Beliefs and Change

I used to believe that I had all the answers and that the people around me who weren’t on board with my view of the world were subversive. They “Didn’t Get It” and I believed that they needed to be ‘fixed’ or ‘banished’. Not a great formula for building trust with others; and a great example of a belief that got in the way of being a successful leader.

I used to believe that older teachers were too set in their ways to embrace new technologies. Because of that belief I skewed technology deployments to younger teachers. What a great example of a self-reinforcing belief.

I used to believe that there was no way that the community would support large technology initiatives. A wonderful example of a belief that was limiting my vision and horizons.

Where did these beliefs come from? That’s an exploration for another post. What is important to note is that none of these beliefs were contributing to my success. In fact, they were undermining all my good intentions.

Beliefs are not ‘real’, they are not facts. They’re nothing more than constructs of our minds.

I like the example of two couples walking in the park at night. One couple believes that walking in the park at night is romantic. The other couple believes it is dangerous. Suddenly the wind blows. The bushes shake, the leaves scuttle along the sidewalk. The couple that feels walking in the park at night is dangerous experience fear. The couple that thinks the park is romantic at night experience the beauty of nature.

What we believe shapes our experiences. Our beliefs are like a pair of glasses that influence the way we see the world. Some beliefs are supportive and helpful. Others are limiting and not helpful.

As leaders we need to reflect on our beliefs. This isn’t as easy as it sounds because many of our beliefs our invisible to us. For many years I had no conscious awareness that I believed that logic and sound arguments were the way to get teachers to change their old habits and embrace the new ones I wanted them to adopt. I kept making logical arguments. It didn’t seem to matter whether they were successful in producing the outcome I wanted. I was simply acting the way I believed was ‘proper’.

It took many years for me to become aware of this invisible belief of mine. In fact, it was a leadership coach who helped me identify my belief and then to examine whether it was a useful belief or not. Through this process I developed a new belief, that it takes the heart, the mind, and the body; not logical arguments alone, to shift the behavior of others.

There are beliefs that we hang on to even if they do not serve us because we feel we have evidence that makes them ‘real and factual. For all of human history it was commonly believed that man could not fly. There were thousands of years of evidence for this. If Orville and Wilbur Wright had adopted this view of reality, this belief, they would never have experienced flight.

Unless we believe something is possible, the odds of it happening are slim.

Do you believe that one computer per child is possible? Do you think that teachers will shift their pedagogy to engage and empower students in constructivist learning? Do you believe that all teachers, regardless of age, will adopt technology if it helps them improve teaching and learning. Do you believe that you have the ability to inspire people to adopt difficult changes?

When you believe it, you will see it!

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