The following chapter appears in the book “Freedom. Choice. Power. A guide to living free.” by Edward Phelps.
From the moment we are born we are given a bunch of ideas about the world that we use for the rest of our lives. We do not choose these ideas for ourselves; they are given to us by our parents and family, at church and at school.
They are forced upon us when we are infants, before we are able to fully understand and choose for ourselves. This is important if we are concerned about our freedom because everything we think, do, and feel we can do, is based upon these ideas we did not choose for ourselves.
These ideas tell us about our world. Let’s call these ideas we are given about the world ‘core beliefs’ because we use them as the foundation for how we look at the world, and we believe in them intensely. Every day we are free to make choices that direct the course of our lives, and we make all those choices based upon our core beliefs. We build our lives on our core beliefs. Our core beliefs include our ideas about the most basic things like what are good, bad, right, and wrong. Other core beliefs include our thoughts about gender (male or female), parents (mom and dad), family (sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins), community (nationality, race, class), religion (where we come from, God, good and evil), and so much more.
Don Miguel Ruiz describes our core beliefs as ‘agreements’ in his timeless book ‘The Four Agreements.’ This is a really effective way of describing the concept of what beliefs actually are (agreements). We lock-in our core beliefs, our foundation agreements, at a very young age and then go through our entire lives without ever questioning or changing them. Everything in our lives constantly changes, except our core beliefs. Bottom line, we never review our core beliefs to see how they are working for us.
In this book we will examine how deeply our core beliefs (foundation agreements) affect our freedom, what freedom really is and how to have more of it. We will also examine the awesome power of choice and how our choices affect our freedom.
Before we can start exploring to improve or better understand ourselves and our place in the world we must first be aware that we live our lives under the power of deep core beliefs that we did not choose. These core beliefs, or core agreements, tell us how we look at ourselves, other people, situations and circumstances we encounter, and the world. They decide what we feel is acceptable, and even possible. They are extremely powerful beliefs that we live by, and did not choose for ourselves.