Doing is believing

We’re always told that you need to change your thoughts to change your attitude, something along the lines of  Mahatma Ghandi’s quote:

Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny

Or the Christian statement from 2 Corinthians 10:5:

we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

The problem with those quotes can be that we end up in a bit of a vicious circle, as they don’t work for every situation.  There’s an alternative approach which I’ve seen in a few different areas.  The approach has a long history but most seem to cite Aristotle’s writing:

but the virtues we get by first exercising them, as also happens in the case of the arts as well. For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them, e.g. men become builders by building and lyreplayers by playing the lyre; so too we become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.

This brings a different approach to changing your thoughts or beliefs.  Insead of trying to change how you think, you change what you do.  I was seeing a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist a few years ago who had the same approach –  If your experiences lead you to certain beliefs, then surely you can change your beliefs by having new experiences?

I then read a blog by author Donald Miller, where he was talking about how he changed his approach to growing himself:

So I began to wonder, if I do more respectful things, perform more generous actions and, well, dress a little better, will I actually have a little more self respect?

I’ve had years of being told to change how I think before I do, and that the idea of “fake it till you make it” is wrong.  While I believe there’s bad in both extremes, you need to be able to recognise the benefit in both approaches.

I’ve changed from disbelieving the “act even if you don’t feel it yet” approach based purely on experience (and great advice) and I hope that if you’ve “shunned” the practice, you’ll re-consider it.


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