Practice 1: Write Better Beliefs
Of all the Practices that I will be sharing, this is one of the most important. Changing beliefs about yourself underpins most of what I offer on this site, and it is the basis of my Claim Your Confidence online course.
This practice offers you a practical way to stop using any unhelpful belief you may hold about yourself, and encourages you to design more useful belief programs. Changing beliefs is one of the most freeing things you can do for yourself and it costs nothing except your effort.
To practice creating a better belief
Journal and pen
Step 1: Find a belief to work on
I start by finding a belief that I want to ‘upgrade’. My beliefs are often clustered together, so I might have a belief such as, ‘I’m helpless to change my situation’ and others that relate to it such as, ‘Nothing I do changes anything’ and ‘If it wasn’t for random luck I’d never achieve anything.’ These beliefs all fit together as a ‘program’ that I might name the, ‘I’m helpless’ program. The fear behind it might be, ‘I’m not safe when I can’t see a way through.”
Now that I’ve identified a single belief or a cluster of beliefs, I decide what I’d like a new belief to look like. As my brain is already very efficient at finding the negative in every situation, I have to consciously over-ride its basic functioning towards seeing only the threats, in order to find a more positive and helpful belief.
Step 2: Keep it simple!
I try to keep any new program really simple and easy to remember. Just a phrase or a couple of words to help me remember it.
I often draw on favourite books to help put my fears into perspective. I use a lot of universal spiritual wisdom that keeps me grounded in how to face issues with a peaceful approach rather than one of conflict. So a better belief to replace one of helplessness could be, ‘I believe that the power to change anything comes from within me, not from outside me.’
This new belief energises me immediately because it reminds me that actually, I AM the one in control of myself. Anything I have ever achieved has come from my decision, my focus and my commitment to it. Changing my beliefs is no different. It’s my decision, my focus and my commitment to the new belief that will make it real.
Neuroscience studies suggest that beliefs are formed as patterns in the brain and reinforced by the demonstration of ‘proof’. We can use this proof to help us change our beliefs. For example, rational proof means that I logically know that no one else is inside my head forcing me to be helpless. Scientific proof means I can deduce that without another person in my brain telling me what I can and cannot do, then my decision not to do something can only come from me. So I may decide to be helpless, but that is a choice I’m making. I have the power to choose helplessness, and the power to take control. Both are up to me.
Step 3: DO something to make it stick
Now to reinforce it.
I immediately think of a situation where that new belief statement would be impactful. Then I ask myself, ‘What would I do differently if I totally owned this new belief?’ I often close my eyes and visualise myself in that difficult situation, using the new belief to test how it feels. I come up with at least one thing to DO so I can try it out for real.
Simply repeating the new belief like a mantra or an affirmation doesn’t change anything. I have to DO something that uses it or my brain won’t learn this new neural pathway. For example, I certainly DO lots of things when I believe I’m helpless, such as avoiding difficult decisions or blaming other people or events for my predicament. These actions have definitely helped to ‘wire in’ a pattern of learned helplessness in the past.
So, to reinforce my new belief I have to come up with at least one different behaviour that I can apply it to as often as I can.
Sometimes I avoid starting a project because I worry that maybe it’s too ambitious. If I want to change this belief, I rest quietly and focus on a feeling of having the power within me to complete it and launch it successfully. I might imagine creative energy deep in my body that is rising to be let out. I tell myself that I am in complete control over what I do and how I do it. Feeling it in your body is helpful because otherwise the action is more of a logical thinking exercise. Saying, ‘Sure, sure, I have the power to do this’, is very different to feeling it swell up inside you so that you KNOW that the power is there and you feel ready to test it out.
Now, it’s about swapping out the old program for the new. Every time the old belief ‘I’m helpless’ surfaces, I change it to, ‘I have the power to creatively change this situation at any moment.’ My energy shifts and then I DO something to reinforce it. I might make that phone call, start that blog post, follow up with that client or mindmap that new idea. In fact, I don’t have to do anything major. Just one small action, one tiny approach towards a positive action will start me off. By starting an action, I tell my brain that I’m serious about this. I believe I have the power to change my situation and I’m actually doing something about it!
Step 4: Keep doing it!!
The essence to changing any belief or belief system is repeated reinforcement. Just as you reinforced the old unhelpful belief by saying it to yourself a thousand times, you do the same for the replacement one. I write it out and pin it up so that I can see it and reinforce it throughout the day. And tell yourself that you are perfectly safe. Your brain needs to be constantly reminded of this to settle down the panic or anxiety that surfaces when you tell yourself you feel helpless.
The only way to replace your beliefs is by working through them. Face up to those that hold you back and consciously decide to change them. Write a better one, replace it and use it. Keep at it. It takes effort but the effort will be worth it!