I want to elaborate on something that I’ve been spending a shit ton lot of time reflecting on lately.
This week, Dr. K wrote a blog post talking about how he is bettering himself: he’s hanging out with a mentor and a role model and noticing where he needs to make changes to get to where he wants to be. He identifies a pretty important step in making any kind of change in our lives: changing our beliefs.
Before I get into it, a “belief” to me is something we take to be true. It’s a thought we’ve thunk so many times that we take it to be true. Beliefs are not necessarily true, and it’s the false ones and the limiting ones that really drag us down.
Like I said, a belief is just a thought that’s become our default. It’s like a one line summary of what we think about something–ourselves, our mothers, our bodies, bacon, the world (anything!). It’s tempting, when looking at our problems or issues, to say “That’s just the way I am.”
Tempting, but not productive. If you want to be on your own side, you’ve got to question those things you hold to be true and the thoughts they lead you to think.
So let’s say that you have a belief that you know is holding you back.
Let’s say that the belief is that you’ll always be overweight (you can sub in “broke” or “single” or whatever it is that you no longer want to be).
This is certainly one of the beliefs that I have held for far too long. It comes from a circumstance that I absolutely can’t change: I was chubby growing up. So why’s it matter that I’m thinking this?
When I think, “I’ll always be fat,” it starts a sort of cascade of feelings, behaviours, and then results that leave me stuck in that headspace. I’m drawing on a little model that Brooke Castillo uses in her coaching:
So with the circumstance, which I can’t change, is that I was a chubby kid, let’s dive into this example a bit.
When I think that I’ll always be fat, I feel pretty worthless and pretty hopeless (feelings).
When I feel worthless and hopeless, my actions are things like restricting and bingeing and not taking care of myself.
When I restrict and binge and neglect to take care of myself, I end up weighing more than I’m supposed to and generally feeling like crap.
That’s devastating because it confirms that shit-tastic belief that my body wants to weigh more than it should, that “I’m supposed to be fat.”
If you’re a Happy is the New Healthy junkie, you might remember a little post I wrote not too long ago about always being in choice. If not, the summary is this: every thing that we do and every thought that we think is a choice that we make. We are entirely responsible for ourselves, we are always in choice, and we can choose something different.
Our beliefs might drive our actions because we’re not consciously thinking them through, but if we wake up and bring some awareness into the mix, we have ourselves a game changer: beliefs can change. They might not change overnight, but they change. And just because you think that thinking the alternative to a limiting belief isn’t possible doesn’t mean it isn’t. It just means you don’t see it as an option–yet. I encourage you to start. Just like you used to think Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy all hung out, you can used to think that you were supposed to be fat, broke, or single.
How do we change something we default to?
We do it by thinking a certain way and feeding new thoughts on purpose, that’s how!
I had the pleasure of being coached by Christie Inge earlier this week. While we were on the topic of beliefs and changing them, she offered me a pretty powerful example that I can’t help but share:
She asked me if I’d ever driven to work or school or wherever without really thinking about it, arrived there, and wondered how I’d gotten there.
Then she asked what would happen if I wanted to take a different route.
“I’d have to think about it.”
Just like driving a different route would mean you’d have to figure it out, think it through, turn at new intersections, drive down new roads, and focus on what you’re doing, changing a belief takes focusing on a new thought, growing new feelings, taking new actions, and generating different results. Those different results will feed back and confirm that new thought. Over and over and over again.
What happens when you think something over and over and over again?
You have a belief.
Lemme stop rambling and recap with my example:
icky belief’s thought: I’m supposed to be fat.
icky feeling: hopeless, worthless
icky behaviors: restricting/bingeing, not taking care of myself
icky results: overweight, unhealthy, dissatisfied with my body (confirms that I’m supposed to be that way)
awesome alternative belief’s thought: I’m meant to be healthy.
awesome alternative feeling: trusting, calm
awesome alternative behaviours: eating right, exercising, taking care of myself
awesome alternative results: my body finds its peacefeul, happy weight (confirms that I’m supposed to be that way)
Choosing to keep thinking a belief is just that: a choice.
You are always in choice.