We become what we believe

We were in our usual closing circle at the end of a weekly meeting with the men of Donovan State Prison. This is an end-of-day time of reflection on key moments, insights and learnings to anchor them before we step back onto the prison yard or into our cars. One man in blue says “I’m going home soon.” And we all look at him confused.

First, let me say that everyone in prison dreams of one thing: going home. Seeing the streets one day. Many people are lifers with no date to go home. They work hard and diligently to transform themselves hoping that, one day, the Parole Board will find them suitable. If they have or get a date, oh, everyone knows because it’s massive cause for celebration. Second, prison is not a space of sudden changes. We are usually well aware of upcoming bills that may change the men’s ability to go home. They know their date to go to the Parole Board well ahead of schedule. Even for clemency, they work towards it for months and years.

So, what had happened that enabled this amazing news of “going home soon”? The man clarifies, “Oh no, no, no.  Nothing has changed in my sentence or term. I simply have decided that I’m going home soon.”

Woohoo!!! Now, this is cause for celebration!!! It’s a well-documented fact that we become what we believe. Until now, this man believed, reaffirmed by his life sentence, that he had no prospect of ever leaving prison. Suddenly, he realized – and currently he has a few startling examples around him – that the first step to stepping outside the prison gates is to embrace this possibility, even when all “facts” point to the contrary.

One of the startling examples is a man who was told, at 17 years old, that he was going to die in prison as he was handed a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. A series of events over eight months not only gave him the chance to head to the Parole Board but he was found suitable for release!!! On his first time in front of the Board, which is a feat! While the circumstances enabling him to see the streets have taken place over the past eight months, this man has been committed to his transformation for the past 15 years, becoming a positive role model for all around him. He understands the power of belief and trust.

This works for you too! You become what you believe. So believe you will achieve your small and large goals and watch them materialize. Truly believe them. If you believe them for 3 minutes a day but spend the rest of the day thinking how stupid and unachievable they are, guess what’s going to happen.

Believe in your goals. Believe in yourself. Believe it’s possible. Allow a group of men with very little reason to believe in their goals and themselves to be your inspiration.

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