This post is contributed by Angela Johnston.
A few years ago I began, what I call, my authentic journey. I started to question everything in my life and for good reason. I looked at my life and realized that everything I believed to be true was perhaps based on a false sense of reality. When I was young I believed everything my parents told me – their word was gospel. “Eat your broccoli if you want to grow up to be a strong girl.” I actually hate broccoli, but give me a carrot and I’m happy! I’m sure we can all look into our past and find the source of those beliefs that we carry with us today, and we just continue believing them because no one has ever taught us to question them otherwise. What sort of beliefs guide you in your daily life about who you are, how you should act or what you can or cannot do? These are based on past experiences or maybe someone else’s beliefs that were imposed on you.
Byron Katie teaches us to question our thoughts, and Anthony Robbins teaches us that what we believe is based on our past experiences. So I ask, what are beliefs? Anthony Robbins describes a belief as a “feeling of certainty.” [1. Awaken the Giant within, Anthony Robbins, 1991, pp 78-91] For example, if I say, “I am smart,” I am saying that my sense of certainty allows me to tap into resources that allow to me produce “smart” results. I believe that I am smart so the universe will prove how smart I am, and I will look for evidence to prove it. Think of a belief as a simple building block, an idea. [2. Awaken the Giant within, Anthony Robbins, 1991, pp 78-91]
There are a lot of ideas that you may think about, but not really believe. Believing it just means how certain you feel about it. Let’s continue with the example; “I am smart.” Really what you are saying here is how certain you feel that you are smart. Lets use the analogy of the idea being the tabletop. Without legs the idea isn’t supported and won’t stand on its own. This represents why an idea doesn’t feel as certain as a belief. Now if we add the legs, these are the references we have gathered. For example a reference could be “my teacher told me that I am smart.” Your references make you feel certain about the idea and the more references you have, the stronger the idea stands, now it becomes a belief. [3. Awaken the Giant within, Anthony Robbins, 1991, pp 78-91] We gather evidence throughout our life time that supports the idea, the legs (references) make you feel solid about the idea and caused you to believe it. [4. Awaken the Giant within, Anthony Robbins, 1991, pp 78-91] These experiences will mean nothing until you organize them under the idea “that you are smart.”
The question is, which belief is true, but the answer is, it doesn’t matter which is true. All that matters is you choose the one that is most empowering, not disempowering. – Anthony Robbins
Now imagine the opposite is true, that you believe you are stupid. You have this idea and over the years you have gathered enough evidence to support it. You have built your table and it’s a solid table that would take great effort to break. We all have solid tables (beliefs). Sometimes we don’t even know what we believe anymore, until something isn’t serving us well and we question it. “The question is, which belief is true, but the answer is, it doesn’t matter which is true. All that matters is you choose the one that is most empowering, not disempowering.” [5. Awaken the Giant within, Anthony Robbins, 1991, pp 78-91] We even search out people that will back up our belief, so that we can prove it. This is human nature, as to try to rationalize. Ask yourself, is this belief strengthening or weakening me?
People so often develop disempowering beliefs about who they are and what they are capable of. Maybe because they haven’t succeeded in the past, they believe they won’t succeed in the future. As a result, many of us live with self-limiting beliefs and feel that we cannot change. We live with fear. We start to focus on being realistic and comfortable. People who constantly say “lets be realistic “ are really just living in fear, they develop beliefs that cause them to hesitate and not give it their all. [6. Awaken the Giant within, Anthony Robbins, 1991, pp 78-91] Great leaders are rarely realistic. They are intelligent, but not realistic by other people’s standards. Great leaders take risks and they teach us to question everything. [7. Awaken the Giant within, Anthony Robbins, 1991, pp 78-91]
Byron Katie teaches us to question our thoughts and our beliefs. [8. http://thework.com/sites/thework/downloads/worksheets/JudgeYourNeighbor_Worksheet.pdf] She teaches us a method of self-inquiry by asking yourself if the thought is true, and can you absolutely know that it’s true? It’s a way to understand what’s hurting you, what’s limiting you, and to address the cause of the problem with clarity. “Who would you be without the thought?” [9. http://thework.com/sites/thework/downloads/worksheets/JudgeYourNeighbor_Worksheet.pdf] It’s powerful, it’s liberating and it’s allowing us to shed the beliefs we thought to be true and live life feeling empowered.
So the question becomes, can we change our beliefs and how do we go about doing this? Yes we can, by following a few simple steps.
- Get your brain to associate massive pain to the old belief. You must feel in your gut that not only has this belief caused you pain in the past, but its costing you in the present and will only bring you more pain in the future.
- Create doubt. Are there beliefs that you used to defend in the past that you would be embarrassed to admit now? What happened? Something caused you to doubt it. Maybe a new experience?
- Generate new experiences. This can trigger change only if they cause you to question your beliefs. Whenever we believe something, we no longer question it in any way. But if we no longer feel “certain” about it, we start to question it. We are shaking the legs (our references) that support the table (the belief).
- Question your beliefs. Use Byron Katie’s worksheet provided below to start an inquiry into these thoughts.
- Expand your life by modeling those people who are already succeeding. If you see someone demonstrating behaviors that you want to adopt, then ask them what they do and how they do it. It’s powerful, it’s fun and these people are available all around you.
Our most powerful tool to change our beliefs is to associate the limiting ones with great pain. Whether we are thinking about starting a new exercise program, or a new job, we need to associate the “not doing it” with pain, rather than the “doing it”. We need to face our fear of what’s holding us back and question our thoughts. Look at the bigger picture and imagine your future if you don’t make the change. Remember that in our greatest challenge lies our biggest opportunity for growth.
For those of us that have faced our greatest fears in life we will tell you, it’s not easy, it was only a thought, it was only fear, and happiness is waiting for you on the other side.
We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make our world. – Buddha
Image courtesy of Bee Do Have
Angela is a certified diabetes nurse educator and wellness coach. She has a special interest in helping people to live authentically and achieve balance in all aspects of their lives. Angela currently works in various diabetes education centres, specialist’s offices and the community, assisting people with their health and lifestyle needs. For more information on the services that Angela provides, please visit her website at www.harmotion.net