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The Belief Business vs. The Creating Business

By Robert Fritz

For years we have heard that what you believe will determine how well you will succeed in life. So every year, people diligently attempt to change their beliefs to ones that favor their success and limit their failure. There is an entire industry that supports that cause. "You are what you believe," is advertised with the certainty of a great mathematician adding two and two, or a great French chef adding just the right amount of garlic to an order of Escargot.

Yet, with all the hoopla, the premise is simply not true.

I know that just entertaining the idea that your beliefs do not form your reality is heresy to people in the belief business. But, one wonders if any of those folks have ever read the biographies of some of the most accomplished people in history. If they had, and if they could put their belief about beliefs aside for a minute and objectively rethink the dynamics that are in play, they would find that the most successful, accomplished, innovative, and creative people did not have positive attitudes and thoughts, hardly ever thought that well of themselves, and were not filled with a heightened sense of self-love.

The most common human trait was a sense of doubt, a lack of personal esteem and confidence, and a pronounced lack of a belief in themselves. Instead, they cared about what they were creating. They were in a different business than the belief business. They were in the creating business.

Shall we go down the list?: Mahatma Gandhi, Beethoven, Georgia O'Keefe, Marie Curie, Amelia Earhart, Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Elvis, Helen Keller, Madonna, Mother Teresa, Babe Ruth, both Wright brothers, Thomas Edison, Pablo Piccaso, Ernest Hemingway, Walt Disney, Shakespeare, William James, Carl Jung, Fred Astaire, Chuck Yeager, Doris Day, Yogi Berra, Clint Eastwood, Mohammad Ali, Mozart, Miles Davis, Louis Pasteur, Ben Franklin, and on and on.

Maybe you respect a few people on this list. Well, guess what? They didn't have high self-esteem. They thought all kinds of things about God, politics, economics, philosophy, religion, the world, the universe. What they believed was IRRELEVANT to their creative process.

If the belief industry were right, then these people should not have been able to succeed. Yet this glaring fact seems to go unnoticed to those who foster the idea that you can't be successful until you get your beliefs right. Every year, well-meaning people, wanting no more than to be more effective at building the lives they want, earnestly try to change what they believe.

The theory goes if you think well of yourself, you will think you deserve success, and therefore, not sabotage yourself. Another theory goes that if you have faith and hold a positive vision, the Universe will favor you with success. (The latest version of this is found in the book The Secret, which is old wine in new bottles. The old wine is from such books as Think and Grow Rich, or The Power of Positive Thinking, or even The Life and Teachings of the Masters of the Far East.)

There is a phenomenon in which unusual coincidences seem to help out when you are in the process of creating something the right person calls just at the right time, we find the book we need, an opportunity falls into our lap, etc. I have written about the "power of attraction" as something that is common in the creative process. We don't know why this occurs. We are glad when it does.

People in the belief business will tell you that it happens BECAUSE of your beliefs. But, hold on a minute. Does it happen to people when they are not filled with positive, visionary, and deeply held convictions? Well, go read the biographies.

In the creating business, this type of phenomenon happens all the time. But so what? To those in the creating business, it is nice when it happens, but there is a lot more work to do, often the type of actions that are not easily glorified because they are so straightforward and common. It doesn't make a lot of sense to put a higher value on the unexplained falling into place type of experience than the roll up your sleeves and get busy type. For most things the grunt work is essential and you couldn't create the results you want without it, especially the more challenging ones. So what that sometimes things fall into place magically, and sometimes you need to do the heavy lifting?

But to those in the belief business it does matter because the phenomenon becomes a symbol of the confirmation of their beliefs. They usually don't describe the rest of the hard work that it takes to creating an important result. There is no glory in that.

Types of Beliefs

There are several forms of beliefs.

For example, there are simple observations people often term beliefs. If I can't fly a plane, and if I am a fairly sane person, I will rightly believe that I am not a pilot. If I learn how to fly, I would change my belief (observation) that I can fly a plane. Beliefs of this sort do not call for blind faith. In fact, it is not blind at all to form one's opinions based on observing reality, especially when the notion is held up to scrutiny. This is the rigor that science tries to adopt. Ideas about what is going on must come from a meticulous and precise empirical test of reality. Once formed, such a belief can change in an instant if new evidence demands it. These types of beliefs are seldom at issue in peoples' lives, except when subjected to belief business techniques such as affirmations: "I can fly a plane. I can fly a plane." Personally, I'd like to stay away from those who think they are pilots only because they are affirming they are. I want the ones who have gone through the thoroughness of painstaking training and testing, followed by years of professional experience.

People don't know with certainty they can accomplish something they had never done before. Rather than insist they can succeed, it is better to tell the simple truth, which includes: "I want to accomplish this thing, I don't know if I can, I am taking actions that up my chances." In the creative process, it is critical to tell yourself the truth. Any spin will weaken the process.

In a similar vein, often people misidentify confidence they have in a business, a person, or a system, by saying "I believe in..." This is not really a belief, but a measured opinion based on past experience. Their feeling of confidence is an example of pattern recognition. The probability is that things will most likely turn out as reliably well as it has before. A friend of mine is fond of saying, "I firmly believe that you should clean the coffeemaker really well before making a new pot of coffee." The phrasing is misleading. We are not in the realm of belief. We are seeing confidence in a process for making a good cup of java.


Another form of belief is the self-concept. This is, simply put, the various opinions you have about yourself. It has been long-thought in various schools of psychology that self-opinion is a key factor in success. Therefore, you must have one. If you don't, well, friend, there is work to do. Lie down on this couch and talk about your childhood. Say these positive affirmations every morning for twenty-minutes. Leave notes for yourself on the fridge. Take a weekend workshop in self-love. You deserve it! You are great, do you hear me? GREAT!!!!

Here is what is happening in the inner workings of your mind when this is going on, especially if you don't think the world of yourself:

You are great! GREAT!!!

(Your mind) Well, actually, I don't think that.


Mind: Why am I being told this?


Mind: Could it be that this is meant to overcome what I do believe?


Mind: What do I believe? Ah, well, not such good news.


Mind: Boy, better not tell the truth to that guy.

These techniques work against you. First, it makes it seem that belief is critical to your success, and then it points directly back to your actual feelings you have about yourself.

So, while you are trying to flood your mind with positive propaganda, the mind is receiving the opposite subtext loudly and clearly. If you attempt to create example after example of how you are not unworthy, or stupid, or powerless, or a failure, the reason to point to such experiences is to prove you are not what you actually think you are. The act only reinforces the actual belief you have. Who, but a person who thinks he is a coward, would have to prove that he is brave?

In the belief business there is a lot of talk about "limiting beliefs." Nicely phrased, indeed. It says it all. Certain beliefs you have will limit you. But, in fact, every belief is a limiting belief in that it closes off other possibilities. Of course, the belief business means "bad" beliefs, ones that are unwanted, unfavorable, and critical. Who doesn't have a set of those in a back pocket or two?

(For more about this subject, read the chapter entitled The Ideal-Belief-Reality Conflict in my book Creating.)

People in the creating business have a range of self-opinions from negative to positive. And it makes NO difference to their success. The reason they create is because they want to see the creation exist. It is not about them. It is not a reflection of them. They are not hoping a successful accomplishment validates them, or heals their pain, or changes their various self-opinions.

People have two types of patterns: oscillating and advancing. In an oscillating pattern, success is reversed over time. In an advancing pattern, success becomes the platform for future success, and it becomes easier and easier to create more of what you want to create. What makes the difference in these two structural patterns? In an oscillating pattern, the concepts and beliefs you have connect to the process. In an advancing pattern, the focus is on structural tension: a desired outcome in relationship to the current situation. How can you move from the oscillating to the advancing? Not by changing your beliefs, but by understanding the fact that they are, indeed, totally irrelevant to the creative process. What do you have to believe to want what you want? Nothing in particular. What do you have to believe to see reality as it actually it is? Nothing in particular. If fact, it would be harder to observe reality truthfully if you were imposing a belief or concept on it.

Spiritual Beliefs

When the subject of beliefs comes up, sometimes people assume that spiritual beliefs are being challenged. This is not the case. Spiritual beliefs are personal. They have their own innate and intrinsic value to your life. They are not connected to the creative process as evidenced by the range of spiritual, religious, and philosophical beliefs successful creators have held. Therefore, what you believe on the spiritual level also is independent from the creative process. Yet these types of spiritual beliefs can be enriching in the life-building process as a path to a deeper and profound touchstone to the source of life itself. It is only when people attempt to insist that without the "proper" spiritual beliefs that one cannot successfully create the life that one wants, they are ignoring the history of accomplished people who did not share the same views. The creative process is totally philosophically neutral, able to include devout atheists to committed believers and all th e points in-between.

Belief and the Creative Process

Remember the point of the creative process is to bring into existence a creation: an outcome, a result, a goal, a quality of life. What you believe will not make a bit of difference. It is only when your focus moves from the creation to what it says about you, that you slip into an oscillating pattern. And the irony is this: even if you had the most positive beliefs about yourself, the moment you make it about you, it will be difficult to sustain your success.

In the belief business, it is important what you believe, so the major activity is conversion to the "right" belief. In the creating business it doesn't matter what you believe, but how well you create. In fact, the central questions are: what result do I want to create? Where am I now? And how will I move from here to there. No matter what you believe, good, bad, or indifferent, you will be able to master your own creative process, and use that mastery in your own life-building process.

Robert Fritz 2010

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Updated: 10/24/10