What do you believe in?

By Scott Schimmel

“Life’s an adventure, okay- you’ve gotta laugh at life.”

My grandfather had many phrases, sayings and idioms about the architecture of the world and how to live in it. A few of them stuck with me, almost like refrains deep inside that pop up effortlessly as life unfolds.  

Your personal beliefs shape who you become. Your beliefs form the foundation of who you are, how you interact with the world, and the kind of person you turn into. 

Parents, families, and communities do their best to pass on their beliefs to the next generation. Through wisdom that comes with age and life experience, they want their kids and grandkids to see the world in similar ways. 

Do you believe the world is basically a friendly, benevolent place, or is it dangerous, uncontrollable and up to you to get through it?

Do you believe that you are in charge of creating your future, or are you subject to however things shake out?

Do you believe you have inherent potential, or is it more what-you-see-is-what-you-get?

Do you believe in God, and if so, what kind of God? Is He for you? Is He available? Does He have power that can be tapped into on your behalf?

As we continue to work with thousands of students, emerging adults who are under pressure to decide who they are and who they’re becoming, we’ve found it to be exceptionally helpful to take them through a process to define their beliefs. It is a natural part of the maturation process to test the beliefs that have been handed down to you. It’s also natural to make your own, based on your experiences and circumstances. Not only that, but there are unconscious beliefs that percolate through your behavior and choices, and becoming aware of them in order to examine them will serve you well throughout your life. 

If you’re a parent, have you defined what you believe in, and communicated that to your kids? Becoming clear and communicating your beliefs to your kids can be an incredible gift; wisdom that you can offer to help them organize and make sense of life. Are there core phrases, sacred texts, or slogans that you can intentionally use to help them learn and remember what you believe?

Trust us, your kids will develop beliefs of their own. And, they will likely change as they get older. Emerging adults need to fill the container of their lives with solid structure, but in the formative years, they aren’t necessarily permanent fixtures. They will learn to replace some things in their containers with more helpful, true, or good pieces. So- do your best to avoid overreacting. Try to create a safe environment for them to explore, test, and build their own belief structure. The best thing you can do is listen and continue to share your beliefs through stories.