How do we (and, should we look to) change belief systems and mindsets that are blocking the change we want to see?

I had a conversation last night with someone around climate change. They had posted the following quote on FB:

The present convergence of crises - in money, energy, education, health, water, soil, climate, politics, the environment, and much more - is a birth crises, expelling us from the old world into a new. Charles Eisenstein

We got into a conversation about it. The conversation doesn’t really matter, except that we completely agreed on the YES-ness of this quote to both of us.

The difference was that I have a deep knowing, that feels right and true, that we may well be going past the tipping point where the Earth can sustain any life at all (in relation to the quote, being that I am afraid that the Earth will not either be able to support us to see the next stage let alone support us or any life. And the person I was speaking to has a deep knowing that while we may destroy ourselves, the Earth will be just fine.

Since the conversation, I’ve been pondering the following questions:

  1. How do we change a deeply-held belief system or mindset when we seem to know (sense, think, intuit, or understand) that the solution to the problem is through changing that very belief or mindset?

  2. Leading in to, how do we approach a problem when we think (know, sense, have a clear understanding) we can see the solution and it’s the complete opposite to what the other person thinks?

  3. Widening this out to where we are now, with such strong ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ camps leading to greater polarisation on all topics (and I am deep in enquiry about my relation to right and wrong especially when it leads to polarisation in society), how do we approach a topic, such as climate change, where there are a number of clear camps (from complete denial; to humanity wiping itself out but the planet will be OK; to we’re approaching a tipping point regarding the Earth but it’s far away; to there is a serious emergency going on on all levels that could include the Earth becoming unable to sustain any life at all because the tipping point is here)?

  4. And circling back to point 1, if I have a clear belief that there is a serious emergency going on at all levels that could include the Earth becoming unable to sustain any life at all because the tipping point is here, and if we don’t make radical changes on every level, we may go past the point of no return, and yet other people have a strong knowing of their own that it’ll all be OK or it’s a hoax, how do I change their mindset (and should I even be looking to do this)?

I love Charles’ quote. I not only believe (know, think, understand) that there is an extraordinary crises going on, I believe that this crises could bring us into the kind of society that will be, as Charles would say, a more beautiful world. But I think we are also on a tipping point, and it has just as much chance to go the other way: into severe famine, poverty, war, and totalitarianism, and the death of our planet.

Any reflections, ideas, thoughts would be very much appreciated.

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Hey Anna-Marie,

I think you mentioned elsewhere something about our orientations/inclinations/behaviours possibly being manifestations of the energetic field of the biosphere (not using these words precisely, but I believe it was the gist - though I could’ve jumbled your responses up with someone else’s!) and I wonder if this has something to do with it. It could be, for instance, that different people’s ‘deep knowings’ have less to do with the material truth of matters, and more to do with the particular function they’re hard-wired to perform under particular circumstances (and the vision that enables them to perform it).

To use an example, until fairly recently I was obsessed with achieving a somewhat Utopian vision of societal bliss. I wanted to save everyone, to raise them up and improve the quality of life for all - and I studied and schemed and strived to etch out a political blueprint of sufficiently gargantuan proportions to achieve that goal. Unfortunately, it went nowhere and I accomplished very little by engaging in this process - the scale of the problem was simply too large and it left me spinning my wheels.

It was only when I accepted what I consider to be the predicament that awaits us - that we are going to lose large swathes of the global population as a result of the damage that we’ve done to the planet and our abuse of its resources - that I began to actually take action; to physically respond in a way that might make a (small) difference to the situation. So, for me personally, arriving at this conclusion ultimately liberated me from paralysis - but it might very well have the opposite effect on someone else. It may be, therefore, that we need to ‘know’ different things in order to channel the energies required to manifest change…

To expand upon this a little (and return to the original ‘birthing’ metaphor) the rise in political extremism, the increasing suppression of environmentalist movements and the intensification of critical conflicts around the globe are deeply concerning - but precisely because they are concerning, they seem to be stirring previously complacent subsections of the population to take action to counteract these trends.

Is it therefore not possible that - in the grand scheme of things - the ‘deep knowings’ of reactionaries that we might consider dangerous are essential agents for change in this birthing process? (…although life is in constant flux - meaning that the utility of these perspectives may be temporary - and we must fulfil our own purpose too - so entertaining this hypothesis would not necessarily mean that we stop acting to combat such perspectives).

Of course, all of this is conjecture, and ultimately unprovable - but I find it to be an interesting thought exercise, even if all it achieves is to afford us greater empathy for people with different views to ourselves (though this in itself may be one of the mechanisms by which this process operates - as it can allow us to see pieces of the puzzle that we were previously blind to. As another ‘for instance’ the efforts of ardent right wingers have allowed me to recognise very real problems generated by mass-immigration that I previously dismissed; which would seem to support the notion that their own slice of truth has a part to play in bringing balance to the greater whole).


Yes, this wasn’t me :slightly_smiling_face: That is a very interesting idea though! Took me a couple of reads to get, but very interesting. I can see how that would shift things in a very different direction in regards to my enquiries around right and wrong, and following our convictions/deeply-held beliefs. Thank you so much!

I’m curious, you said

Who are these complacent subsections that you see taking action because of this crisis? I ask because what I see is some movement and action, yes, especially by the young (I’m thinking of Extinction Rebellion, for example), but also with that a deeper entrenching into actions and mindsets that deny there is a crisis or that it needs the kind of response that it (seems to me, at this point in my understanding) needs, i.e. complete change on every level, from personal responsibility to how communities and societies are formed and structured, to a new political system, one unlike we’ve ever seen before.

Yes, I am starting to see the perspective that everything may well have its purpose and role in birthing something much better than where we are now, or have been before. And I get why people say that someone like Trump is simply acting out his part in this. And, as you said here, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we shouldn’t follow our convictions too, so that we play our part.

I find though, that I feel like there’s something missing here, in the idea that everyone is simply playing out their role (even with the understanding that it doesn’t mean they should simply be left too it if their role is one like Trump’s). I’m not sure yet what that is, but it keeps tugging at my attention : )

Yes!! Absolutely. I have found that too. My partner said exactly the same thing recently. I have often found that I ‘get’ a lot of the core concerns within ideologies or mindsets that I also find abhorrent. Like the immigration issues we’re all facing (and that will increase), and many of the other fears that drive racism and hatred.

I’m one. :slightly_smiling_face:

I don’t know how many of us there are, but I suspect that, like me, many of the people who do “wake up” will be coming to the table with a whole range of different experiences and skills than the people already at the table themselves had the opportunity to develop, and that these different perspectives could be of value in finding and implementing solutions/responses.

Taking myself as an example: I don’t have a background in environmental science or activism or journalism or social justice; mine’s in psychology and project management and business/systems analysis and entrepreneurialism.

And as a result, I find I look at things differently than most of the people (I see) at the table do. For example:

  1. I don’t believe our politicians are suitable leaders for this situation. That’s not what they’re there for. In fact, our current governance structures are totally unfit for purpose – I’d never run a project of this nature (massively complex change) under that governance structure (business as usual) because it’d be bound to fail. (So hey, let’s not do that! :sunglasses: :rofl:)

  2. In a similar vein, a whole-of-organisation problem simply can’t be solved within one department that doesn’t have adequate knowledge or insight as to what is going on with the rest of the organisation, let alone control over it … so how can we expect nation-states to solve global problems? We need to find ways to take action globally

  3. At all levels of action, if we don’t have real-time and pertinent information about the budget we need to stick to, in terms of our use of natural resources, how do we expect to stay within budget? (Again, you wouldn’t run a project – or a household! – like that.)

(As an aside… I guess this is some of the thinking behind the Global Commons Trust concept, which is, to borrow your terminology, “a new political system, one unlike we’ve ever seen before”.)

So now, back to your original questions! :smiley:

Not always … but often … I find that it helps to truly understand what the belief system is based on, as I think you and Kevin have both already alluded to earlier in this thread.

This animated summary of Dave Gray’s work on Liminal Thinking (and belief formation) is excellent:

I’ve found that even this approach doesn’t always help because (I think) you only get one chance to make a first impression, and if someone’s first impression of the speaker is essentially “them” (not “one of us”), good luck ever changing that! Building trust from a negative starting point is really difficult. The conversation would need to be started anew with someone they trust more.

That said, I suspect that in many cases it isn’t necessary to change much (if anything) in the belief system or mindset. It may be enough to change external circumstances sufficiently to interact in such a way with the belief system to get the desired results, e.g. if a plastic toothbrush cost $8 and a bamboo toothbrush cost $4, which one would most people buy? If it cost $6 to make a plastic toothbrush, would companies continue making plastic toothbrushes …?

This raises a couple of questions in my mind:

  • Are we sure that both people see the problem itself the same way?
  • Is there only one solution? Is a “both, and” approach possible?

Also, did you have a particular problem and solutions in mind here? I’m having trouble dreaming up an example … :slight_smile:

I wonder whether it might help to step back from the point/s of disagreement, to find a place where there is a sense of agreement sufficient for coordinated action … and work from there?

So, for example:

  • If A believes climate is changing due to solar flares, and B believes climate is changing due to human activity, perhaps they can both agree on the need for humanity to adapt to the changing climate in order to survive, regardless of what caused it

  • If A believes animals are going extinct due to loss of habitat, but doesn’t believe that the climate is changing at all, perhaps A can still agree on the need to change approach to prevent further loss of other species’ habitat, including cessation of mining for fossil fuels

  • If two people agree that we’re approaching a tipping point, but one believes it is imminent and another distant, perhaps both can nevertheless agree that it will ultimately cost a lot less to change direction ASAP than it will to continue digging ourselves into a hole

Just thinking. It’s a really good question that I’m still turning around in my mind, too.

I’m not sure that there is any “should”, one way or another. I guess it depends on what you feel called to do.

Personally, I find it a lot less stressful to zoom right out and focus on understanding and changing social systems rather than any individual’s specific beliefs, mindsets or values.

And for guidance on how to change systems, I don’t know (yet) of any better source than Donella Meadows’ 12 Leverage Points:


(in increasing order of effectiveness)

LP 12. Constants, parameters, numbers (such as subsidies, taxes, standards).
LP 11. The sizes of buffers and other stabilizing stocks, relative to their flows.
LP 10. The structure of material stocks and flows (such as transport networks, population age structures).
LP 9. The lengths of delays, relative to the rate of system change.
LP 8. The strength of negative feedback loops, relative to the impacts they are trying to correct against.
LP 7. The gain around driving positive feedback loops.
LP 6. The structure of information flows (who does and does not have access to information).
LP 5. The rules of the system (such as incentives, punishments, constraints).
LP 4. The power to add, change, evolve, or self-organize system structure.
LP 3. The goals of the system.
LP 2. The mindset or paradigm out of which the system — its goals, structure, rules, delays, parameters — arises.
LP 1. The power to transcend paradigms.

Of course I’m utterly intrigued by the possibilities presented by Leverage Point 2 at a systems level! We need stories! :sunglasses:

Just wanted to say I love this.

We all need each other. (Sometimes at a great distance :rofl: … but still …)

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YES!! :man_dancing:

I’m going to have a look in more detail now at your Global Commons Trust concept. I have a fear of global decision making, especially through any kind of global governance, but I can’t imagine that’s what you’re suggesting, so I look forward to reading it :smile:

Good lord, if only governance could approach things like this!

That is so interesting. I have never thought of it like this. And links in so well with

… something that I found particularly fascinating in This Changes Everything was Naomi Klein’s exploration into why climate change deniers are climate change deniers: their fears, their beliefs, their desires, and their motivators. It really switched on a light for me.


… so I see that within many beliefs and mindsets that seem at odds with my own, there are values or fears or desires that I understand and empathise with, and can learn from.

Yes, I’d been thinking of the responses to the climate crises when I started this post.

I think that you’ve answered this in relation to climate change further on :smiley:, thank you. I really appreciate how you’re digging in to where I get stuck. Are people seeing the problem the same way? My experience is not at all, and that’s where I’ve been getting stuck! How to navigate around (as was said in another discussion here) the fact that every single person on this planet views things in a different way, and how to have large scale solutions that can get everyone on the same page. Because if people aren’t on the same page with governance and structure, it seems to me that we would have a dictatorship or a totalitarian regime, and I don’t quite fancy that :wink::sweat_smile:

These are great! But… and staying with climate change as an emergency, if there is an urgent need for change on every single level that will be, for some people, extremely uncomfortable, and an urgent need for that to happen urgently, wouldn’t that kind of commitment to change need to come from a deep commitment to it? (If that makes sense?).

Thank you for working through all this. I feel like my neurons are sparking off like little fireworks :joy:

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I always find that mentally orientated discussions lead me still further into the limits of my own thinking. I prefer to apply the current limits of my thinking to action in the world, in order to understand, evolve and change my OWN beliefs :wink:

So real world example, there are people with a deep visceral ‘knowing’ that we need to stop eating meat. The mind helps them to make sense of this knowing through a belief that manifests through story, i.e. we are impacting the climate with rearing livestock that fart too much and therefore to reduce our impact we have to stop eating meat. Of course the story is just that, it’s yet another story, neither true nor untrue, there are many more stories flying around as to why we shouldn’t eat meat. The important thing to recognise here is that most people are ran by the story (belief) instead of consciously choosing (and maintaining power over) the story to enact their deeper knowing, (this is where the danger lies, because a story playing itself out through someone’s consciousness is not going to accept anybody else’s story - it seeks to be the only story, so it can continue to exist. All other stories are a threat). So it’s important to note here that we must retain our conscious control over the story as a tool in order to live out our knowing and not descend into the illusory and imagined belief.

There are also people with a deep visceral knowing that we need to keep eating meat as part of a varied diet (me included). The mind provides the tools for me to live out this knowing through story and generates my beliefs. This story in my case goes like this…we need to eat meat because farming livestock has the potential to regenerate the biodiversity within the soil (and therefore above ground), whilst also providing for our nutritional requirements. The story also says that given our need to be adaptable to climate changes, animals as a food source are more reliable and robust, as we have lost a huge number of species of plant foods and don’t have enough diversity to become vegetarian, (of course the stories go on further). These are the stories that I choose to use as tools in order to effect action, these beliefs are tools, nothing more and I am open to sharpening up my tools and adapting them to do a better job where necessary.

In the real world these stories result in the following: the vegetarians don’t eat meat and they find ways to produce vegetables more effectively and go down all different avenues to do this, meanwhile the pro-meat eaters find ways to produce meat more effectively and branch off in many areas to do this. Some vegetarians go down the route of creating forest gardens, some become urban gardeners, or set up hydroponic facilities, whilst still others go on to genetically modify crops to increase yield. Meanwhile some meat eaters look at how to re-wild nature, introducing diverse species of animals into habitats to increase biodiversity, or look at how to mimic natures key-stone predators and mob graze livestock, whilst still others look at intensively rearing livestock in concentrated feed lots. Neither the vegetarian was right nor wrong, they were guided by their knowing, through the learning that is facilitated by story.
END RESULT = lots of people growing vegetables and lots of people rearing meat, in many and varied ways. This equals colourful expression of life, resilience, diversity and maximal evolutionary adaptability.

This looks like the highest outcome possible to me and no-one had to change the belief of others to get there. They just had to pick a story, get on with doing what they knew to be right, then apply and utilise the story to live and learn from the limitations of beliefs, (we need the story to wake up to the story). Our limiting stories/beliefs lead to the discovery of what it is to be a mortal human, whereupon we can wake up to who we really are. The truth of anything can be found in it’s opposite as the wise saying goes.

The core here is that our knowing is there to direct us towards what it is we need to learn, through using the tool of the story of belief. The knowing is neither true nor untrue either, but it is not a belief, it just is and it exists until it no longer does, it is simply an instruction from the deepest ‘place’ we have grown into connection with and calls us to grow beyond even knowing. It calls us beyond connection, into unification and emergence as who we really are – here there are no knowings, beliefs, stories or otherwise.

Looking at Anna-Marie’s and her friend’s deep knowing conversation as an example:

Here the deep knowing by Anna-Marie could be seen as a call for urgent and impactful action (total planetary destruction is one heck of a call to action) and a story needs to be chosen (that will already be hovering around in the field of awareness waiting) this allows the exploration and learning (heroes journey) being called for to take place. Of course the deep knowing could be ignored and replaced with a belief, in order to refuse the call, i.e I want to believe my friends story instead. In my experience when we connect with our deep knowing the first thing we do (refuse the call) is try to find a way to disqualify it, usually by seeking others with deep knowings. Other people with a deep knowing (also seeking to disqualify it) allow us to adopt the story that if they are convinced their deep knowing is right, then I must be wrong and I don’t have to move forward with this. Both mirror to one another that one of them MUST be wrong and that they cannot take action until they work out who. This is the case of stagnant paralysis, both stories get to exist and both stories try to win, but make no mistake that it’s the stories that are in charge. A choice must be made to respond to the deep knowing, pick a story to journey and wake up through and stop trying to live out someone else’s stories.

Looking at Kevin’s words:

This is BINGO for me!!! We all have our own unique purpose, with a unique call to action and heroes/heroines journey to undertake. Our knowings call us to choose our own story, live it and make it our own. We are all hard wired to live story in a way that is totally unique to us.

So planetary destruction or not, imminent or not, climate change or not, pick the story that is the best tool to learn more about what your deepest knowings are calling you towards. Perhaps if everyone focused on their own calling, growing and learning as they went, the planet and indeed humanity would not be facing such a violent evolutionary leap.

Long story short, I live through the story that we can live on a harmonious planet (amidst all our different beliefs, mindsets and actions, without needing to change others). I believe that if we regenerate biodiversity in our soils through utilising livestock as well as supporting a more balanced approach to working with nature, we can turn things around and that everything is still to play for. I also don’t believe anything I say, nor anyone else, but I do consciously choose to use the tools wisely.

Perhaps the people extracting fossil fuels aren’t wrong, perhaps the coal mine owners aren’t wrong, perhaps the environmentalists aren’t right, perhaps extinction rebellion aren’t right either. Perhaps the only ones that are truly right are the ones that accept that our beliefs are our choice alone and that we all have to get on with our own calling…perhaps the sooner we get on with it, the sooner we can see what a harmonious planet actually looks like.

I’m off to try and salvage our local abattoir, so we can prevent the loss of more local farms and support them in transitioning over to methods that regenerate the soil and ecosystems.

Oh the joys.

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When I read through your reply, many things slot into place for me. Thank you.

Thank-you for your post and for reading and responding Anna-marie, I’m glad my wafflings made some sense to someone! I must admit that I avoid writing things in public places as I struggle to find words to explain things.

I love the clarity that emerged in my own thinking as I was reading your questions, it’s rare that I find minds open enough for me to experience emergence when connecting with them, I feel things slotting into place for me too. Thank-you.


I thought what you said was very beautiful.

Yes, I see this in myself. For me, it plays out as choosing information that supports my belief. When I was a militant vegan, meat was horrendous to me and felt very unnatural. I rejected any data or arguments that said that meat was healthy or natural. And I held up anything that supported veganism as proof that humans should be vegan and animal life was sacrosanct.

Now, I eat meat and this feels natural to me. I notice that my first impulse is to reject any data or statements for not eating meat, and to view eating meat as the right thing for humans.

I have never seen it like that. Thank you.

I keep seeing this, in all the responses to my stuck enquiries: there is another way that is not about right and wrong, true and false. That focusing on finding out what is right or true, trying to work out what is wrong or false, is exactly why polarisation has become so extreme. And has only ever led me into a place of isolation from others and in conflict with them.

This is extraordinarily beautiful to me.

Interesting. I think for me the first response is a deep joy and excitement, even when it’s 180 degrees from where I was, sometimes especially so; or into a deep sorrow or frustration; with both, the urge is always to explore it further within myself. But what you say is very interesting and I see how this can play out.


Whether you think you express yourself well or not, you have a way of seeing, with clarity, things that I hadn’t seen. And I am very grateful for the awareness you’re sharing here.

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Teri, this is stunning. Thank you for your insight and eloquence. :purple_heart:

Anna-Marie - glad I could be of help :blush:. As far as the following is concerned:

Who are these complacent subsections that you see taking action because of this crisis? I ask because what I see is some movement and action, yes, especially by the young (I’m thinking of Extinction Rebellion, for example), but also with that a deeper entrenching into actions and mindsets that deny there is a crisis or that it needs the kind of response that it (seems to me, at this point in my understanding) needs, i.e. complete change on every level, from personal responsibility to how communities and societies are formed and structured, to a new political system, one unlike we’ve ever seen before.

Like Kylie, I’m one of these people - and I see many more emerging from the woodwork all around us. This happens in small ways initially (in terms of practical, demonstrable actions I’ve taken, I’m only just beginning to grow my own food, learn a few crafts and have started contributing to community-driven clean-up op’s of local green spaces) but I can see these efforts gathering momentum.

Equally, I don’t necessarily see the ‘entrench factor’ as being an exclusively terrible omen - in my experience, when a longstanding belief system begins to unravel, people tend to tighten their grip on its pulled threads. You can often judge the remaining lifespan of a deeply held conviction by the volume at which its adherents proclaim its supremacy.

I find though, that I feel like there’s something missing here, in the idea that everyone is simply playing out their role (even with the understanding that it doesn’t mean they should simply be left too it if their role is one like Trump’s). I’m not sure yet what that is, but it keeps tugging at my attention : )

Yes, I agree with this. I think that determinism is a factor, but I do believe that we have some capacity for free will, and so I don’t think that we’re just slavish actors paddling the planet towards some inevitable, preordained fate (I don’t for the life of me understand how those two relate to one another though - as best as I can rationally deduce we should live in a purely deterministic universe. My intuitive faculties tell me that that isn’t the case though!)

Kylie -

I don’t believe our politicians are suitable leaders for this situation. That’s not what they’re there for. In fact, our current governance structures are totally unfit for purpose – I’d never run a project of this nature (massively complex change) under that governance structure (business as usual) because it’d be bound to fail. (So hey, let’s not do that! :sunglasses: :rofl:)

This reminds me of a quote from another of my favourites, Chris Hedges:

The question, as the philosopher Karl Popper pointed out, is not how to get good people to rule. Most people attracted to power, Popper wrote, are at best mediocre and usually venal. The question is how to build movements to stop the powerful from doing sustained damage to the citizenry, the nation and the environment. It is not our job to take power. It is our job to keep power constantly off balance and fearful of overstepping its reach to pillage on behalf of the elites.

I also like the idea of focusing on points of agreement and working outwards from there. And:

We all need each other. (Sometimes at a great distance :rofl: … but still …)

…I didn’t know you’d met my family :rofl::rofl: .

Teri - loved the story explanation - it expanded upon and solidified what I’d tentatively suggested in my previous post - very helpful :blush:.

Lots of fantastic thought and intuition fodder from all of you, in fact - inspiring stuff (…we may just survive yet :wink: ).

Yes, you are; I can see that. And I’m seeing more and more how I’m that too really: someone who is emerging from the woodwork.

I’ve been very self focused for the last few years, working through lots of things internally, and it has only been recently that my attention has shifted from within to our planet and everything that’s going on on it. Bit of a leap in scale :wink:

Thank you! You keep reminding me of things that I know but forgot I knew.

Phew! I’m a terrible canoist.