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How beliefs can limit our options

It is possible for us to limit our options by believing there is something we should or shouldn’t do. There are always things that we should or shouldn’t do — society wouldn’t survive without such rules. However, sometimes we hold beliefs about proper conduct unnecessarily and we limit the options available to us. Oftentimes, these rules aren’t explicit.

Limiting beliefs – Needs and Rules

Beliefs about how we conduct ourselves usually contain the words: “should”, “should not”, “must”, “must not”, “ought”, or “ought not”. For example “I must drink eight glasses of water a day” or “I should not eat too much ice cream”.

How these beliefs affect us

In addition to limiting the options we have available, such beliefs can also make us feel negatively towards ourselves. Such beliefs can make us feel inadequate if we don’t follow through on them. For example, if there is something we believe we “should” do (say, exercise regularly) and we don’t do it then we can feel guilty or feel that we have somehow failed. Such beliefs create a gap between expectation and reality.

Overcoming our limitations

In order to help identify if the action governed by this belief is acceptable, ask the question: “what would happen if I did/did not do this?” By making the consequences of not following the rule explicit and examining the consequences you can determine how important the rule is, in what circumstances the rule does not need to be followed, and even if the rule needs to be followed at all.

This method of thinking is the basis of the scientific method. Many great discoveries and advancements in peoples thinking have come about by asking the question “What would happen if?”


Some beliefs can limit our options

These beliefs are characterized by: I shouldn’t or I have to

The consequences of these beliefs can be made explicit and examined by asking “What would happen if I did or did not do this.

Related Pages

Unspecified Nouns
Unspecified Verbs
Modal Operators of Possibility
Modal Operators of Necessity
Universal Quantifiers
Complex Equivalence
Cause and Effect
Mind Reading