I think my introduction to this idea was in grade 11 Science. I asked my Science teacher, Mr. Hall, how scientists knew to go looking for things that previously no-one knew existed. His response was that if they look hard enough and long enough, they find whatever it is they are looking for. I remember his expression when he told me that – it was if he was sharing a secret – a secret that might help me in profound ways.
Just a few years later, Star Wars made its debut starting as you remember with Episode IV: A New Hope. It was for all of us an introduction to an exciting new world. It was also for me a reminder of Mr. Hall’s mysterious statement.
Star Wars is science-fiction fantasy. It’s make-believe. And yet, it offers up a bevy of real-world lessons, the most powerful and meaningful of which comes in the next chapter, Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back. Luke has travelled to Dagobah, the home of Jedi Master Yoda. On arrival he crashes his X-wing starfighter into a swamp (the whole planet appears to be a swamp). After a few days of training Yoda encourages Luke to use the force to pull the starfighter out of the swamp. Luke fails and in the three minute scene around this event, Yoda delivers a great deal of his best advice. Yoda reluctantly uses the force to pull the starfighter out, and Luke is truly amazed. He looks at Yoda and says, “I don’t believe it.” Yoda responds, “That is why you fail.” (I know you just heard Yoda’s voice when you read that). And there it is. The very heart of the Star Wars message delivered in just two lines. And Mr. Hall’s statement narrowed down to just one word.
It’s fitting that one of the smallest characters in the Star Wars story delivers the most powerful lesson. Belief is a small word. But this single word may in fact represent the most powerful thing on the planet.
In 1999 I published “One Step to Wealth,” a book that is essentially about getting what you want. The secret is simple; know what you want. So if someone says “I want to have 100 million dollars,” does it magically appear? Maybe. That will depend on – you guessed it – belief.
We are the sum of our beliefs. We are also prisoners of those beliefs. I don’t know anyone who believes that they can wish money into existence. In fact, I don’t know many people who believe that they can break the shackles of the socio-economic strata that they were born into. Our lot in life is to live a slightly better version of the lives our parents lived. Unless, we change our beliefs.
Star Wars isn’t the only movie that uses belief as a core theme. There are lots of them. Another of my favourites is A Knight’s Tale in which the main character – William – leaves his father to “change his stars.” William is a peasant, but he wants to be more. He doesn’t see the difference between himself and the knights who fight on horseback and the movie follows his journey of transforming from William, to Sir William. His secret is belief.
History is a study in belief. All great discoveries and innovations were fueled by someone believing in the impossible. And millions of lives have been lost due to countries or religions killing others to support or defend a set of beliefs.
We talk about the power of positive thinking and having a “can do attitude” and we label it optimism or confidence. It’s belief.
Belief is the most powerful force in the universe. And I wonder why we don’t spend more time trying to understand it and trying to make it work for us to make our lives and our world a better place.
We look at the tragedies of wars, or the mysteries of cults and we label it brainwashing. It’s belief. We talk about the power of positive thinking and having a “can do attitude” and we label it optimism or confidence. It’s belief.
We all want something more than we have right now, or we want to be more than we have become. The degrees may vary, but it is nonetheless universal. And if belief is the secret, (and it is), why haven’t we figured out how to do this? At the risk of going in circles, it’s because we don’t universally believe that we can, or even that it matters. And if we do believe, we don’t know how to change those beliefs that are holding us back.
Speak to your brain in the language of the brain which is in images packed with emotion. And tell ourselves, repeatedly, that we ARE that which we wish to become.
An endless chain of advice and guidance from prophets, philosophers, writers, and poets, self-help gurus and others hasn’t been enough. We need scientific proof. We need an on-off switch to point to and a step-by-step manual that just doesn’t exist.
If this sounds a lot like what you have read in Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich,” or heard from Deepak Chopra or countless other new-age thinkers who live in the dream world of positive thinking, that’s because it is. The science here still sounds like science fiction. It might be time to dust off some of those books that you may have discarded as “new age mumbo jumbo.” As Yoda said in the X-fighter swamp scene, “You must unlearn what you have learned.” And in doing so you may learn, as Luke did, that nothing is impossible. We can change our beliefs. We can change our stars.