Our daughter recently said out of the blue, "Daddy, firefighters are boys and teachers are girls, right?"

For those of you that don't know about our daughter, she's four and the most brilliant, sweetest, most curious, most beautiful creature in the whole wide world. That's not just my opinion; it's the truth.

So you can imagine how I cringed at her question and told her that boys can be teachers and girls can be firefighters, as long as they want to be. It occurred to me that because all she's ever seen are female teachers and male fire fighters, she created a belief.

And the top return of a quick Google search of "female firefighters" yields a page featuring the 2006 calendar - I'll spare you the gory details. Suffice it to say it strengthened a belief I have that we are a deeply sexist society.

These beliefs aren't true or false; they're just interpretations of things that happen. They're the way we make sense of what we see in the outside world - a way of taking our experience of the external and assimilating it internally.

Here's my understanding of how we develop beliefs on a most basic level: as a baby, I felt an empty pain in my stomach. I cried from the pain and I received milk which stopped the pain. Later on I would call that pain "hunger."

But hunger is just a belief, that is, an interpretation of the pain.

And that's one simple example - imagine how many beliefs you've developed from all the input you've received through every moment of every day of every year. The process of interpreting and making meaning of experiences is constant.

The good news is that if all our beliefs are nothing more than thoughts that rattle around in our heads and surface to the level of consciousness now and again, we can make up the world any way we want.

That isn't to say we can control external things. But we can control the way we think about those external things. Here's an example…

I had no strong religious influence growing up. Never went to church, never thought much about spirituality, even though I was fully aware that many people around me believed in a higher power.

Who knows what other forces were present that influenced my thinking at the time, but the result was that I began to believe that the natural world was everything - that what you see is what you get. I believed that science would one day explain all the mysteries of the universe. That there is no afterlife, no God, and in an insecure need to be better than others, I began to believe that religious faith is simply a way for people to ease the dread that comes with knowing we're all going to die one day.

It was a very smug ego-satisfying feeling to know that I had psychoanalyzed and debunked one of the most powerful forces in human history.

I wonder as I write this, how that belief has limited my relationships with people over the years.

And still, I can go head to head with some brilliant people with religious or spiritual convictions and argue against their beliefs. This kind of debate has brought me great pleasure in the past.

But I'm at a point in my life where that isn't really what I want any more. Somehow, connecting with people and simply loving them seems more important than being right.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still on a quest for The Truth. I believe everyone is. I believe science, religion, art, education, exploration, philosophy, even commerce are all expressions of a deep-rooted need that we have as humans to find it.

Of course that belief isn't true or false either - it's just stuff that takes up space in my mind.

But it serves me to believe that I'm on a quest for The Truth, along with the rest of humanity. There's something empowering about thinking that as I continue my journey through life, I'm getting to something real and true. It's what gets me out of bed every morning.

So if beliefs aren't true or false, what are they?

For my money, they're only either helpful or not. They either serve us or they don't. And the degree to which they serve us is directly proportional to the success we see in our lives.

All of this is a very wordy way to say what Henry Ford said a long time ago: "If you think you can or if you think you can't, you're probably right."

Changing beliefs isn't an overnight process. It takes looking at the big picture and your entire belief system. It takes concentration. But mostly, it takes a willingness to be open to new ideas and ways of looking at the world and yourself.

And I believe the most powerful force in the universe is imagination. But I only believe that because it serves me to.

For a worksheet on changing your beliefs, please visit my website listed below. It's a PDF, so you may need to go to Adobe.com and download the reader.

Author's Bio: 

Robin is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach and author of “Success, The Ezine” (offering a free worksheet each month). He is dedicated to helping others discover new ways of doing things so they move powerfully forward in their career and life. To schedule a free introductory session, contact robin at robin@robinjones.biz or visit his website http://www.robinjones.biz.