Personal Development

The Power of Beliefs

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Potatoes have become a part of our staple diet and have been for the last few hundred years.  However, the history of the potato suggest it has not had an easy ride.

power of beliefs

The story of the potato explains how the Spanish Conquistadors, who, after a trip to Peru in 1532, brought the potato, originally called Batata (sweet potato) but was mispronounced,  into Europe. A few Spanish farmers began cultivating it, with the intention of giving it to their livestock as feed. Knowledge of the potato spread across Europe very slowly until the 1600’s when it was known all over Europe.

The potato was viewed with suspicion; the general opinion was that it wasn’t fit for the human consumption, one person put it ‘it wasn’t fit to feed a dog’. However, the upper classes saw the potential of the potato,  mainly to be able to feed the nation very cheaply. However, the suspicious lower class didn’t see this and didn’t want to cultivate it.

So the potato didn’t become a staple part of the diet until the revolutionary wars in the 1700s. This is was when the potato really took off as a staple diet because there was a shortage of food, so the potato started to take off in a big way, it was however still regarded with distaste.

Its consumption spread throughout Europe, but peasants were still suspicious even though in 1771 the “˜Faculty De Paris’ testified that the potato was not harmful to humans, but in actual fact beneficial. The great part of this story is that Fredrick the Great of Prussia had wanted to feed his nation with potatoes, but because his peasants regarded them with distaste there was a resistance to grow it, there was even a few recorded cases of hanging due to farmers not cultivating potatoes.

So Fredrick the Great thought about this, and in order to change the perception of the potato, he would have to change how the potato was perceived.   What he did was to grow potatoes in his royal field. He heavily armed the field with guards, which was a show for the peasants.

The peasants could see that it was armed and they would associate the crop in the armed field with something worth stealing. So it was a ‘weak’ guard and the peasant started to steal them and started eating them. Thus the perception of the potato was changed forever, and it was cultivated widely throughout the world. This was down to the fact that Frederick the Great had changed the perception of the potato, reverse psychology, and tricked the peasant into thinking it was a royal food.

This is exactly what happens within our minds.   We are brought up with other people’s perceptions of life.   Not until we develop enough, intellectually, can we change those perceptions, and even then it can be difficult to change our perceptions about the world until we start to really question it.

Our beliefs are formed by first having a perception of something.  Like the above story illustrates the perception at the time was that potatoes weren’t fit for a dog.  Until the perception is questioned in someone’s mind then a belief cannot be changed, therefore to start the process of installing a new belief or changing an old, limiting belief,  the perception of something first has to be put into question.

Frederick The Great did an amazing job at altering the perception of the potato, but he did something more important.  He showed how it is possible to get people to change their perception purely by reframing the potato in a different way.

You are going to do the same, no, not change your perception of the potato, but change some of the perceptions you have about yourself.


When you change one belief about yourself it automatically has a knock-on effect for other beliefs in your life, which has a knock-on effect on smaller beliefs.  All this comes full circle and boosts the original belief, the starter belief, even more.

Imagine for a few seconds that you are extremely confident, not arrogant, rude or egotistical, you are just very self-assured and truly believe in yourself.  How do you think this would change the way you are as a person? what opportunities would it open up? what do your social interactions look like? what jobs would you be willing to go for? how would you walk differently? 

The root belief of confidence is one belief that has a major impact on a lot of other large beliefs and smaller beliefs, and it all compounds to give you even more confidence.

Here’s a perfect example:

When I was in my teens I was awkwardly shy in social situations and terrible when it came talking to girls.  If you’ve ever watched a social interaction with two people where it has been really awkward and you start to cringe a little as you feel bad for them, that is what I was like all the time in social situations.

I always had a false notion that I had to speak more, or I had to be funny, or I had to have swagger.  Everybody used to always say ‘you don’t say much do you?’. That would lead to me trying to talk to people and trying to tell stories and I wasn’t really interested in talking or in some cases the people I was talking to, and it would lead to that cringe factor as I was just no good socially.

Later on, I realised three things:

  1. You only need one good story or anecdote for people to remember you.
  2. For people to think you are good at socialising all you need to do is ask everyone lots of questions about themselves.
  3. Being a quiet person gets people interested in you. 

Point number 1

I am not a good story collector or teller and I quickly forget a lot of the good stories that have happened in my life.  My younger sister, Izzy, is brilliant at stories and she is hilarious as she remembers everything. So, realising this I would collect stories in my head and rehearse them and try and use them as much as possible so I could remember them for social situations.  Then when I was at a social gathering I could bring up one story where for about 1 minute all the attention was on me and people would remember my story and actually seen me as a really interesting person. I might have been in a crowd of people for 4 hours and that one minute was enough for people to think of me as quite chatty and confident.

Point number 2

Most people love to talk about themselves and knowing this is fantastic because if you’re really shy all you have to do is listen to people and ask them questions where appropriate e.g. Oh you work at such and such, how do you like that?

One trick here is to ask open-ended questions so it’s not a question that is a yes or a no.

If you move around the people in the gathering like this, people will remember you as really friendly and warm as most people don’t take a genuine interest.

This also has the effect of building up your confidence in social situations, which has a compounding effect of higher self-esteem, a feeling of higher self-worth, the confidence to try new things, and an overall feeling of deep self-belief.

Point number 3

I quickly discovered I became more interesting to girls when I was confidently quiet.

I learned that being quiet and not speaking much in social situations was actually quite good as long as I wasn’t awkward about it.  I only spoke when I had something to say or something interesting to add. I had this air of mystery about me which served me well at the time as I learned to listen which helped me to grow my confidence and helped me pick up on the social cues of other people.

Again, this had a compounding effect on most other areas in my life as well as being confidently quiet quickly strengthened other empowering beliefs I needed to have in order to move forward in life.

I developed a ‘can do’ attitude which increased that circular compound effect on my life overall.

So, one starter belief of ‘I am confident socially’, which is the starter belief, had a circular compounding effect which came back round to strengthen my starter belief even more.

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About the author

Steven Aitchison

Steven Aitchison is the author of The Belief Principle and an online trainer teaching personal development and online business.  He is also the creator of this blog which has been running since August 2006.