What if what you and I believe about ourselves … is wrong, a lie we’re telling ourselves? What if my internal story of who I am and how I fit into life … is wrong, a lie I tell myself without question?
Look closely at the image on the left. Is it a coincidence that the word LIE is buried within the word BELIEF? I had never noticed that, had you?
Are there areas of your life you’ve unsuccessfully tried to improve? Self-limiting core beliefs held deep within your subconscious mind may be sabotaging your best efforts to win that promotion, attract the attention of that special person, or finally take off that extra twenty-five pounds.
Beliefs are so powerful they can literally affect your life in the most fundamental ways, being your greatest resource or your largest obstacle to growth. Beliefs can be at the heart of major problems in a person’s life—everything from being overweight to trouble with relationships.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” But the corollary is that if you believe you can’t, you’ll never get there. As Henry Ford said, “If you believe you can or you believe you can’t, you’re right.”
What are Beliefs?
What are beliefs and how can they be so powerful? Beliefs are simply the thoughts you hold in your mind about something. A dictionary definition is “any cognitive content held as true.” The brutal truth about our own beliefs is that they aren’t THE TRUTHS, they’re our truths. They’re simply the thoughts we’ve accumulated over the years that we hold to be true without question.
Core beliefs are your thoughts about yourself and how you fit into the grand scheme of life. Core beliefs can be helpful, such as “I’m a generous person, enjoying helping others.” Or they can be harmful to your growth, such as “I’m not as good as other people.” The latter core belief is called a self-limiting belief because it will limit what you allow yourself to attempt and experience.
Challenging your self-limiting core beliefs can change your life once you understand the truth about beliefs. Because beliefs are simply the thoughts you hold true about something, they are subject to challenge and change—you can explore the facts of a situation and come to a different conclusion, a new truth.
Experts on Core and Limiting Beliefs
Dr. Friedemann Schaub, author of The Fear & Anxiety Solution (Sounds True Publications, 2012) indicates “… core beliefs act as our personal laws of the universe. They shape how we view and feel about ourselves and the world.”
Dr. Schaub goes on to say that “Limiting beliefs eventually become self-fulfilling prophecies” because your subconscious continually looks for evidence to support your beliefs.
So if you believe “It’s a jungle out there, eat or be eaten,” you’ll focus on the evidence that confirms the belief and never see evidence to the contrary. Lou Tice, founder of The Pacific Institute attributes this phenomena to the reticular activating system. Believing is seeing, not the other way around.
A Personal Example
As a younger man, I believed that my value to others, especially those who loved me, required me to always be right—I avoided making a mistake or being wrong at all costs. I defended my behaviors aggressively and compulsively, refusing to simply say, “I was wrong.” Now, I believe that I’m loved whether I’m right or wrong; in fact, I sometimes relish admitting my mistakes, because doing so affirms my humanity and makes loving me that much easier.
My belief on this topic has changed one-hundred eighty degrees, and my relationships have improved as a direct result. My old self-limiting truth is now replaced with a new truth which has fed my personal growth.
Get a Fresh Start on Life
What if many things you believe about yourself and life—your limitations, fears, weaknesses, how to get ahead—are wrong? What if you could start anew, with the eagerness for life of a two-year old but the experience of maturity? How would your life change?
You can get a fresh start on life and become the person you want to be by honestly challenging core beliefs about yourself and life. Many, perhaps most, will be true, but any beliefs that are falsely limiting your personal growth are prime targets for change.
Since beliefs are simply the thoughts you hold in your mind about something, even core beliefs you’ve believed true for decades can be challenged and changed. Challenging core beliefs belong in your personal development plan. That’s why my Sample Personal Development Plan places the chapter on examining core beliefs among the first personal growth modules.
Where to Start?
A mature adult holds dozens—maybe hundreds—of subconscious beliefs that guide decision-making, speeding up thought processes based on past experiences. A good thing? Most of the time, yes a good thing. But if I decline to shoot baskets with my grandson because “I’ve never been good at basketball,” I avoid embarrassing myself at the expense of building a closer relationship.
With so many core beliefs, where does a person start to identify and validate one’s beliefs? You might make a list of everything you believe and then systematically examine the facts supporting each. That seems overwhelming to me, so I suggest this approach.
Set an internal alarm clock to go off the next time you feel an immediate and strong urge to do or say something, but then “think better of it.” The strong urge is an emotion which is true, coming from your soul. Thinking about it and changing your mind is self-protection of the ego mind reacting to a core belief. Instead, follow the emotion. Examine the result.
Using the basketball example, say I agree to shoot baskets (against my “better” judgment) and sure enough, I’m not very good at it. But, I have a good time! My grandson and I laugh lots and he even gives me some tips improving my shooting. All in all, a fun time and a good bonding experience.
Examining the results, I realize I wasn’t good enough at basketball to make my school team, but I don’t have to be good to enjoy a game with my grandson.
The internal alarm clock is something each of us has. It’s the subconscious mind that’s always working in the background of awareness. It’s set by simply telling yourself to notice the next time you feel an emotional response to do something but then hesitate while you “think it over.”
The Fear & Anxiety Solution, by Dr. Friedemann Schaub
Lou Tice, “Investment in Excellence” series
Featured image (Roosevelt quote) courtesy Flikr user BK, CC Attr Lic
Belief mage courtesy Flikr user bjornmeansbear, CC Attr Lic