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Change Your Beliefs, Change Your Life

Change Your Beliefs, Change Your Life

Beliefs Shape & Control Our Lives

We are meaning seeking & meaning making beings. That is, as we experience life from day to day and moment to moment, we are always seeking the meaning underlying every situation, every encounter, every event, every word someone says and we constantly make meaning out of everything we perceive. Meaning is important to us, it’s important for our survival.

We find the meaning in things primarily based on our past experiences and what we’ve come to learn about life in general (the macro) and specifically (the micro). Given a particular stimulus (a word, a comment, an event), in a near instant, our brains can find a common thread to a past experience/learning and attribute a meaning to the experience at hand – that is how we interpret things. Most of the time, as adults, this is automatic and we don’t need to try very hard at all to reveal what something means to us. We interpret everything we experience based on past experience – we try to relate to something new, based on something old.

What is a Belief?

Beneath every thought and every single thing we perceive and interpret lies a belief within us. A belief is a web of thoughts and past interpretations that form a generalization of many notions and concepts. Over time this generalization has taken root within our minds and sometimes it can even feel like it has taken root in our hearts, when we believe something so deeply, we can feel it on a visceral level.

With these generalizations, we interpret and shape our lives as they happen.

Beliefs can serve us by simplifying day to day life. They help us function without needing to analyze every single event or situation. Here’s an example: most of us (hopefully) believe that if we were to walk over the edge of a cliff, we would fall and not only would we fall, we also believe we would either die or be seriously injured. That’s a pretty valuable belief to have – it helps us survive – so we can live on.

{Sidenote: What underlies the belief that we will fall is that we also believe we do not have the ability to fly. Duh, right?}

Beliefs rooted in past interpretations/generalizations serve as the source of our expectations about things to come. Over time, through experience, we unconsciously developed our beliefs. Then at a certain point, we stopped adding more thoughts, notions and interpretations to mould our beliefs and we practically set them in stone. We hard wired them into our brains. Much like the cliff example – at a certain point in childhood there was no need to spend any more time thinking or contemplating about falling off cliffs (or any high place), we got the picture, probably through the experience of falling off our bikes or tripping over our own feet. Falling hurts.

So we learn to avoid things we believe will hurt us. And for our survival, we humans are hard wired for two things: 1) to seek pleasure or comfort and 2) to avoid pain.

The Table Metaphor

How we build and strengthen beliefs over time can be likened to the building of an everyday piece of furniture, a table (borrowed from Tony Robbins’s book “Awaken the Giant Within”).

Imagine your belief is a table top. What supports the table top is its legs. If your table only has two legs, it will not support the top and the table will surely fall over. If the table has three legs, it can stand on its own but what is stronger than that is a table with four legs or more. Each of the table legs can be likened to a belief reference (a notion, an idea, a memory). The more references you have to support a belief, the stronger the belief will be. Each leg, or reference, can be thin and frail or they can be thick and strong. What makes any belief stronger and more robust is the amount of references and the emotional intensity or charge of each reference that supports it.

Note that the references themselves do not have to be ‘true’ to support our beliefs – only that we have enough of them and that they are emotionally charged.

Not all Beliefs Serve Us

So we’ve learned a bit about beliefs, how they get formed over time through experience and that they can serve as a tool for our survival. Now, let’s change our focus a little and look at the other side of beliefs.

As mentioned above, beliefs are generalizations about the world that don’t necessarily have to be true but they serve to help us in either one or both of our hard wired survival mechanisms – seeking pleasure or comfort and avoiding pain.

Very often these two mechanisms can be in conflict with each other. And most often, in adulthood, we tend to focus more on doing things to avoid pain or discomfort than we will actively do to seek pleasure or comfort.

Since all our beliefs are rooted in past experience, learning and interpretation, once we’ve understood the meaning of something, we rarely revisit and question a thing because that would or could be a waste of time and energy. Essentially, we are living our current lives based on the past.

Well, what if you formed a belief about yourself or about the world that just wasn’t serving you? What if it was hindering you and stopping you from gaining pleasure, comfort or fulfillment now because of some belief you built in the past that no longer exists? What if you realized you were doing so much to avoid pain, you forgot about the part of gaining pleasure? Would you be willing to consider changing a belief?

Limiting Beliefs

Beliefs can also hinder us and prevent us from moving forward, they may allow us keep surviving but not really living or thriving.

Beliefs that no longer serve us and do more to hold us back are called ‘limiting beliefs’. Holding on to a limiting belief and interpreting the events of your life through the lens of such a belief ends up doing more harm than good in the long run.

Recall the ‘cliff’ example. That would be a survival belief – one that helps us avoid pain or ultimately death. At the root of that belief is that we would fall because we didn’t have the ability to fly – I mean we all believe in gravity and I’m not saying you shouldn’t. Nor am I saying that you should believe you can fly.

But what if there was something that you wanted to be, do or have and you either believed it was not possible or that you didn’t have the ability to achieve it – or both?

For example – say you wanted to change careers and become a singer or a public speaker but you were terrified of getting up in front of an audience. Chances are very high that at one point (or more) in your life you gained enough emotionally intense references (table legs) to support the belief that singing or performing or speaking to an audience would cause you pain. Pain in the form of embarrassment, anxiety, or even the loss of bodily functions.

{It reminds me of the old Seinfeld joke that more people are afraid of public speaking than dying in a fire. He went on to say that more people would rather die in a fire, than be the one giving the eulogy 🙂 }

This limiting belief, that public speaking or performing is painful, is rooted in the past and doesn’t allow you to keep growing and moving forward. You probably would find additional references to support your avoidance of taking such a leap. You would find references that would say “it’s very hard to make it as a singer or to make money as a public speaker”. You would go on to say that “making money and supporting your family are more important than pursuing a dream to touch the hearts of others through music or your own words”.

The above are all references that help you avoid pain, which in their own right, do provide some temporary comfort against the anxiety caused by just thinking about getting in front of an audience. But what happens when that’s not enough? What happens when avoiding the pain or the embarrassment or the struggle and just surviving isn’t enough?

Then it’s time to question your beliefs and change the ones that aren’t serving you, the ones that do no empower you.

Can you really change a belief? You bet you can!

Change Your Beliefs, Change Your Life

How do you change a belief that seems to have been set in stone or hard-wired?

Through creating new references that are vivid, intense and emotionally charged.

First, you become aware of your existing beliefs and the references supporting them. Then, you choose to seek and create new references and experiences to support a new belief that will serve you and empower you. Over time, through enough positive, emotionally charged experiences, you will build the new belief and the trust in yourself. You will believe that you are able to be, do or have anything you truly desire and value, and you will change your life.

What you believe controls and shapes your life and how you feel from day to day. Coaching is a process that helps you examine and question your beliefs and, over time, helps you go out in the world and create new, vivid and emotionally charged references so you can create new and more empowering beliefs and, ultimately the most important belief – the belief in yourself.

In closing, I’ll leave you with some self coaching questions:

– What do you believe would make you happy and fulfilled?

– What do you want that you believe you cannot be, do or have?

– What do you believe is standing in the way of you and your happiness?

– What are you willing to consider now, that you never had or were not willing to before, so you can feel happy & fulfilled?

– What is your next step?

 

 

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6 Comments

  1. Pilar

    Thx for the post. Please keep up the fantastic work. I’ll be returning lots.

    Reply
    • Coach Guy

      You’re welcome Pilar, I’ll do my best!

      Reply
  2. valerie

    THANK YOU!

    Reply
    • Coach Guy

      You are more than welcome Valerie 🙂

      Reply
  3. John

    I am so glad I found this post! I’m now thinking about the questions you asked at the end and I think I will be for a while. Thanks Mr. Reichard

    Reply
    • Guy Reichard

      I’m glad you found it too John and that you’re considering the questions at the end! I trust you will find the answers you’re looking for within you – take your time 🙂 If you need any support, please feel free to contact me.

      Reply

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