“Some things have to be believed to be seen.” ― Madeleine L'Engle
What do you believe? The question sounds simple, right? A friend recently posed it to me, and I was surprised to find that it caught me a bit off guard. I thought I knew. But my first pass seemed thin. And my mind kept interrupting my heart as I searched for my answer.
I’d stumbled through this territory before. But I’d never taken the time to dig deeper, to mine the why of what I believe. I might have started with, “I believe in children’s capacity.” But I now know that my core belief is more fundamental. I believe that children deserve to belong to communities where they see themselves and are seen.
Curious? You can do it, too. The exercise can be surprising—and quite simple to start. Here’s how:
- Find a piece of paper, a quiet space, and about thirty minutes in your day.
- Choose one of these questions to answer:
What gets me up in the morning?
What gives me hope?
What pulls at my heart?
What stimulates me to get moving?
- Start writing—without thinking about grammar or punctuation or spelling. Just put your pen to paper and record your mind’s honest wanderings.
- Let your writing flow. Your mind (and pen) may scrawl words you don’t recognize—and don’t like. For a while. But don’t worry. Let yourself warm up in your own time. Write down whatever comes, without editing yourself. Imagine that you’re a potter throwing a piece of clay on a wheel. Allow the ideas to take shape as your mind turns them over. Journal for about 15 minutes.
- Read it all over, and pick the idea that resonates or catches your eye. Then, write for another five minutes. This time, try to explaining why it matters or what the words mean to you. If you wrote about love, try, ‘What does love mean? And why?’ Repeat this process until you stumble over the start of your answer to the question, ‘What do I believe?’ You’ll know it when you do. It’s big.
your north star
Author Brené Brown leads readers and students in a similar exercise to help them name their core values. Once they whittle down Brown’s list of 100 values to just two or three, they’ve arrived in the constellation of their “North Star.” These are the values that guide us, and they are as individual as we are. I think that what we believe grows out of our core values.
Reflecting on what we believe in us helps us move closer to being able to explain who we are, deep down. And when we know this, we feel anchored. That grounded feeling quietly helps us orient when we feel uncertain or face a tough decision. Like us, our beliefs evolve over time. And as we find our own way, we can surprise ourselves with this timeless question, again and again.