Facts vs Ideas – how knowing the difference changes everything

In a world where we are presented with content daily, across a multitude of mediums, we have become experts at judging within seconds, whether something is worthy of our time or not. Our Facebook feeds are awash with opinions, that are touted as ‘fact’ and then there’s the fake news, tabloids, propaganda and other ‘noise’ attempting to persuade us somehow, in some way. Think this, buy that, sign here, don’t believe that. One of our challenges has become sifting through all the content that we now get bombarded with and sorting it into ‘facts’ (what can be proven to be true and that is constant) versus ‘ideas’, (an opinion, perspective, belief or concept). But how often do we actually do that? How often do we stop to question whether what we’re taking in is truth? How often do we actually take time to consider both sides of the situation we’re ingesting, or research and fact check before we like, share, forward on to others, personally validating or endorsing that particular message?

And what of our own thinking? Do we pass this through the ‘fact’ or ‘idea’ barometer? We are usually our own harshest critic…do we believe everything we tell ourselves? Mostly, yes. But what if we tested the thoughts we have about ourselves, that pass through our minds freely on a constant and consistent basis. Could we prove them to be true, or are there times when they’re clearly not. For example, I regularly thought of myself as a lazy person,(in relation to others in my inner circle), yet when examining this self delivered label, I realised I’d climbed Mt Kilimanjaro, relocated myself four times to different countries for various work and life opportunities, left a successful career to start my own business and had run a half marathon, when running is one of my least favourite activities! Some would say that’s the opposite of laziness, others might look at that at say ‘so what’? Point being, on days when I experienced feelings of ‘I’m a lazy person’, that was just an idea that I was having about myself, a thought. It was not truth, it was not a fact. Who I was — who I am, is not ‘lazy’. The reality is some days I can experience feelings of laziness and other days I can experience feelings of extreme motivation. So if I can’t prove it to be true (and truth is something that is consistent, unchanging), then it’s not a fact. The benefits of knowing this is that if I’m not tying myself down with a ‘lazy’ label that is unhelpful, unproductive and untrue, then I can actually get a lot of sh*t done!

If a thought, (self belief, idea, perception, opinion) is preventing you from taking action in a particular area, or creating a feeling state within you such as sadness, anger, frustration, anxiety, stress…etc, ask yourself, “is what I’m thinking about myself a fact, or an idea”. Reflect on the times that it hasn’t been proven to be true. William James — who had a major influence on the development of psychology in the United States in the 1800’s — said “If you wish to upset the law that all crows are black, you mustn’t seek to show that no crows are; it is enough if you prove one single crow to be white.” You only have to disprove your thought construct once, in order for it not to be true, to see that thought as just an idea, a limiting belief you’ve held for however long. When you see this truly, the unwanted feeling state you’re experiencing along with it doesn’t appear to have so much heaviness to it anymore because the thinking that was causing it, doesn’t make sense to you. Intense feelings diminish as you shine a light on your thinking and see it as false, as thinking in the moment. Then inevitably, as it always does, fresh thinking will come. It may come in the next moment, the next hour or day but fresh thinking will most certainly come and a new feeling will show up along with that.

Of course, in the vein of the 1st paragraph of this article, don’t read this and believe it as truth. Start testing it for yourself and observe any areas where you may be constraining yourself with a limited belief. Look for the ‘white crow’ — there only has to be one to make that belief you have about yourself untrue. With that insight everything will begin to look different!

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