Derek Sivers

make believe

2022-10-30

Kids scream, “Monster in the hallway!”, and hide behind the couch. They stack up cushions for protection, and plan their defense. They know it’s not true — there’s not really a monster in the hallway — but it’s exciting to feel the adrenaline of panic, then make a shelter and feel safe.

One kid yells, “The floor is hot lava!” The familiar room transforms into islands among danger. Leaping between furniture is a fun physical challenge.

One slips and wails, “Help! I’m falling! Save me! Save me!” This new scenario lets one kid feel cared for and protected, while the other kid gets to be the rescuing hero.

Mom calls, “pancakes are ready!”, and all stories stop when the kids run into the kitchen.

Kids believe anything fun for a while. It’s called “make believe” because they’re making up beliefs. Each belief gives them a new situation, and lets them adopt a new role like protector or inventor. “Make believe” has a purpose.

But when people grow up, they won’t believe anything unless they’re convinced that it’s true. (Or they insist that it’s true because they believe it.)

None of these statements are true. But we like the way they feel to believe. We can be the hero of an exciting or romantic story.

Following a religion improves your daily actions, feels wonderful, and connects you to a worldwide community. These are better reasons than insisting it’s absolutely true.

Same with philosophies, nationalities, norms, and concepts like loyalty, destiny, and identity. None of these are true. But they are useful.

Adopt them for their purpose, while knowing they are make believe.

kids jumping on couch
photo © Donnie Ray Jones