How do you recognise the way beliefs drive your life? Write down the answer to the following questions; don't edit yourself, just write down the first thing that pops into you head. There are no right and no wrong answers. Whatever you come up with is absolutely perfect, so just write down what is top of mind for you.
Making money is...
My priority is...
My body is...
My work is...
My family is...
I don't have enough...
I wish I had more...
Done? Good. We will come back to your answers at the end.
Today we are starting our habits of happiness project discussing beliefs. I like to think of beliefs as nothing more than thoughts we have thought over and over and over again, until they seem not thoughts but truth. They become so deeply embedded we don't even notice them. They seem as obvious and incontrovertible to us as "the sky is blue". We proceed as though these beliefs are truth and they drive our lives without us knowing it.
Beliefs are like a piece of software, part of our operating system that just runs continuously in the background.
What we get in life is what we believe. We don't realise it but it's that deep software of belief that drives our outcomes in life. Here's one of my favourite examples to demonstrate for you how this works:
Carrie was a pilates instructor. She was the picture of health. Exercised every day. Ate Paleo. She glowed! Her money situation however was a disaster. No savings. Some weeks not making enough to pay rent. Clients cancelling at the last minute or not turning up for their 6am session, and with no cancellation policy she wouldn't get paid. She was really furious about this situation and her "flaky clients".
She was also very angry with her sister. Her sister was well-off, lived in a big house with her husband and two children, worked part-time and was paid exceptionally well. This easy abundance annoyed Carrie. However what annoyed her more was that her sister was overweight and her nieces were going the same way, living on a junk food diet and spending a lot of time playing on the iPad.
I asked Carrie what she thought her sister believed about money, "Oh" she sniffed dismissively "Jennifer's always been very motivated about money, has always made it a priority". Right "And what do you think she believes about health, exercise and food?"
"Well she doesn't believe in that, it's just not important to her, it's a ridiculous attitude".
Okay. And what do you believe about health, exercise and food? "Well I'm the opposite. I know that we need to respect our bodies, what we put in them and to move them. That's really important to me" she said proudly. Fair enough, your fit, healthy body is a testament to that! And what then do you believe about money?
"Well... that there is never enough money, just never enough to go round is there?
That's just life, that making money is hard and... oh my God, I believe that there will never be enough money, and... AARGH!"
I could literally see the penny starting to drop. "I never do have enough money. I am getting what I believe? I am getting the body and the finances I believe in, and so is my sister. Oh. My. God".
Carrie sat stunned at this revelation. It was the starting point of massive and exhilarating change for her. That's why it's so important to start with this deep examination.
Tinkering round on the surface with a new client booking system or way of organising our home office is pointless if we have not addressed the deep-seated belief about the value of money in our life. Congruent beliefs are the foundation of successful and lasting change.
This is what Gandhi has to say on the power of beliefs:
"Your beliefs become your thoughts,
your thoughts become your words,
your words become your actions,
your actions become your habits,
your habits become your values,
your values become your destiny"
Yes indeed. For that is the way it works. If at some deep level you believe there will never be enough: you are exactly right, and there never will be. If you believe deep down that life is hard then you will have a hard life. If you believe in miracles you will see miracles everywhere. If you believe life is a struggle then struggle you will. It is literally that simple.
Of course, not all beliefs are bad. Most will be really healthy and appropriate for the particular phase of life we are in. Some, however, can be outdated and unhealthy and they limit our life. They limit our capacity for change, and they limit the amount of joy available to us. Hence they are called "Limiting Beliefs".
This process we are going to step through each week is going to be like an internal spring clean. It's like going into the back of the cupboards in your mind and having a good sweep out. Does this belief support me and the life I want? If yes, keep it. If no, and it's limiting for you, well, consciously change it.
I am going to walk you through some of the most common limiting beliefs that keep people stuck in a life that no longer suits them. Think of it like a software upgrade. We are going to upgrade to You Version 2.0.
I hope you have your Habits of Happiness journal (your action step from last week), pull that out and look at your answers to the 10 questions at the start of this piece. How many of those beliefs are helping and healthy, and how many might be limiting you? Awareness and honesty is the first step forward.
Louise Thompson is a life coach, yoga teacher and corporate escapee. For more from Louise visit www.positivebalance.co.nz.