It’s a glorious Autumn day today. Most of the trees are resplendent in their autumn livery – shades of red, gold and orange. Offering one last “hurrah” before letting go of their leaves in preparation for the winter ahead.
The leaves have served their purpose and are ready to be shed, there is no reason to hold onto them. In fact, holding onto them would be damaging to the tree, making it less likely to survive the winter ready to thrive again with the coming of spring.
This made me think about how we could learn from this natural cycle. In striving to do more, achieve more, get more, we focus our attention on what needs to be added or acquired, but rarely do we examine what we need to let go of in order to move forwards or upwards.
How many beliefs do you have that are no longer serving you – limiting beliefs that are keeping you stuck or holding you back?
But what are beliefs?
A belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses. It is an idea that possesses the mind.” ~ Robert Oxton Bolt
Beliefs can be so strong that they impact upon our behaviour over and over again, and yet so subtle that we don’t even realise that they are there – they literally “possess” us. We don’t see our beliefs as something to be questioned, to us they are “facts” and “the way it is” and yet sometimes the beliefs that we hold dear and see as true are damaging us and keeping us from moving forward.
Our beliefs are moulded from a very early age. When we are born, we have no limiting beliefs and anything is possible. At this stage, we have only two fears –of falling and of loud noises. We begin to take on beliefs from our early experiences and from what we learn from our parents, teachers and others around us as the time. Children don’t have the same amount of information as adults with which to analyse situations, so they tend to accept external information without questioning it. Most of our beliefs are formed by the age of seven and are stored deep in our unconscious minds, to surface later on.
Beliefs are views about ourselves, others and the world. These views determine the decisions we take and the way we behave in everyday situations. In a nutshell, It’s not the events of our lives that shape us, but our beliefs as to what those events mean. The meaning we attach to these events and how we interpret them are what shapes who we are today and who we’ll become tomorrow. Our beliefs are generalisations about our past, based on our interpretations of painful or pleasurable experiences.
When we develop a belief, this becomes part of our personal narrative – the story we tell ourselves. It becomes one of the filters through which we see the world. We tend to notice (and collect) evidence that supports the belief and delete or discount evidence to the contrary. The neuroscientist Michael Gazzangina refers to are part of the brain he and others have labelled “the interpreter” which makes sense of the world by reconciling new information with what was known (believed) before. The interpreter attempts to rationalize, reason and generalise new information it receives in order to relate the past to the present.
The good news is, because all beliefs are learned, they can be un-learned. We can let go of unhelpful beliefs just like a tree shedding its leaves in autumn. Unlike the tree though, it does take some conscious effort and commitment to override the automatic (unconscious) operation of the interpreter. The good news though is that once the belief has gone, it is gone for good and no more effort is required.
So how can you let go of limiting beliefs?
Try this simple exercise:
- Write down one of your limiting beliefs…
- Now write down all the evidence you have that supports the belief…
- Next write down all the evidence that you have or can find that contradicts the evidence above…
Congratulations – you have begun the process of loosening the belief and can now let go of it completely. What was once regarded as an absolute truth is now open to doubt.
Of course the next step is to develop new, more empowering beliefs. I will write more about how to do this in future blogs.