reflecting on your beliefs

Published on March 26, 2020

My view of the world has changed significantly over the last few weeks, as can be expected in times of crisis.

Before coronavirus started to become more serious -- and far before the reality of a lockdown in the UK sunk in -- I believed that the best form of governance was to reduce the role of government in the lives of individuals. This is a belief I have held for a long time, which I believe originated from my dissatisfaction over the lack of freedom I had in school.

Now I am on the opposite side of the argument. I believe there are so many places in which the government should be involved in our lives, and looking back I think that my views were ill-informed.

Crisis, of course, makes us change our view of the world. The way in which I perceive our world has changed in ways I cannot even comprehend, for the reason that so much has changed so quickly.

I now believe even more in the idea of socialized health care. I now believe more in the importance of leaving a good tip. I now believe more that we need to move away from a just-in-time food supply chain system, in favor of new approaches.

Does this mean I was wrong to hold onto the beliefs I had before all of this happened? I don’t think so. I thought the way I did about the world a few weeks ago in that way because I was operating on the information I had a few weeks ago. Last year, I did believe that the government shouldn’t be as involved in the economy, but that was because the economy was doing really well and I cannot remember the ‘09 financial crisis.

Recency bias may be at play, in that I am giving particular weight to the experiences I have had most recently in my life. However, I feel as though many of my new opinions will stick around. I don’t think I will ever be able to rebut the necessity of government intervention in the economy. I don’t think I will be able to go into a supermarket without thinking, just for a minute, how much those workers do to keep our world in order.

I am treating this as a sign of my evolution. If my beliefs are changing, it means that I am constantly taking in new information. My mind is responding to the new data it has available, and has recognized that there are opportunities for me to improve.

My opinions on business have fundamentally changed as I have seen our economy essentially freeze. I am not sure how our country would be able to function right now if the government did not inject massive amounts of cash into the economy to keep things going. A year ago, when there was no crisis going on, I would have opposed even smaller interventions into the economy.

Again, this is a large result of the crisis in which we find ourselves. During crises, we tend to let go of our old preconceived notions because we need to in order to effectively respond to what is happening. When you see the world change in ways you never expected -- when you see your schools close, businesses close, and people worry about buying enough food -- it magnifies the fact that this world is not perfect, far from it.

This realization has encouraged me to start thinking more about the question: are my beliefs the same as what they were a month ago? I feel as though I have fundamentally changed as a person -- my views on the economy, government, and even just the importance of staying in touch with old friends, have all been affected. Yet before all this happened, I may not have been able to talk about such a transformation.

This question is important because our beliefs changing is a sign that we are constantly learning. If we still think the same way about everything the same way we did a year ago, I think it is a good sign that, at least in some cases, we have allowed ourselves to stagnate.

So, when I can, I am going to keep asking myself: how are my beliefs changing? I need to be more proactive in questioning why I think about things in the way I do. This should encourage me to develop even weaker relationships with the opinions I have, thereby making it easier for me to adapt when times change.

I guess, in a sense, this is a version of the “strong opinions, loosely held” mantra that is oft-repeated, but with one big caveat: you don’t need to have a strong opinion on something to make it worth questioning.

As I entertain these questions, I realize that I have changed in many ways over the last day, week, month, and year. This is a positive sign; I am responding to the changes in our world. Once this crisis is over, I hope to continue to feel this way; to feel as though I am still actively questioning my beliefs and allowing them to evolve over time. This will likely be a challenge because crises always magnify problems that already exist, but it’s one I need to take on.

In closing, I want to quickly address one other thought I have had: the beliefs we have don’t really matter. Like most other things -- aside from washing your hands, staying inside, and so on -- what we do really doesn’t matter.

The belief we hold is nothing more than a neural pathway in our mind that can be easily changed if we’re willing to allow a new connection to be made. Because our beliefs don’t matter, that means that there is no reason for us to develop strong attachments to them. If times change, we should too. That’s just how life goes.

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