Why You Believe The Things You Do: The Belief Equation

One thing that never ceases to surprise me is the consistency of change. It always happens. Sometimes in the things that you thought would never change. When your thoughts start to drift in a direction you would have never imagined. Belief is a sum total of influential forces in your life. Can we decode it? I believe so.

There is an amazing sunset through the window of my office at about 6:15 pm. It catches me off-guard each time. Unexpected beauty hidden in plain sight. It’s magical how the sun disappears in the horizon. Like a game of hide and seek. Taunting you to follow along. Surrounded by the orange glow, like the last swing of its’ hips before exiting the scene. The last smile before turning to walk out the door. Reigniting my belief in magic.

You believe in magic if you decide to embrace and enjoy the unknown. You re-ignite your belief in fairy tales if you’re in love and floating in a cloud of emotion. An activist movement starts to appeal to you when you become tired enough to notice the lies around you. A politician manages to sway you because you are comfortable in the status quo that he promises to maintain. Belief seems fickle but is very methodical.

“The Belief Equation”

In an earlier post, I introduced you the concept of the culture pyramid that explains how things become common place. The progression from a like, a smile, or a nod to a culture and societal norm. At the very base of the pyramid lies these factors that influence belief. Alone, they may not be enough to inspire action. But together, they are a force to be reckoned with.

1. Popular View

Humans are social beings. We seek to belong and to be welcomed in a community of people that are like ourselves. At the back of our minds, we want to be acceptable within a cluster of people that we care about. For example, Donald Trump appealed to the surprisingly popular anti-establishment thinking to gain attention. He was an icon of breaking convention and when people wanted to be like him, they believed in his power to lead them into the promised land.

2. Personal Bias

We are hard wired to look out for ourselves. It’s in our very DNA. The instinct of self preservation kicks in when faced with a real or perceived threat. When you understand a people’s fears, you have a hold over them. When you have insight into the things that they whisper about when they feel nobody is listening, you have them in your hand. There is a vast array of cognitive biases that influence decision making and tapping into any of them may give your cause or brand the leverage you need to inspire action.

For example, in keeping with the Donald Trump line of thought, he appealed to the fear of outsiders by white supremacists. He promises to deliver them from the perceived threat of the “others”.

3. Personal Aspiration

Dreams and hopes are the sauce of life. The reason we wake up and leave the house each morning, working our jobs or businesses in order to live the full human experience. To accomplish the goals that we aspire towards. We all long for better and will grasp at the opportunity to have better when presented to us. Look at the booming self help category to give you a glimpse into the innate need to believe. Dangling a carrot is the oldest trick in the book. However, its’ longevity does not make it obsolete, but serves to prove its efficacy. Lasting change can only happen with consistent action. Consistency is a function of motivated decisiveness. He who can motivate leads.

This rings true for brands and individuals. A real life example can also find an illustration in the rise of Donald Trump. He appealed to the aspiration of making America great again and evoked a deep sense of purpose (arguably misguided) within some Americans.

4. Pleasure

Life is hard and then we die. Whilst this statement seems to spell doom and gloom, it is actually liberating. If we all know how it ends, why do we not spend more energy making sure that we make the best of our limited time? The place of fun and excitement can never be understated. Memorability breeds conversation, conversation builds credibility, believably and love. People do business with people they like. It’s that simple. A real life application can also be derived from Donald Trump. He appeals to his fans’ humanity and need for entertainment with his brazen unedited statements, overly simplistic speeches and Twitter wars.

This belief foursome explains the rise of Donald trump, the longevity of Coca-cola, the popularity of Nike and the growing wave of anti-establishment leaders gaining popularity globally. Belief does not just happen, it is orchestrated.

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