Now that 2017 is finally here, it is important that we sidestep the belief that a mere change in dates on the calendar will make some kind of difference. I will not regurgitate the false statement “2016 was the worst year ever,” but I will definitely admit that I am glad that this perception made people to see a fresh start in 2017 with more hope and positivity.
This mental restructuring can be great for constructing a platform to achieve greater success in whatever goals are set. Belief, as we will see, is more crucial than one may imagine.
Central to this psychological organizing is admitting how much of an influence our thoughts have in shaping our very being. Deep down, we all realize that critical thoughts, after a certain point, offer nothing but a higher blood pressure and increase in cortisol.
Now, what if you were to rewrite over all that white noise in your mind — Oh, I’m always going to be fat — into positive, actionable thoughts — I will lead a more healthy lifestyle? Generally, I’m not too big on New Year’s resolutions, but an interesting experiment we all can do this year is practicing ruthless self-love.
Ruthless self-love is a concept that originates from the ancient Toltec people of Mesoamerica, a subject that I accidentally, but gladly, stumbled upon as I read about Native American cultures over this winter break. The idea is loving yourself so much that you demand nothing but the best from yourself.
It is not to be confused with narcissism, as doing the best for yourself includes being your harshest critic and being unceasingly honest with yourself. Practicing ruthless self-love simply is radical forgiveness for mistakes made in the past and being mindful of all the choices available in the present. More importantly though, it is the boundless belief in yourself that simply cannot be shattered by external forces or temporary let-downs. It is not just an idea but an active exercise that can be colossally impactful.
Irish mixed martial arts fighter Conor McGregor personifies the power of belief with great clarity. In a press conference before the UFC 178, newbie McGregor, almost resembling a lion with his intimidating tattoos and blonde beard, confidently proclaimed that he will knock out his opponent in the first round. McGregor ended up thrashing top mixed martial artist Dustin Poirier with a knockout in just under two minutes.
And that wasn’t the last time such a thing happened; McGregor does not just knock out his opponents, he picks the round and paints a picture with great detail of exactly how he will win. In one of the press conferences after another predicted win, when asked about how he does so well, McGregor said, pointing to his head with a sly grin, “If you can see it here and have the courage enough to speak it, it will happen.”
McGregor’s story teaches us many things, but one big lesson is how consequential belief can be. McGregor’s belief was that the wins in his mind were a statement of fact that simply needed to be materialized in reality.
That is not to say that visualizing is the key to getting results. There is no replacement for hard work; rather, it is about priming your brain for action. For example, studies from Stanford University have shown how a growth-mindset leads to richer, denser neural connections. All of a sudden, every action you take in the present seems like a stepping stone to a higher purpose.
This is not about McGregor. I can point to Thomas Edison, Richard Branson and even Kanye West as phenomenal examples. Belief has powered humanity from its humble roots in the grasslands of Eastern Africa to the current advanced technological civilization.
Call it dharma, arete or positive psychology — it doesn’t matter. The point is to realize that in the midst of the staggering amount of stimuli we interact with on a daily basis, the only thing we all can do is respond. I urge all of you, this 2017, to train self-belief almost as if it is a muscle that only grows with repetition.
Stop saying no to yourself. Go out there and practice ruthless self-love and tirelessly back it up with action. Do it for your family, friends and loved ones. But most importantly, do it for the most important person in your life: you, yourself.
SUDHANSU SISODIYA is a freshman in the College.
Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.