Spiraling Beliefs

Do you know what it means to be caught in a downward spiral? It all starts with a belief. Whether or not the belief is actually true doesn’t matter. It’s the initial belief that matters here.

Let’s say you believe you’re not good at something and failure is the expectation. Now, if you expect to fail, you don’t use much of your potential, do you? You don’t take action that is confident, assertive, or energized. And what kind of results come from this kind of attitude and this kind of action? Pretty dismal ones, right?

These dismal results then reinforce the original belief that you’re no good at whatever it is. This, in turn, produces even less effort and even worse results – and down and down you go. This is a classic downward spiral in which a negative belief breeds failure, which breeds an even more negative belief, and so on. The negativity feeds on itself, growing larger with every moment.

People who are chronically unhappy and who live hopeless, helpless lives have been without the results they want for so long, that they no longer believe they can produce good results, no matter what they do. They become trapped in a downward spiral, and after a while they can’t even conceive of a way out. They see others doing well, but they have a tendency to attribute it to luck or circumstances – in other words, external factors rather than internal ones.

The interesting thing is that this can happen to individuals, families, teams, departments, entire organizations, even entire countries. And, with the media as pervasive and easily accessible as it is these days, it could happen to far more than one country. Observe how fast global financial markets react to all types of news stories. And it appears to be much easier to slip down quickly than to move back up with any speed.

As humans, we are wired for negativity. Our negative vocabulary is many times larger than our positive vocabulary. It’s a very real challenge, but there are ways to interrupt downward spirals and reverse their direction, and it is never, ever, too late to start.

We’ll talk some more about how to turn around a downward spiral tomorrow.