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I’ve been thinking a lot about patterns of belief lately.

What do I mean by belief? Merriam-Webster defines belief1as:

1. a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing
2. something that is accepted, considered to be true, or held as an opinion: something believed an individual’s religious or political beliefs especially: a tenet or body of tenets held by a group the beliefs of the Catholic Church
3. conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon especially when based on examination of evidence belief in the validity of scientific statements

Of these three definitions, I am referring to the latter: the conviction of the reality of some phenomenon based on evidence and science.

When I first begin working with a client I start out by listening closely to what beliefs they hold. I listen for statements about themselves, their work situation, their goals and aspirations. Listening for their beliefs – both the enabling ones as well as the limiting ones – allows me to hone in to what patterning they are creating for their brain to follow.

Our brains are essentially enormous brain-recognition machines, and the more similar patterns we expose this machinery to, the better it becomes at deciding which information to pay attention to, and which to ignore.

This is something that Kevin Ashton refers to as “selective attention”, and a hallmark of expertise2

By paying close attention to what patterning a client’s brain has been exposed to the most – by listening for language patterns and belief systems – I can gauge what their pattern recognition circuitry has become expert at. And since our brain is always matching what we see with templates, i.e. patterns, of what it’s seen before3, it follows that if we want to influence a person’s belief we need to change the templates and patterns his or her brain is exposed to the most.

Why is this important?

When I think about the people who I admire the most – Mandiba, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Maya Angelou, Victor Frankl, Leymah Gbowee4 amongst them – I see a common thread. Despite difficulties, seemingly insurmountable odds and direct opposition they were able to hold on to their belief in a better life. They created, and unyieldingly held on to their ideas of a better future, and their ability to have some impact in bringing that future into reality.

What made that possible?

Patterning the brain.

A 2018 study at the University of Colorado Boulder found evidence that the brain activates very similar circuitry when imagining things as when experiencing them5. The researchers stated:

“Manage your imagination and what you permit yourself to imagine. You can use imagination constructively to shape what your brain learns from experience.”


By focusing on the future that they wished to create, taking the time to think about it, imagine it with all five senses, and talk about it. All of those human(e) leaders exposed their own pattern recognition machinery to the patterns that matched that future reality. The machinery went to work, constantly sorting and looking for patterns that matched what it had now seen. And as they spent more time with the belief of a different future, their brains developed expertise in recognizing things, people and places that matched the pattern. They became experts in seeking and creating their desired reality. Their thoughts led to actions. And their desired future became reality.

To borrow a phrase: what we think, we become.

And so, when working with clients the very first thing I encourage them to do is to examine and create a list of beliefs about their future that feels expansive and enabling. We do this in a variety of ways: journaling, meditation and guided exploration. The end result is a deeply personal, powerfully inspirational, pattern recognition template. I then encourage them to expose their pattern recognition machinery to this template daily, using all five senses.

What we’re really doing is building belief.

So if the news cycles hit you and make you feel that there’s an impossible mountain to climb to get back to safety, stability, common sense and decency don’t despair.

Harness your pattern recognition machinery by thinking, in detail and using all five senses, about the future you want to live in. Spend five minutes a day at least in that future.

If that seems silly, or frivolous, consider that this is exactly how all of these legendary leaders and thinkers – Mandiba, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Maya Angelou, Victor Frankl, Leymah Gbowee6– began their journeys to their desired realities.They didn’t begin from a place of power, wealth, influence or recognition. The world they created started much smaller than that.

It all began with a thought, repeated over and over. A pattern.

I’m not for a moment suggesting that we will each become such accomplished thinkers and doers.

But we will set in motion the possibility of a better, more desirable reality for each, and all of us.

So try it.

See what shifts.

Report back.

And, if you want to go further faster with me by building your belief and your hugely successful, unconventional career, team or business, check it out here to find the course that best suits you.

Catch my keynote “Compassionate Management: Peak Performance in Tough Times” at the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners Virtual Chapter meeting on October 6th. Click here for more information.

Catch me speaking at BizDiversity’s online event “The Art of Turning Your Passion Into Business” on October 15th. Click here to know more about the event.