Action Stoppers…Reading Time: 4 minutes
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.” (Henry Ford)
This week I have been thinking a lot about what I believe and how this impacts how I view life and therefore how I approach different situations. My thinking led to reading and brought me to some interesting information which helped me piece together a few random thoughts that had been dancing around in my mind. We all have beliefs which are defined as; an acceptance that something exists or is true. These beliefs impact our behaviour, attitudes and actions. Our beliefs sit under two buckets which are ‘empowering beliefs’ that drive us to take action and do more, and ‘limiting beliefs’ that inhibit action and detract from our enjoyment of life.
Our beliefs may be shaped by our life experiences (e.g how things have worked out in the past), the conditioning we have had (e.g. through education or messaging from family and friends), incorrect conclusions we may have drawn based on ill-informed logic or information, desires to excuse ourselves from particular results or fear that some of our deep needs would be harmed. The thought of criticism, ridicule or rejection by others is sometimes powerful enough to inhibit us.
I have noted different times in my life when I have held such strong limiting beliefs which were inconsistent with reality. One example of this was I was boring, and there is no reason anyone would want to hang out with me unless they had nothing better to do. I believed this so much that although I met people, spent time with them, enjoyed their company and exchanged phone calls I believed that I had no friends and that these individuals felt sorry for me and that is why they spent time with me. If people got too close I would withdraw and shut down because I did not want to be a bore. On reflection this stems from some experiences from my teenage years where some people I considered to be friends at the time played a practical joke on me, but they never told me and let it string on for months. I later found out by accident and it turns out they were enjoying playing with my vulnerabilities, which subconsciously made me believe that I was not interesting and the only way I could be vaguely interesting was if I was the butt of a joke. But thankfully, not too many years ago a friend tied me to a chair and worked with me to reflect on all the fun stuff I had initiated in my friendship groups, why people spent time with me, how people reacted and behaved when they were with me. I found this exercise painful because it challenged me hard about what I had believed to be true for so many years and then realising that I had been making life difficult for myself unnecessarily. I had to accept that people have a choice and they choose to spend time with me. The new empowering belief that stuck from that experience was that people in my life enjoy my company and find me blinking interesting. My weirdness, craziness and rare bouts of seriousness actually appeal to some people!
Another limiting belief I had was that I do not communicate well through writing. This perhaps due to my education. Maths, Stats and Science were my thing at school, and I did not do a lot of writing. Now this was quite inhibiting because I have been writing since I was at school but because of this belief, although I enjoyed it and did it often I shared my writing with very few people. The reason of this limiting belief evolved from the education piece to fear of sharing material that was not written well. To work on writing better, I then decided to do a dissertation at University (which in hindsight was a very risky decision) for which I got really positive feedback and received the highest grade in the year, so clearly I could communicate my ideas through writing. But the crazy thing about a limiting belief is that even when there is some evidence to suggest that the belief may be inaccurate you could, like I did, see the evidence as being an anomaly. I started a couple of blogs but because I still believed that my writing was pretty bad, I did not share my blog with anyone for 5years until I took a leap and just sent it out to some friends who actually had some positive feedback. You would think that would change my belief right? No, I then concluded that they were just saying that because they were my friends so I enrolled onto a Journalism course to work on my writing communication. I am changing that limiting belief from ‘I cannot communicate well through writing’ to ‘I will engage with who I can through my words’ which is more empowering for me as encourages me to continue to write and share my ideas, thoughts and experiences.
It is important for us to sometimes challenge the views we have about ourselves. What do you believe that stops you from doing something you want to do or being the person you want to be? How does that practically manifest itself in your life? How can you alter that belief to motivate you to take action or relieve you from undue pressure? This is not easy and does not happen overnight but it is something that you have to acknowledge and be aware of the limiting belief. It is helpful to get to a point where we can challenge our beliefs and identify potential inconsistencies with reality.