Last week I dealt with the subject of how beliefs develop. This week I would like to explore how to change those beliefs that don’t serve your best interests.
The first and most important thing to understand is that beliefs do not represent the truth.
Beliefs are simply strongly held convictions that have developed over time, spawned initially by a simple thought or idea and slowly strengthened over a period as various bits of supporting proof or evidence is gathered.
Because convictions are so strongly held, some people are inclined to think that they are i immutable truths that are above question.
The source of intolerance
Of course, this attitude (“I know the truth and you don’t”) is the very source of intolerance and intolerance is the source of conflict, which, in turn, is often the source of violence.
Belief or fact?
At this point it is necessary to differentiate between beliefs and established facts.
Nowadays, to say that the world is not flat but spherical is not a belief so much as a scientifically established fact. However, had you, in the year 600 BCE, expressed a belief that the world was round, you may well have been regarded as completely insane.
At that time, although it had not been established as fact, the belief that the world was flat was a very strongly and widely held conviction that people wrongly assumed was a truth.
Global and personal beliefs
Beliefs that you may have about other people and the external world in general are what can be referred to as your ‘global beliefs’. For example, you may choose to believe that “All politicians are corrupt” or “Women are bad drivers” or “There is a good side to everyone”.
On the other hand, beliefs that you hold about yourself are your personal beliefs. For example you may choose to believe that “I am a brilliant writer” or “I have no self confidence” or “I was born to struggle for a living”.
As you can appreciate, beliefs can be empowering (serve your best interests), disempowering (work against your best interests) or neutral.
How you feel about yourself often affects how you feel about the outside world and therefore your personal beliefs play a vital role in your success and your general wellbeing.
Eradicating limiting beliefs
In life coaching we know the power that beliefs have to affect lives and we work to help clients to identify, question and eradicate those beliefs that are disempowering or that limit their potential as human beings.
We call such beliefs ‘limiting beliefs’
To a greater or lesser extent we all hold such beliefs … but the great news is that they can be banished just as easily as they can take root!
You simply need to be clear on what ‘evidence’ or ‘proof’ you have allowed to underpin a limiting belief.
The ‘Table Top’ model
At New Insights we liken beliefs to table tops. As long as enough believable supporting proof – or ‘reference legs’ exist – the table top will stand firmly.
However, as you begin to call into question the evidence, you shake and even remove the reference legs and that table top, representing the limiting belief, comes crashing down.
Let’s now take a look at a story about Tom …
Unfortunately, when Tom enters his teenage years, his peers at school start to tease him about being a musician. His so-called best friend, a surfer and ‘outdoorsy’ type, tells him that playing the violin is a sign of an effeminate character.
This weighs heavily on Tom’s mind, despite the best efforts of his parents and teachers to try to dispel this as the utter nonsense that it is.
Some months later, Tom stumbles across some dodgy research on the internet that claims that females are more attracted to orchestral music because of their genetic make-up. Tom links this new piece of information with that which his friend carelessly blurted out. Suddenly the idea that male musicians must be effeminate gains more strength in his mind.
Another year goes by and Tom, who now boasts a beautiful girlfriend, invites the girl out for dinner. She tells him how much she appreciates his love for the violin and his dream to play for an internationally acclaimed orchestra, saying that she finds him far more attractive than all those ‘normal macho males’ she meets.
Her comment, though sincere and well-intended, has the unfortunate effect of affirming and validating Tom’s previous thoughts to the point where Tom becomes convinced that he must be effeminate!
Tom becomes reclusive and despondent, not wanting the outside world to be exposed to his love for the violin and his presumed effeminacy. His newly adopted personal belief proves disastrous for both his musical career and his social life.
Tom’s parents, wanting to do the best for him, hire a life coach called Sandy. Tom, feeling frustrated and confused, willingly accepts the offer of help – and very soon he is a changed young man.
Sandy asks Tom to revisit the origins of his limiting belief about being effeminate. She asks him to describe the events and experiences that contributed to the development of his belief.
Then Sandy sets to work to discredit the evidence, first by questioning Tom on how he arrived at the conclusions that bolstered his belief and then by citing contrary evidence from Tom’s life and experiences to shake the ‘reference legs’ for his belief.
Very soon, Tom starts to feel relief as he realises how easily he had allowed this limiting belief to take hold despite plenty of compelling evidence to the contrary.
Sandy continues by helping Tom to replace the now discredited limiting belief with a new, accurate and wonderfully empowering belief about himself, his manliness and his terrific musical talents.
Say goodbye forever!
Yep, for those of you who were worried, the story has a happy ending! ☺
From these two posts about beliefs, I hope that by now you can see how easy it is to get in your own way by allowing limiting beliefs about yourself – supported by selected strands of evidence that you have never thought to question – to develop and grow.
Hopefully you will also appreciate that it really is not that difficult to say goodbye forever to limiting beliefs and hello to beliefs that can really serve and empower you to be, do and have whatever it is you want in life.
Say hello to the new you! A healthy mind often goes hand in hand with a healthy body. Take a look at our fitness products designed to help you on your way to a happier, healthier lifestyle.
Like what you see? We have a number of lifestyle and life coaching blogs, which you can read here.
Originally written by Bill Burridge