(By Tal Gur)
As you already know, our beliefs are the lenses through which we view and experience reality. These beliefs are usually subconscious. They operate below the level of awareness and impact our thoughts and behaviors behind the scenes.
In order to realize big dreams and get close to our potential, challenging our limiting beliefs is not only vital but necessary. In other words, achieving goals is very much about one's willingness to shift their beliefs to align with their goals instead of letting past mental patterns get in the way.
Remember, the context (aka belief system) you choose for your life is far greater than any goal because it determines the goals you will set, pursue, and eventually achieve. In other words, if your context is empowering enough, it will give rise to better goal setting and not less importantly help you achieve those goals. Challenging your old beliefs can be unsettling at first. But like all change, you can get used to it. And once you do it enough times, you may even come to enjoy it.
How to Change Limiting Beliefs
In order to change limiting beliefs, it isn’t always enough to identify and acknowledge them. Awareness is an important part of the solution, but oftentimes, it isn’t the whole solution. For example, you may be aware that getting rejected by someone is not such a bad thing, but your subconscious will still direct you to avoid it.
You can attempt to overpower your limiting beliefs through force such as puting systems in place to force yourself to take certain actions. For example, introducing penalties and increasing the negative consequences of different behavior. This can create an effect, but the results are usually short-lived. Plus, it can be exhausting to keep it up. Forcing means that one part of yourself is fighting and resisting another.
As you can already guess, a better option is to clear your limiting beliefs and instill more empowering ones. There are quite a few methods for reconditioning your subconscious, all with varying degrees of effectiveness for different individuals.
One of the first methods we want to experiment with is what I call the “Socratic Method.”
The Socratic method is not some woo-woo thing or a new age technique. It is based on simple principles that can be traced back 2,500 years ago. Socrates believed that inner knowing (wisdom) produces behavioral results, because behavior is always guided by beliefs, so in order to help others gain more wisdom, he established a probing questioning style—now called the Socratic Method.
The main idea behind the Socratic method is simple: asking reflective questions repeatedly, especially WHY questions, in order to dig more deeply into ourselves and shed light on the core underlying beliefs. Then, once we find the core limiting beliefs, we look at the evidence or better yet, the contradicting evidence. Finally, if we need to bring new evidence we can always choose to set a 21-day challenge or some other type of experiment.
Here is the process in more detail:
The Belief Exploration Process
The goal behind our process is simple: clearly identify beliefs leading to specific feelings or behavior. The goal is NOT to control the feeling, just to understand it. This, in turn, gives us the opportunity to change the belief that triggered the feeling.
Before we get into the thick of things, let's get something out of the way. Nothing is intrinsically good or bad, right or wrong, except to the extent that it is subjectively perceived by us. The value (i.e. judgments) we give to events in our lives is a product of our thoughts and SEPARATE from the event itself. Events only have the meaning we give to them.
Two people can be in the same exact situation and have totally different reactions and emotions. Some people, for example, feel down about a gray-skied day, while others feel indifferent to it; the same event, different feeling.
In other words, all events (i.e. stimuli we become conscious of) pass through our individual belief filters. We then give them a meaning and that triggers a response— the way we feel, think and act.
Understanding this is extremely important. What it means is that our beliefs generate our emotions and feelings. Subsequently, when a belief changes, so does the meaning and our response to it. To put it more simply, change your belief, change your emotion.
With this in mind, let’s get into the actual belief exploration process.
Step 1 - Get in tune with your feelings - In the last week or so, have you had any strong feelings or patterns of behavior you’d like to explore? For example, were you unhappy about something in particular? Was there something unpleasant going on in your life? *It’s usually more effective to explore unpleasant emotions than pleasant ones, as they provide better clues.
Step 2 - Ask repetitive “why” questions - Asking repetitive “Why” questions will help you to clarify and outline any conclusions you might have about your situation.
- For example, if you were unhappy because you’ve heard that someone said something about you behind your back, drill down and ask yourself “Why” question again: “Why do I create unhappiness when someone talks behind my back?” Your answer can reveal different conclusions. You might answer, for example, “because it shows a complete lack of respect.”
- You can then dig deeper and ask another WHY question: “Why do I create unhappiness when someone shows me a complete lack of respect?”
- This can assist you in making further conclusions: “because it means they don’t love me.” “because it means I can’t trust them anymore,” etc.
The deeper you dig, the more you'll get out of the process. As you’re about to see in the next step, your conclusions help reveal the underlying belief behind them.
Step 3 - Dig the belief out of your conclusions - It may not be easy to see this right away, but every conclusion you make represents a belief within it. You goal is to dig out the underlying belief from the conclusions you make.
- In the example above, for instance, a key underlying belief is “I need people’s love/trust/respect to be happy.”
There are a few more beliefs such as “People should not talk behind another’s back” or “You can’t trust anyone who talks behind your back” but when you drill down, the core belief links other people’s love and your own happiness.
Step 4 - Does the belief support you? - The principle in this step is fairly simple: Do not hold onto your personal beliefs as indisputable facts or “truths.” Instead look at beliefs as statements of possibilities which are either supporting you and your dreams, or not.
This might sound simple, but you’ll be surprised how difficult it is to do, especially when others share the same belief (commonalities reinforce beliefs).
For example, for thousands of years, the mainstream belief was that the Earth was flat and that it was also the center of the Universe. After all, at first sight, the surface indeed seemed flat and even. I can come up with a number of other examples along these lines, but I think you get the point.
Being flexible with our beliefs is not something our minds are naturally programmed to accept. At the end of the day, many of our adopted beliefs (including those which lead to unhappiness) are there to protect us.
However, the fact that something is hard does not mean it’s not possible. Remember, you’re in control. you’re the architect and master of your own operating system. The more you start saying this to yourself, the more flexible your mind will become.
So the actual question in the example from the previous steps is: “Does the belief ‘I need people’s love to be happy’ support me and my dreams, or not?”
Step 5 - Can you find contradicting evidence? - If the belief does not support your dreams, find evidence from your own life, or from the lives of those you know, where the belief does not hold up.
You see, we often gather biased evidence to support mainstream beliefs that are imposed on us by others. We narrow down our view and see only what has been presented to us.
As a result, those beliefs become self-fulfilling prophecies, limiting our point of view and ultimately our potential…
The point I want to make is simple. Don't take anything at face value or believe everything you hear. Instead, question it, challenge it, pull it apart…
So with our previous example, the question is: can I find evidence where one can be perfectly happy without getting any external love, and despite the fact that people talk behind his or her back?
Step 6 - Decide to drop the limiting belief - Whether your evidence always holds up isn’t the question. Remember, you’re not looking for the so-called “truth” in this process. Finding one instance in which your limiting belief does not hold up is enough.
As mentioned previously, you want to stop looking at beliefs not as indisputable “truths,” but merely as statements of possibilities which are either supporting you or not.
You see, all beliefs are learned. And, anything that has been learned can also be unlearned.
In other words, you freely adopted beliefs throughout your life, and you can freely discard them whenever you decide that they don’t serve you.
You don’t even have to construct a new belief statement because when you discard a belief, it never leaves a gap or a blank space. Instead, it automatically gets replaced by a new belief.
I highly suggest you make yourself familiar with the method above and it's simple steps. The Socratic Method can be especially effective when we're diligent about it. Learning the process is not enough. We want to take consistent action and apply it carefully.
Choosing Empowering Beliefs
Where do you find good beliefs to install? This is, of course, a key question in our process.
First, look within yourself. Find contradicting evidence with respect to your limiting beliefs by looking at past experiences and goals. Discern how your current belief system affected your results.
Secondly, look outside yourself. Find people who are already getting the results you want, and contrast their beliefs with your own. If you look for experts online, just make sure the expert is already getting the results you want.
Here are two principles for choosing effective beliefs.
- Empowering and accurate- Effective beliefs address your observations of reality. They allow you to experience whatever is “technically possible”. In other words, you don’t want to adopt a belief system that incorrectly limits your abilities and what you perceive as possible.
- All-inclusive and congruent - Effective beliefs adapt well to new circumstances. They serve you well regardless of your situation (income level, health, etc). They are internally consistent and congruent with each other,
* Obviously, some beliefs appear more congruent with reality than others. Generally speaking, the most accurate beliefs are also the most empowering (e.g. Belief about gravity, for example, allow us to send people to the Moon and put satellites in orbit and). Common sense and science do a fairly good job of identifying the basics. However, after accounting for the obvious, there’s still plenty of ambiguity left. It’s up to you to fill in these blanks.
Questioning Beliefs Often
Have you noticed that everyone around you continually sells you their beliefs? Your parents, politicians, your employer, your doctor, advertisers, the director of the movie you’ve just seen. You name it.
From a very young age, we conform to the beliefs and values of those around us. “You need a college degree to get a good job,” “Money is wealth,” “Putting others first is always a good philosophy” we keep being told.
The real problem is that most of those beliefs are left unchallenged and unquestioned. We simply accept them to be true just because they are supported by large segments of society.
By questioning your assumptions, by asking “why?” as often as a three-year-old, you give yourself a gift, a real opportunity to level up your life and drop whatever no longer serves you.
One last note, before we wrap things up. Be nonjudgmental throughout the process. Judgments limit our view and ability to see clearly. By maintaining a nonjudgmental attitude, we give ourselves more opportunities to understand ourselves.
The primary assumption you want to consider is that each one of us does the best we can at any given moment. Even when we’re unhappy, for example, we do it because it serves us one some level (unhappiness is strong motivating factor). So rather than qualify something as “good” or “bad,” see it with full acceptance, as it is, however, that is.
Exploring Beliefs Continuously
In my experience, exploring and reprogramming the subconscious mind can take time and work. I say “can” because the opposite may also be true. Certain beliefs can change instantly and effortlessly, just by bringing awareness.
One of the best ways I found to maintain consistency with belief exploration is using a spreadsheet or a table in a journal. It’s simple to create one and you don’t have to adopt a daily practice around it. You can do it weekly as part of your weekly reflection/planning ritual.
Now, you can experience and explore many different beliefs. My suggestion, as mentioned above, prioritize.
Here is, for example, my own “online board” designed to hold my most important empowering beliefs.
Limiting Beliefs about Reality/Life:
Life is hard / difficult
Life is painful / suffering
Life is unfair
Everything is happening for my growth.
Life is constantly guiding me.
All my experiences are valuable for growth
Life is ultimately a game of elevation and I'm here to enjoy the process
Limiting Beliefs about Change:
Change is hard / difficult
Change takes time / Change doesn’t happen overnight
Change is not safe
Change is painful
Change can be easy, fun and effortless
Change can happen quickly and often instantly
Adapting is the safest thing I can do
Change is good for me even if I don’t see it right away
Change is the only true constant and here to be embraced
Limiting Beliefs about Self
I am separate / alone
I am not in control / powerless
I am on the wrong path / not safe
I am not good enough / unlovable
I don't fit in / belong
I am not capable / inadequate
I am not important
I am unattractive / My beauty is a curse
I need to be fixed / What makes me whole is....
I am a loser
I'm interconnected to all / We are all One.
I am a creator. I have the power to create whatever I put my mind to
I am constantly guided if I listen. I trust the wisdom of life
I am (great) enough / I am complete as I am / I embrace all parts of myself.
My uniqueness is an essential part of the creation
I am capable of anything I put my mind to
I am an essential part of the creation
beauty is in the eye of the beholder / I am an expression of beauty.
I'm always complete.
I’m always doing the best I can with what I know.
I am a limitless Divine Consciousness that is interconnected to all things
If there is one thing I want you to take away from reading through this, it's this: There are only two sets of beliefs: those that serve you and those that don’t. By questioning, uncovering, and then dropping beliefs that don’t serve you, you gradually transform your experience of life.
This, in essence, means that if you want to reach your highest potential and attain greatness, you have to abandon some of your so called “truths” and instead purposefully create beliefs about yourself, others, and the world around you that support your dreams and hopes for the future.
Remember, every thought, feeling and action born of you passes through the lens of your beliefs. If you long for meaning, for excellence, for happiness, then you must clear that lens.
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