“Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
— Lewis Carroll, English author (from Alice in Wonderland)
“I think we’re all clear on what needs to happen next.”
I could tell most people were a little uncomfortable with the approach devised by the chairman of our committee. I also had a feeling that no one was going to stand up and say anything contradictory. I was searching for the words when someone in the back of the room spoke up. All heads turned to acknowledge the lone voice of dissent. It was one of the new committee members – someone not yet versed in the art of head-down-mouth-shut acquiescence.
“I think you’re wrong,” she said to the chairman. “If I may ….”
We all listened as she explained her perception of the situation under discussion. It made sense to me and I found myself unconsciously nodding in agreement. When she finished speaking, we all turned back to the chairman. He was red-faced and definitely not happy.
“It’s obvious to me,” he said, “that you have a distorted view of reality.”
I wondered why my colleague’s perception and that of our chairman were so different. Both considered his or her viewpoint reality. People’s perception of reality is highly subjective.
Our beliefs play a major role in how we view our life. Our estimation of what’s right or wrong, appropriate or inappropriate, a success or failure is entirely dependent on the underpinnings of our personal beliefs. Our beliefs are the filters through which we evaluate life.
We develop our beliefs – our reality – based upon our observations and experiences. Our beliefs are comprised of both emotional and logical components. Some beliefs start out as assumptions with conclusions drawn from logical observation and deductions. More often than not, beliefs emerge from emotionally charged situations and misinterpretations of facts.
And of course, we should never underestimate the tremendous impact of family, culture and religious persuasion in moulding our belief system. Through the often clouded window of our beliefs, we try to make sense of the world.
We also use our beliefs to form assumptions about probable future results. In doing so, we create situations in keeping with what we expect.
Once accepted as fact, our beliefs are rarely subjected to scrutiny. They become our operating system. Not unlike the operating system of a personal computer, our beliefs help us to sort and file incoming data.
And even if someone should challenge our reality with an alternative point of view, we’re likely to disregard it, thinking the other person is either naïve or delusional.
Thus, everything we see, feel, think and experience is adjusted or reconstructed to accommodate our beliefs. The term for this reassembly is “congruency,” meaning that we bend, twist and stretch our personal experiences to fit nicely with what we “know” to be true.
As the process takes place at an unconscious level, most people have no idea that they’re creating their own reality. Instead they feel like some invisible force is controlling them.
From the moment you were born, your unconscious mind has been collecting and processing information. Everything you’ve heard, seen and experienced has been used to create your personal map of reality.
And to your unconscious mind, your map is reality. The way your map has been drawn will determine whether you’re a success or failure, happy or unhappy, satisfied or dissatisfied with your life experience.
Without awareness, you’re just flying on autopilot.
Think about it. If beliefs create our reality, then doesn’t that open up a whole new world of possibilities? If disempowering beliefs create a sad and regretful existence, then doesn’t it stand to reason that empowering beliefs will create an enjoyable and exciting life experience?
The next logic question is, “What kind of reality would you like to create?”
Beliefs are cloaked in all kinds of creative disguises. The easiest way to identify a self-limiting belief is to look at the results it has produced in your life. Areas of your life that seem enjoyable and fulfilling are likely anchored in empowering beliefs.
Areas plagued with unending sadness, frustration and disappointment are probably grounded in a self-limiting belief.
To help with the process, here are five questions designed to bring awareness. Apply all five questions of any area of your life that leaves you feeling inept, unqualified or afraid. Make a list of the unfulfilling activities and the negative belief associated with each situation.
1. Where do you feel most challenged and why do you think this is so?
2. What area of your life leaves you feeling incompetent or unqualified?
3. When do you feel most afraid and why?
4. What is your least favourite activity and why?
5. When you want to make a good impression, what do you try to hide?
Dismantle these beliefs by following them back to a painful, negative and likely, emotional anchor. Ask yourself some pointed questions about each disempowering belief.
1. What price have you paid for buying into your beliefs?
2. How did you get anchored in this belief in the first place?
3. How has this belief affected you financially, physically and emotionally?
4. What would you need to believe in order to be successful in this area of your life?
5. Which of your empowering beliefs can you apply the problem areas?
“Believe that life is worth living,” wrote William James, American philosopher and psychologist, “and your belief will help create the fact.”
Adopting new and empowering beliefs can dramatically change your results and your life. And once you become aware of the positive changes occurring in your life, you can begin to reinforce and validate those new beliefs.
Soon those better beliefs will be accepted by your unconscious mind and reflected in your new internal map and your new and positive reality.
Murray Fuhrer is a self-esteem expert and facilitator. His recent book is entitled Extreme Esteem: The Four Factors. For more information on self-esteem, check the Extreme Esteem website at www.extremeesteem.ca.