Targeting self-defeating beliefs

“You’ve got to hang onto him,” Father admonished. “Show him who the boss is!” I looked over at my 700-pound 4-H steer then back at my father.

“To escape from prison you must first realize that you are the prison.” — Gurdjieff, author and spiritual teacher

“You’ve got to hang onto him,” Father admonished. “Show him who the boss is!”

I looked over at my 700-pound 4-H steer then back at my father.

“Seems pretty obvious who the boss is,” I replied with a nod to my calf.

“Oh hell!” Father grumbled and snatched the halter from me. At the time I was 12 years old and embarking on my first year as a 4-H beef club member. One of the first tasks, after selection and weigh-in, was breaking the animal to lead. As the calf stood nearly as tall as me at the shoulders and outweighed me by several hundred pounds, I could see no way to successfully manoeuvre through this challenge. I had watched and even Father, who was over six feet tall and some 200 pounds, found breaking to lead a difficult and frustrating chore.

After an hour of being dragged around the farm yard, stepped on and kicked, I was done. I wanted to quit 4-H forever. Father’s frustration with me only made matters worse.

“I can’t do it,” I said, nearly in tears. “It’s too hard and I’m too small!”

“You can do it,” Father declared, “just stand your ground!”

“But how?” I asked, my voice starting to quaver. “He’s so much bigger than me.”

“Listen,” Father said, taking a deep breath to calm his annoyance. “When it comes to cattle, size don’t mean nothin’! Animals can’t reason. If your calf figures it can’t get away from you, it’ll stop trying. All you’ve got to do is stand firm those first few times and from then on you won’t have a problem!” I pondered his statements and wondered if it could be that simple.

The mind is an interesting thing. Whatever you feed it, it begins to believe. Consider this: each person has a view of the world and themselves, along with specific rules that govern his behaviour and responses to stimulus. Once the die has been cast, and by that I mean once we accept certain ideas as fundamentally true, we seldom re-examine them. If we are ever to smash through stubbornness and habit, we must be willing to re-examine our beliefs and challenge them. We must shine the bright light of awareness on what we consider to be true.

Here’s a simple yet powerful technique to help target self-defeating beliefs.

Choose one area of your life that feels deficient and decide what you would like to believe (as opposed to what you actually believe at the moment). List the area of deficiency and then write down the ideal belief next to it — areas like self-esteem, health, prosperity, creativity or relationships.

Let’s use self-esteem and the ideal belief: I love and accept myself the way I am. Create three columns on a piece of paper and write self-esteem in the left column and “I love and accept myself the way I am” in the middle column. Now just be still and notice what bubbles up from your subconscious mind (especially when you state out loud the ideal belief). Write down these thoughts in the third column no matter how irrelevant they might initially appear. The process is similar to free association.

Repeat the process six to seven times and you’ll soon discover the column begins to fill up with a list of negative assumptions. I used the word assumptions because much of what we believe to be truth is simply assumption — uninvestigated thought that will often crumble under serious scrutiny.

When I first did this exercise on self-esteem, I discovered a number of self-defeating ideas “bubbling” to the surface: I’m not good enough, smart enough, no matter how hard I try it’s just not good enough and so on.

Bringing awareness to what you’re thinking is a powerful step toward changing your thinking, but awareness is only the opening move. A limiting belief can continue to work against you even if you are aware of its presence.

People who believe there is not enough to go around may remain in need regardless how hard they try to prosper.

When changing beliefs, it’s often a matter of “standing your ground” and persevering – opening yourself up to new possibilities, approaching challenges from different angles and employing new strategies.

The world’s top motivational speaker and best-selling author Les Brown writes, “Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.”

Our actions come directly from what we’ve reinforced within ourselves and spent our time focusing upon. Becoming aware of the beliefs that bind us is the first step to breaking free of them. Think about what it is that you really want to accomplish and then think about all the perceived barriers that stand in your way. What perceptions bind you right now?

If it was indeed true that my 4-H steer was unable to reason and only needed to be convinced that escape was futile then perhaps there was a simpler, more effective way to get the point across.

I haltered my calf and tied it to the hitch of our small Ford tractor. I then drove slowly up and down our quarter-mile driveway with the calf behind — fighting, pulling and tugging.

By the third trip, the calf was trotting nonchalantly behind the tractor. Initially critical of my method, over time Father did reluctantly acknowledge that the novel approach was sound.

Murray Fuhrer is a local self-esteem expert and facilitator. His new book is entitled Extreme Esteem: The Four Factors. For more information on self-esteem, check the Extreme Esteem website at www.extremeesteem.ca

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