What we believe to be true, actually may not be true. But what we believe, we make our reality. So for this Tip, I’d like to look again at this idea, because if we want to make changes, and if our life is governed by what we believe, then to make changes, our beliefs need to change too. And your beliefs are not as fixed as you think…
How beliefs come into being
Our beliefs are woven together observations of others, teachings and our own experiences in life. As a baby, you have no beliefs. But in the first 5 years of life, like a dry sponge, you soak up what you observe and experience creating your own core beliefs which are carried through the rest of your life, unless of course, you consciously choose to change them. In the formative first 5 years of life, your parents (or guardians) influence your beliefs the most. If they believe people are generally good, kind and trustworthy, then you will probably have this core belief too. If you grew up with parents who worked hard and yet there was never enough money, then you are likely to struggle with money yourself. And so on.
How your beliefs impact on your life
Let me try to give you an example of how this works, using two fictitious people, Tom and Harry, who both wish to be promoted. For this scenario, please imagine that both men have the same skill sets and both could equally do well in the new position.
Tom’s world view (as reinforced by his upbringing) is that there are many opportunities in life to do well, and that he will be promoted, if not now, then sonn-ish. He believes he is a hard worker, that his vision is a good one that will lead to success for both the company and himself. He totally believes he deserves this promotion.
Harry’s world view (also taken-on-board whilst growing up) is that opportunities to rise through the ranks are scarce. He really wants to be promoted, but he believes it will be tough to land this promotion. Like Tom he believes he is a hard worker and that his vision is good, but he is also unsure whether he is good enough yet. He has doubts about winning this promotion.
Remember, both men are equally able, but their beliefs are very different and, as a consequence, in the interview for the job promotion, both men will act according to their beliefs. Tom will hold his head high, shoulders back, smile easily and ooze confidence. Harry will be trying very hard, but will not come across as confident. His shoulders perhaps slightly rounded and protective in readiness of the potential hurt at not being chosen. In a scenario like this, it will Tom is far more likely to be promoted – reinforcing his beliefs. Harry is less likely to be promoted and so it too reinforces his beliefs.
Your beliefs colour how you view the world
Mike Dooley’s CD recordings: “Infinite Possibilities: the Art of Living your Dreams”, uses a sunglasses metaphor to explain how beliefs act as filters enabling us to make sense of our world. It goes something like this. Our beliefs filter our thoughts in a similar way that sunglasses filter out harmful UV rays and also tint what we see according to the shade of the glasses. Our beliefs likewise allow thoughts ‘in’ that we believe are plausible: they dismiss those that are outlandish, or we think don’t apply to us. How we see the world (and ourselves) is then seen according to the tint of our ‘sunglasses’ that we wear. If your sunglasses are tinted blue, your view will be different from a friend’s who wears yellow, green or even rose coloured glasses. What we see then is not necessarily reality, rather it is the view of it as seen through our sunglasses!
On top of this, most of us don’t even realise that we are wearing sunglasses. Now imagine that everyone has their own unique tinted sunglasses. Now you can see (forgive the pun!) that you simply won’t see some of the colours and hues of life as seen by others. We get so used to our ‘view’ we forget that the world may actually look quite different if we wore a different tint (had different beliefs) or were able to see the world without our sunglasses. And, whilst we often struggle to see how we ‘see’ the world (recognise how our beliefs ‘cloud’ our view), we so easily see other people’s tints and how they view it!
How beliefs get in your way
We have many thousands of beliefs. The vast majority are hidden in the depths of our subconscious. Largely we accept our beliefs which filter our ideas, thoughts and knowledge as the truth, even though we frequently have no proof for them. For example, growing up in a family where the beliefs is: “To earn lots of money, you need to work very hard”, means you are likely to believe this unquestioningly – even though I could show you thousands of people who have and do earn a good income without working particularly hard. However, you are likely to filter this sentence out, because you ‘believe’ this is still not applicable to you, to your life, or to your circumstances! Are you beginning to see how limiting your own beliefs can be?
How to break free from limiting beliefs
If our limiting beliefs are hidden in our subconscious, if we are wearing ‘tinted sunglasses’ that we don’t even know we are wearing, which shape how we see our world, and if our beliefs were laid down in childhood, how on earth are we supposed break free?
Expressed like that, it would be easy to throw your arms up in the air and despair! BUT please don’t! There are ways of breaking free.
Writing down beliefs that nurture and support you is a good thing to do as it will reinforce your positive beliefs. However, trying to play detective or write down for those which may be holding you back, generally doesn’t work: you will simply create negative energy. Instead start noticing what you are saying in conversations, in your own self-talk and how you act/react in certain situations. For example if you are job hunting, you might be saying to your friends: “I can’t find a job that’s right for me” or “I’d love to do that, but it doesn’t pay enough” or “No-one wants to employ someone as old as me” or “You have to have connections/qualifications – and I don’t”.
Notice each of these laments have limiting beliefs around self-worth, value and scarcity. These statements are just observations, judgments, or a view that you are believing to see as true. They are not the truth! Someone else in the very same situation as you could choose the exact opposite. For example “I am going to find a job that is perfect for me“, “I am mature, which means I bring with me years of experience and wisdom“. And, “My University of Life may not be the same as a degree, but it is valid none-the-less“. And so on. People will make their beliefs come true: catching your self-talk is the key to changing your limiting beliefs and so change your outcomes.
A step-by-step approach
When you notice something that you believe is holding you back, try stepping into the middle ground. For example if you think you it’s hard to lose weight, trying to force yourself into a belief that it’s easy to lose weight, will usually backfire. The stretch is simply too big. However, if you begin with the idea: “It might be easy to lose weight” or “I am open to the idea that I can lose weight easily” you are likely to have more success. Can you see how these beliefs are easier to grasp hold of and help you to start moving forward?
Making it realistic in your mind also works. If for example you dream of driving a Ferrari but currently drive a Ford, trying to believe you can make this step in one-fell-swoop would, for most people, be too big. However, if you believed that you soon would be driving a top of the range BMW, then this is what I call a stretch, but do-able. Then, when you own and drive that BMW, the Ferrari will be much easier for you to believe in, therefore you greatly increase your chances of making this dream come true. Although I have given a material example, it works the same if say you wish to meditate for 30 minutes each day. From not meditating at all, to doing this every day, is again a stretch too far. Whereas believing you could do it for 15 minutes 3 days a week is believable to most people. And then when that is established, you increase it.
Most people continue to believe and think in a very similar way all of their lives very largely determined by what you learnt in the very early years of your life. And yet everyone, yes EVERYONE, can change their beliefs and thoughts to create the lives they want to lead. It can be challenging, but even beginning to question why you believe what you do, is an excellent place to start.