view money, our own relationship to it, and how we view others who either have it or don’t, represent one form of a belief system. Ask yourself how you feel when you think about money, and what money means to you, and you’ll get a glimpse into your own belief system about money.
Most of us don’t realize it but when we leave the nest of our parents to go out into the world we’ve already adopted a belief system that we take with us based on what we were taught in the early years of our lives. It’s difficult to change a belief system that has become firmly rooted, but it can be done by:
- Recognizing it and how it influences our thinking
- Interrupting it when we acknowledge it’s coming into play in certain situations
- Allowing ourselves to be open to seeing the world from a different perspective
Political Belief Systems (Solely as an Example)
Political viewpoints are another example of how belief systems take root. As an oversimplification just for the purpose of example, a woman who grows up in a home with liberal parents might be taught that liberals care about others and want to help people and conservatives “just want to keep money to themselves.” While the same woman growing up with conservative parents might be taught conservatives believe in independence and not relying on other people (the government) to do things for you or give you money, while liberals feel entitled to other people’s money.
None of this represents a universal truth, and to be very clear I’m not asserting any of this is true or fairly represents either side. These thoughts just represent different belief systems that some people may hold. People who adhere to these thoughts are actually all good people; their actions will simply represent a different way of looking at the world.
Being Open to Other Belief Systems
I think we’d all agree the US news channels MSNBC and FOX represent the opposite side of the spectrum when it comes to political belief systems. I listen to both channels during the day. By doing so, I get a better appreciation for the belief system of people on “the other side of the aisle.” I have come to understand that people on the other side of the aisle are simply passionate about how they want the world to look, just as I’m passionate about my own views.
When We Judge Others
Allow me to assert that our belief systems may lead us to judge others harshly. For example, have you ever heard someone say, “He’s been divorced twice already,” with a derogatory tone, or personally made a judgment about someone based on how many times they’ve been married? There are some who hold a belief system that once you’re married you stay married forever, no matter how unhappy you are, and others who firmly believe you should be married to the person who helps you awaken your true self at each stage of your life, and that it’s ok for spouses to change over time as we evolve. You may personally find one of these views to be absolutely incomprehensible. It’s a reflection of your personal belief system.
Real empowerment comes when we let go of our concerns that others will judge us and replace these concerns with the understanding that when they do it’s a reflection of their belief system and not of our personal value, worth, or truth.
Why This Matters in Leadership
As leaders it’s important to recognize that we lead individuals, each of whom has a different belief system largely shaped by what they were taught early on in their life. We cannot change someone’s belief system, only they can do that. We can – and will – certainly disagree with each other at points because of these belief systems, and this is where the values of respect and withholding judgment come into play.
How we respect others, how we withhold judgment of others, how we value others who have a different belief system, and how we seek to better understand others who have different belief systems will set the course for the culture in our companies and organizations. If, as George Bradt asserts, culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage, then this is absolutely critical to the long-term success of our business!
What does your belief system say about this?
Please join me and Steve Woodruff tomorrow night at Leadership Chat – 8:00 pm Eastern Time on Twitter – to delve into this meaty and important leadership topic!
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