Russell Bishop Blog

#25 – Vectors and Conflicting Beliefs

In the last section on beliefs, we talked a bit about beliefs being in conflict with one another. I’d like to look at that question in another light, that may be helpful in understanding how conflicting beliefs play out in the real world.

If you are like most people I have worked with over the years, you may recognize the phenomenon of wanting something and not having it while contrasted with having something you don’t want.

Now how does that work?

Previously, we looked at the role of choice in producing, or not producing, what you want.  Choice couples nicely with awareness and focus – the more aware you are of what you want together with your ability to focus on the desired outcome, will very likely put you in the position of choosing what you want.

But what happens when you seem clear on what you want (focus and desired outcome) and also have some awareness of what you could do to produce it? And you still don’t wind up with what you want. Hmmm.

Enter the world of vectors and vector addition. For those of you who struggled with math and physics, please relax; we aren’t going to take you into these abstract worlds. Unless, of course, we are. J I’m  pretty sure my mathematics and physics professors never imagined I would be doing to vectors what I am about to do! Unless, of course, he did!

Anyway, let’s start with vectors. What is a vector you might be asking? According to

A vector is: a quantity possessing both magnitude and direction, represented by an arrow the direction of which indicates the direction of the quantity and the length of which is proportional to the magnitude.

And it also is: such a quantity with the additional requirement that such quantities obey the parallelogram law of addition.

OK, enough Mathematics for the moment.

Simply stated, a vector is a line indicating a force moving in a direction and the length of the line indicates both direction and relative force (a longer line is more force than a shorter line). Now that I have completely butchered vectors, let’s start to use them.

Imagine points on a compass to start. Just get North, South, East and West in your mind and you will have enough to work on. Now let’s imagine one of your beliefs about money and it is pointing due North, and it is just one unit long:


Now let’s imagine that another of your beliefs about money is pointing directly East and that it is five units long:

Finally, let’s imagine one more belief about money and it is pointing due South, and it is four units long:

If we could pretend that each of these “forces” were being applied simultaneously to the same spot on a tennis ball (and for those physicists in the audience, please do lighten up – give us a friction free environment with no other competing forces like gravity, etc). What direction would the tennis ball move? North? South? East?

None of the above! Enter vector addition. If you were to “add” these three vectors together, you might get something like the blue line below:

Now the tennis ball is moving in a direction that doesn’t look like any of the other three vectors. It’s pretty much the same way with beliefs.

You can hold one belief about money (It takes long, hard work to make money), which contrasts with another (the Camel story), which may conflict with yet another belief, or even with a goal (I want be wealthy).

If you “add” these three together, you may wind up with something looks quite different from any one “direction.” That could look like working hard, working long and not having much to show for the effort, other than stress and fatigue. Sound familiar?

So where are we, then? How do we explain the various conflicts in life, and the mixed results so many of us experience? It could be that part of the problem is lack of clarity on desired outcomes. And it could be lack of focus on the desired outcome. Clarity and focus probably aren’t enough. You need to add in some awareness, some response-ability, and perhaps some communication (common action). And on top of that, you may have to consider various inner conflicts and beliefs about what is possible or what is OK.

Whew! Getting to the fulfillment and quality of life experience you seek could be challenging! It is, and it isn’t.

As you keep looking at these various elements, you will begin to see connections and sooner or later it will become simple. And then you will bump into the paradox that simple and easy don’t necessarily go together. In fact, simple rarely is easy.

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