Are you choosing beliefs that support and serve you or ones that keep you down or otherwise interfere with you? That’s right; I just suggested that you get to choose what you want to believe. Pick what you want to believe and just go ahead and do that. Simple, right? But, hang on, simple does not mean easy. Let’s back up a touch and look into what beliefs actually are.
Unlike the X-files tagline, the truth is NOT “out there”; it’s “in here”. Beliefs are truths that you hold to be true based on your observations. They are filtered by your upbringing (cultural, educational, experiential), emotional reaction and known results. In other words, beliefs are maps you formed after an experience that you use for future journeys. But here’s the rub: many of them don’t actually have enough consistent evidence over time to be called truth or to be helpful in the future in any way. Yet, we are prone to treat our beliefs as truth. Einstein called reality merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. If reality is an illusion, it cannot be entirely true. So, what then is? Answer: no one knows. We can make observations but we can never know what is entirely true. And yet, we construct our beliefs as if they were equivalent to truths and hang onto them as undeniable, unchangeable. This makes it particularly challenging to acknowledge, let alone accept and embrace, that our beliefs are a matter of choice.
What gets in the way of acknowledging, accepting and embracing that we get to choose every one of our beliefs? Better still, how do we move past these obstacles and choose better beliefs? First order of business is to lay out your beliefs and consider each carefully to see if it just might be limiting you, getting in your way of happiness, effectiveness, growth or greatness.
Let me share one of my limiting beliefs. And it’s a doozy. I have the belief that no one cares about me outside of what I can “do” for them. It’s the driver behind how action-oriented I am. I have much evidence of people relying upon me to fix things or to be the reliable one to always answer an emergency call. This “do” identity wakes me in the night because there’s something I need to do. I’m restless when the phone doesn’t ring or emails and visits seem absent, or the office crowd goes off to lunch without stopping by my office to invite me. It erodes into a fear of being deemed irrelevant, forgotten. On my worst days, I tell myself the story that unless I do for others, I am truly worthless. Not a very helpful belief when it comes to developing relationships, household or team harmony or a sense of inner quiet! At its best, my action-orientation has put me into unique situations, gotten me (and others) out of others and with minimal damage. At its worst, my belief of worth-by-doing feels frantic, lonely and soulless. What’s the answer then? Simply put: I need to pick a better belief.
Here’s how this works:
The heart and soul of changing your beliefs is choice. Choose your belief, your preferred map, if you will, and make purposeful steps along that path every day. Anchor your successes in this work and celebrate milestones. For me, my chosen belief is I am a reliable go-to person of possibility and a great conversationalist. That’s why people want to be around me. All of my efforts flow along that path. So, when a parent on the sidelines says, “you know, I really love being around you; you are just so positive and great to talk to” I smile and say, “thank you; that’s my intent”. To myself I say, “yay me!”
Kelly Johnson, PCC Executive Coach