When an elephant is young, if a trainer puts a chain around its leg and restrains it from moving far, the young elephant will initially try to escape.
After trying for a while, the animal realises that escaping is futile and gives in to the restraint, enabling the trainer to control the elephant for the rest of its life. From then on, all that is required is a chain around its leg and a wooden peg in the ground that you or I could pull out, but the elephant doesn’t.
Because it doesn’t think that it can.
As we live our lives we start to build up beliefs.
Beginning as children with our experiences and what our parents told us, we form ways of viewing the world that sit with us into and during adulthood. Everything from how much is out there (abundance or scarcity), to being victims, how we view people, how much we worry, how much we try to control things, how we handle stress…
It’s all in the beliefs.
But here’s the thing about beliefs… you CAN change them. Just because you think something now, doesn’t mean you’ll think it in a few years. Your life experience will alter how your brain processes what happens in front of you to give birth to thoughts and emotions.
What about starting this process yourself by choice? Why and how would you do it?
I have seen and read posts on limiting beliefs before, but none have provided a framework as to how to overcome them. I have included two methods of how you can start overcoming limiting beliefs and a framework that moves from identifying the old, hurtful belief, to moving to the new healthy one you desire.
To answer the previous question: The why is to free yourself from limiting beliefs. A child who is teased for years is going to have some pretty hurtful beliefs about all people being scary and mean. Then as an adult, this is processed as social anxiety and the fear of meeting people. Not so helpful.
The how comes down to two methods which feed on each other:
- Assuming a belief is true
- Finding proof to contradict current beliefs and replace them with new ones
Method #1 – Assume a Belief is True
If beliefs can be changed, why not just assume something? This makes it sound FAR simpler than the process actually is, especially for a belief that has been present for many years and is deeply rooted, but there really is no reason not to try.
You can assume that all people are inherently friendly versus thinking that they will make fun of you
You can assume that people want to help you versus not having any time
You can assume that there is nothing wrong with being single versus craving to be attached to someone
You can assume that other people are struggling just as much as you versus thinking you have it horrible in figuring out your life
You can assume that the world is a place full of abundance with everything you need versus a world of scarcity where you need to settle for scraps and cling to everything you have
Method #2 – Finding Proof
While making an assumption might help, sometimes a belief is so strong that assumptions won’t cut it. Your brain will call “bullshit”. Your inner child self doesn’t believe you. It’s just not enough.
Then you must find proof to counter the belief.
You need to go out into the world, face fears, and gather data that will trump whatever negative belief you have.
A Plan and Framework to Form New Beliefs
To get rid of limiting beliefs, you could follow a frame work consisting of the following steps combining the two methods:
- Old Belief/Issue – Identify the belief you want to change – Meditation to hear your thoughts, therapy provided by a trained individual to help you, inner work resources, or trusted friends are required here. You cannot find out how you behave otherwise – you need a sense of introspection and healthy models for comparison. The old belief may also manifest itself as an issue, such as social anxiety
- Origin – It may be useful to figure out WHERE the belief came from in the past. Here, self-reading on inner work can help but therapy is the best (and usually fastest) option
- New Belief – Find the healthy version of the belief and assume it is true
- Strategy – Strategize how to obtain the proof that the healthy version is true
- Proof – Go out and get the proof for the new belief
- Happiness – Rejoice in happiness and freedom
An Example of a Plan for Constructing New Beliefs
- Old Belief – Starting conversations with new people is scary, generalized social anxiety
- Origin – Being teased as a child
- New Belief – People want to meet other cool people, as long as they are respectful and kind
- Strategy – Start making small talk with cashiers and salespeople who are pretty much paid to be friendly. Then say “Hi” to people in your apartment lobby and elevator. Ask people to introduce you to others. Begin introducing yourself to new people, first people who are alone, then in groups.
- Proof – You see smiles and nods… Conversations flow. People laugh…
- Happiness – Wait, but I thought people were all mean? They are happy to talk to me and give me good energy?
Old belief has been contradicted.
Changes do not happen overnight, and there is no guideline for exactly how long it will take to adapt to the new beliefs. You may believe them again even when you thought you didn’t. You may need external help. But slowly and surely if you do your best, you will start being a happier person with more accurate and healthy beliefs that will serve your life in the best way possible.
Don’t buy into negative bullshit. Whoever fed it to you was wrong and you are amazing as you are.
And after you break through all those chains… those constraints and ropes that you felt kept pulling you down beneath the surface of the water…
Enjoy your hard earned freedom.
Image Credit: Kalyan Chakravarthy