Whether a man thinks he can do a thing, or thinks he cannot. In either case, he’s probably right. ~Henry Ford
Dictionary.com describes belief as:
-confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof.
Are your beliefs serving you by moving you towards your goals and dreams? Or, are they the governor on your success? This post is about creating a shift in paradigm which allows you to create positive change in your life, by analyzing:
- What your beliefs are right now in key areas of your life
- Whether or not those beliefs are moving you towards, or away from your desired end
- How to change or eliminate limiting beliefs
- How to create new beliefs that empower you and move you towards your desired end
Lets start with a few basic ideas. Our lives are driven in large part by what we believe and accept about how things are in the world around us. This takes place largely in the subconscious mind, away from your conscious attention. Self dialogue is the manifestation of underlying beliefs about things.
The subconscious mind is the software that runs the computer which is you. If we want to change limiting beliefs, we need to change the programming that runs in the background and influences our self dialogue, decisions and outcomes. Outcomes in your life, follow a predictable path.
Thoughts –> Decisions –> Words –> Actions –> Outcomes
Let’s say you are faced with a problem at work. The process begins in your mind in the “thought” stage. You immediately begin in self-dialogue. This dialogue progresses down a path to some sort of conclusion (decision) about what the problem means to you. This is then expressed in how you communicate your ideas to others (words) about possible solutions (or gripes about it).
You then take action(s) based on the conclusions you came to and the words you used to communicate this to others. These actions take you down a path to an outcome (desirable or undesirable).
So, all outcomes start in you thinking about things and manifest as outcomes in your reality of experience.
Let’s look at a few case studies of how strongly beliefs effect outcomes in our lives, shall we?
Beliefs Shaping Outcomes in Action
Rhona Weinstein, a professor of the graduate school of psychology at UC Berkeley, educational researcher and author, details a story in her book “Reaching Higher ,” about a young man she calls “Eric.” Eric had never learned to read and was well behind his peers in his fourth grade class.
Eric had been tutored for years and tests showed he had no learning disability to contend with. So what was Eric’s problem? A visit to the classroom provided some clarity. Eric had been placed into a group of other struggling readers, which came to be known as the “clowns.” The “clowns” were the lowest level of three groups of readers into which the students had been placed.
As she describes it, the reading material for this group was “repetitive, remedial and dull.” when compared to the most active reading group.
In addition, the kids in this group didn’t associate with others kids on the playground, even in their own group. She states that “their friendship patterns matched the reading groups assignments.”
Her solution? To move Eric from the “clowns” group to the middle group of readers. She fought with both administrators and the boy’s parents to have him moved up into this group, finally winning approval. Once Eric had been placed in the new group, changes began almost immediately. As that year progressed, Eric showed improvement, and by the end of the year was reading at the fourth grade level.
The turnaround had been fairly dramatic. Eric in just one school year had gone from being unable to read, to being proficient at his fourth grade level. What was different? Quoting from her book, “a belief in the child’s capacity to learn, a more challenging and motivational educational climate, and support through tutoring, play therapy, and the friendship of peers.”
Eric had been in a group where the expectations for him were very low, and the implication is that these low expectations helped to perpetuate a belief in him that he was a poor reader. Simply by changing his beliefs about his abilities, and presenting him with more challenging material, there were dramatic results in his progress.
In fact, there have been a number of studies measuring the impact of teacher’s expectations on student outcomes. These studies show that how a teacher communicates belief in the students abilities, has a direct and quantifiable effect on the outcomes in the performance of the students.
The Self Fulfilling Prophecy
Beliefs then, are simply an internal set of representations about what is true within us and in the world around us.
Indeed, what we see, and think is what we believe to be the reality. The great sociologist WI Thomas, stated that “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences,” which became known as the “Thomas Theorem.” Robert Merton carried this forward in his 1948 work on self fulfilling prophecies . Here he states,
The self-fulfilling prophecy is, in the beginning, a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the originally false conception come true. The specious validity of the self-fulfilling prophecy perpetuates a reign of error. For the prophet will cite the actual course of events as proof that he was right from the very beginning.
What we see in this series of cases is the circumstance that your life is, in large part, what your thoughts and beliefs make it. If you want to change your life and move in a new direction, you need to change the underlying beliefs which have led you to the outcomes you’re currently producing. Well, now that I’ve convinced you that there is some basis for truth in these statements, let’s take a look at how you go about creating change.
What Are Your Limiting Beliefs
There are many virtues to cultivate in our lives, and the scope of this post is incapable of touching on all of those areas. However, I do want to focus here on a few critical areas from which almost every area of your life is affected. They are:
- Your beliefs about money
- Your beliefs about relationships
- Your beliefs about success
- Your beliefs about yourself- self image
Let’s take money for example. As the great Jim Rohn once said, “money is not the only, or the most important value to cultivate, but it’s easy to see how we’re doing; to quantify, because we can count!” Money, whether we like it or not, is necessary in the world we live in. It is neither bad, nor good, but just is.
I would offer to you that it is much like a hammer. A hammer can be used to build a house for a homeless person, or to bash in a man’s skull. Same tool, two applications. Money can be used in the same way. It can be used for great good, or for pure evil. It’s up to us how we choose to view it and use it.
We’ve seen above how important our beliefs are in shaping our actions, which in turn shape our outcomes. Are your beliefs about money moving you towards a life of freedom and happiness, or on a path to permanent financial difficulty?
If your internal representations about money tell you that “money is the root of all evil,” do you think you’ll be able to create an abundance of it in your life? It’s almost a guarantee that you will not. These two things are incompatible.
We can see this attitude in our inner dialogue. Let’s take a scenario where a pretty young girl pulls up in a very expensive car. We have no idea what her circumstances are, but we think to ourselves, “rich b*tch, I bet her daddy bought that car for her,” or “it must be nice having a daddy who’ll buy you anything you want.”
These kinds of conversations are manifestations of self defeating and self regulating attitudes towards money. You cannot, in a long term sense, create massive financial success in your life while holding these kinds of attitudes.
So, the first step in overcoming any of the limiting beliefs we have is to bring them out of our sub-conscious mind (where they are like the computer program operating in the background), out into the open where we can examine them. In the darkness of our sub-conscious, they are simply accepted as truth and dictate our actions on auto pilot.
When we can see them “under the microscope,” so to speak, we can determine whether they are empowering, or limiting and make adjustments accordingly.
Write out your most limiting belief about:
Remember, your keys to understanding what your beliefs are, in each area, are found in your inner dialogue and the words you use to describe how you feel about these things to others.
When describing your most limiting belief about success for example, your internal dialogue might say “in order to achieve real success, I’ll have to give up all of my time to do it.” This is a limiting belief that holds us back and keeps us from achieving our full potential.
Since all vacuums get filled, we cannot simply remove the old belief and leave it at that. We must then replace it with an empowering belief that serves us.
Creating Empowering Beliefs
Next, write out a positive affirmative statement you want to replace the old belief.
Let’s say for example, that your most limiting belief about money is that, “people who have lots of money, must have stepped on or taken advantage of someone to get it.” We could write out our affirmative belief statement as, “the marketplace richly rewards me for providing value to others.”
Once you have done this for each item, put these into your wallet and read them aloud several times each day. This helps to seat them into your subconscious mind as the new program from which your beliefs will operate from.
This can take some time.
Establishing the New Beliefs as Habits
So how long does it take before you begin to habitually look at these things in the new context?
Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London and her research team, conducted a 12 week experiment to see just how long it takes to form a habit. They followed 96 people for a 12 week period, asking them to pick a new habit (running 15 minutes a day for example), and a time to engage in it (right after I wake up) and then write down whether they followed through in a journal.
At the end of the 12 week period they looked at how successful people were over a long period of time in creating “automaticity,” in the behavior. This is the point at which they weren’t constantly, consciously working on engaging in the behavior.
So what were the findings? The research suggested that it took somewhere between 18 and 254 (even though the study only lasted 12 weeks the researchers were able to use the data to extrapolate how long it would take) days to reach automaticity, with an average being just over two months.
In addition, they found that “missing one opportunity to perform the behavior did not materially affect the habit formation process.”
Meaning that even if you slip here and there, you are not materially affecting your chances for seating the new behavior as a habit.
Don’t Lose Sight of the Big Picture
Don’t be disheartened by the length of time it takes to reach the point where you habitually look at things through this new set of more constructive, empowering beliefs. Positive people don’t have to wake up and remind themselves to be positive. Remember, it’s all a process.
Just get started, that is where the magic is.
What new beliefs are you going to create this year, and will they move you towards your dreams, or away? I’d love to hear from you.
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