What do you mean I can choose my Beliefs?
In 2007 I was offered a senior Leadership Role with a large international organization. I almost turned it down. I told myself “I don’t have enough experience yet” (maybe I need another year or 2), “I’m not as smart as these guys think I am”, and “I don’t know how to manage the challenge at hand, so I’d better not take it on”.
I’m glad I overcame these beliefs because that role was a game changer for my career. Those beliefs were not the truth, but boy, did I believe they were. By talking it through with my coach, I realized that I choose my beliefs abut all aspects of my life. I choose to limit myself, or I choose to empower myself.
What are beliefs and what role do they play in our lives?
From the moment we come into the world, we begin developing our belief system. Beliefs are mental assumptions we have about ourselves, and the reality of the world around us. We form these beliefs through our experiences in life, and interactions with the world around us. Authority structures play a role in forming our beliefs, as does tradition and religion. Our beliefs create our reality.
So there is the practical purpose of having a belief system. Self-limiting beliefs hold us back because we hold them to be the absolute truth. For example, “My superiors can see how good I am, so I don’t need to ask for a raise”. They are the kind of beliefs that limit your potential, your opportunities, and the life you so deserve to live. And, they are not true.
So, how did I come to believe in these self- limiting beliefs?
Many of our beliefs are formed and accumulated in our childhood. We learned through what we were told by our parents, teachers and those around us. When we were told, “you are not studying, you will never be top of your class” we believed it to mean “I’m not good enough” or “I’m not talented”. This bleeds into our adult life where we continue to believe these un-truths and make them our reality.
These may be the beliefs of someone else. And if you have believed the beliefs of someone else, then you have been living their version of reality and that’s not the only version there is. Understanding what your beliefs are can pave the way to bust these limiting beliefs. Here’s a process I have found useful to bust my limiting beliefs.
Identify your limiting beliefs
From my experience, many of us have very similar beliefs. Here are some of the most common limiting beliefs, particularly amongst women: What I want is not important; I am not important; I’m not good or smart enough; I’m too young or too old – people won’t take me seriously; I don’t deserve it; Good looking men are unfaithful or unkind; I need more money – then I will be happy.
The first step in busting your limiting beliefs is to write down your limiting beliefs. Write down what you say to yourself. Only when you see it written down will you realize how ridiculous it is. From your list of limiting beliefs, pick one belief at a time and go through the following steps for each.
- Write down how this self-limiting belief makes you feel
Describe the feeling in 5 words. Are you happy about feeling this way? Does it help you in any way? If it’s not a good feeling, you can choose to change it. Example: I feel trapped in this unhappy job. I believe that I can’t have a job that pays well and is fun.
- Find a data point that proves this belief wrong
For each limiting belief, think of one specific example where the statement is not true. Where you did something, experienced something or saw something (even if it was through someone else) that proves that this belief is not true. For example, for the belief I am trapped in an unhappy job – think of someone who has a job that pays well and is also a lot of fun. It’s important to differentiate between a real weakness and a self-limiting belief. For example, not being able to speak a foreign language is a real weakness if it’s something you need to progress in your career. The self- limiting belief is that you can’t learn such a language.
- Flip it and write your belief in an empowered way
For each limiting belief, flip it over and write it in a way that empowers you. For example, I am too old to start something new should change to I can start something new whenever I want to – it’s never to late for me. I am too fat – no man will love me should change to I am a beautiful person who deserves to be loved for who I am.
- Write down how this new empowered belief makes you feel
Does this new belief pull you down, or help you think and be bigger? Say your new belief out aloud – how do you feel? Is this a belief around which you want to create your reality? If it is, then make the decision to shift your belief.
- Discard your old, self-limiting belief
Consciously discard your old limiting belief. Say, “I do not believe that…. [Old limiting belief]”.
- Adopt and reinforce your new empowering belief
Now, adopt and internalize your new empowered belief. Make it into an affirmation. Repeat it every day to yourself, many times a day. Stand in front of the mirror and repeat it, repeat it on your way to work, in the shower. The more you say it, the more you will believe it until it becomes your reality.
Watch out: your old limiting beliefs will come back to you – repeatedly. They have been there for so long, they wont leave you so easily. Recognize them. And discard them by stating what you did in step 6. And reinforce with your empowered belief.
Work with a buddy who also wants to change a self-limiting belief. Support each other with regular updates and celebrations of success, even small progress steps. Share your experiences with us. Reach out when you need support.
It’s your reality. You choose it. You become it.
This Blog was first published in THE ALCHEMIST / Edition No.11 / February 2015