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A short article about beliefs and how they can be changed

Do you believe in Father Christmas?

Reading time – 3 minutes.

Well, it’s that time of year again. Too many mulled wines and mince pies. Strange how at the same time every year my clothes seem to shrink a little!

Recently we had a festive family get together and inevitably after a few glasses of wine we started to reminisce about childhood and it is fair to say that Father Christmas and the whole festive period was a big part of my family’s culture and my upbringing but what made me (and millions of other children) believe in such a far-fetched story?

There were many reasons the belief was formed and built upon in my head, here are a few:

  • The vision of Father Christmas was all over the media and although there was no internet way back when I was a child it still appeared to be everywhere. This meant newspapers, posters and the TV with only 3 channels up until 1982.
  • I was rewarded with presents if I was good. The good old parental trick of getting better behaviour by using negative reinforcement. ‘If you are not good then he won’t come this year’. (This doesn't work by the way).
  • All of my friends at school talked about Father Christmas and what he might bring them – I remember that ZX Spectrums and BMX bikes usually featured highly on the list of wants. The latest trends were discussed and this peer influence guided my list to Santa.
  • It was easier to believe than not. I, like so many others, simply followed the crowd.

So what changed? Do you remember (if this was part of your cultural upbringing) the point when you started to question the whole Father Christmas thing?

Spoiler alert!

My belief in Father Christmas changed over a period of time and there were several factors that made me realise that he wasn’t real. Here are some:

  • Someone at school sowed the seed of doubt when they said that they knew for sure that he wasn’t real. They had seen their Dad dressed up as Santa and dropping the presents by the tree.
  • As my cognitive ability expanded I started to question things that didn’t quite seem right (like how does he actually fit down the chimney? What about if you have a gas fire? How does he get around the whole world in one night?)
  • As I got older I started to understand the commercial side of Christmas and that all of the presents that I had received were on the store shelves in the months up until the 25th Dec. And I also then heard people moaning about how all of the things that Santa ‘delivered’ just a week or so before were now half price!
  • When I got even older and had children of my own I understood that I had to take on the role of Father Christmas and it’s interesting that I still perpetuated the lie (I mean story) with my own children. The reward changed from receiving gifts to one of delight at seeing them excited.
  • The other thing of course was my bank balance would take until Easter to recover. 

Over a period of time my belief was fundamentally changed by several factors:

  • Experience
  • Knowledge
  • Facts
  • Logic

Aside from my Father Christmas example which is fairly normal in my cultural upbringing there are many other examples of how beliefs have been changed. If I was to say to you the date 6th May 1954 what would that mean to you? That date is very significant when it comes to beliefs. Up until that date it was believed that running a sub 4 minute mile was impossible. It was even stated by the medical community that if a human runs that fast there is a danger that the heart will explode! 

Then a very talented chap called Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute barrier crossing the line at 3:59.4. 

The mind-set and beliefs of the entire athletics community changed in that instance – just one fact did that. From that point the record has continually been beaten and now stands at 3:43.13.

This is interesting and crosses over to business and leadership. You can’t simply impose your own, or an organisation’s beliefs on someone – you have to subtly use facts, knowledge and logic to change the person’s experience and understanding, which then in turn re-shapes their own beliefs.

When promoting your company values and selling them to your people think about what facts you have that support your position and then present them in a clear and logical way.

And just like the presents that 'Santa' used to deliver - don’t forget to also think about what experiences and emotions you want the values/beliefs to create.

Merry Christmas one and all from Santa

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About the author

Dave Dayman

Dave Dayman

I'm passionate about leadership. I believe that thinking is not only the most powerful tool that we own but is also the one thing we have total control over. Sometimes we just need a little help to change the way we in which we choose to think!