The thing about your head is that it’s usually attached to your body. If you’re lucky it’s been attached all your life. Now, here’s the funny bit…why then do we take more notice of our feet (or any other body part for that matter) than what’s in our head? Sounds crazy? The truth is often weirder than fiction.
Unfortunately, most of us have very little idea of what’s going on in there and even worse, very little idea of why we keep doing things. That’s good news for therapists such as me but generally bad news for mankind I reckon. So let’s look at how, “coz it’s always been like that” has become my least favourite excuse.
What do you do?First look at what drives your behaviour…and then change it.
Many people would say that intellect drives behaviour, but I don’t think it does because many of your beliefs & values were absorbed even before you grew an intellect. I think that intellect tells you that the way to ‘cure’ overweight is to eat less – but don’t you think that sort of advice is a bit offensive and unhelpful to a large person?!
It’s the same with being in the wrong job (“Well – change it!”) or with the wrong partner (“Well, leave!”) and …well, you get the idea.
Advice like this is worse than useless – it makes the recipient feel criticised, weak, bewildered and angry….some coaches call this ‘Best Friend Coaching’.
What drives behaviour is beliefs and values that are rooted in our brains, often without us knowing during childhood and continue to be even though we’re big bad adults now (well some of us are). We’re not always conscious of them, but they sit there, telling us what to do, what to fear, what to want and what to hate until we die…worse still, in extreme cases they can actually be the cause of our death (but we’re not going there in this blog). Beliefs drive behaviour into our lives, making our lives what they are today. Beliefs by the thousand suffuse our thinking or should I say our feeling. They keep us doing what we’ve always done and getting what we’ve always got (I wonder how many times I’ve heard that one).
What it all boils down to is the fact that knowing your own beliefs and values is a Good Thing. So, what I thought I’d do in this blog is to explain a technique I often use to flush out beliefs. When you know what they are you will be in a much MUCH better place.
Now here’s the thing, some beliefs and values will be wrong and will not serve you well, they hinder you, they get in your way and they stop you doing things. These are called Limiting Beliefs (and values). You can easily work on reducing their influence in your life (when you know how).
What Is A Belief?
First let’s look at what a belief is. A belief is something accepted as true mostly without proof. For example, “The sun will rise tomorrow”. You have no proof, but extensive daily living has taught you that it seems very likely. This one is a reasonable belief and most of us share it. I wonder what would happen if we didn’t have this belief? Hmmm…just a thought that I might examine at a later date.
How about this one: “Everyone I love will crush me eventually”. I know people who know this; and I mean KNOW THIS. They don’t have a niggling suspicion that it might be true, they KNOW IT just as well as they know the sun will rise tomorrow. These are not happy people. Coaches call these beliefs ‘Mistaken Certainties’.
Just so that I don’t paint a totally gloomy picture, here’s another one, “I know that everything always works out fine”. A person holding this belief is likely to be peaceful, loving and happy – even if they’re wrong!
So – if these hidden beliefs are so powerful, how can we find the bad ones?
I use this technique regularly. I’ll write more in a separate blog (well, I’ve got to ensure you can back now haven’t I?)
As with eating an elephant, you’ll need to do it in small pieces; concentrate on one area at a time. If you’re working on being more sociable try listing your beliefs in the area of relationships and people.
Here’s how it could play out:
List the obvious beliefs about you or your world. Just sit and think about it with pen and paper. Write down sentences which start “I believe…”. Don’t think too hard – let your gut speak. Starting might be tough, but once you get going, they’ll pour out. You might come up with things like:
I believe good looking people are arrogant and selfish
I believe most people are liars and cheats
I believe I am fatter than most people
When my mum died, I finally knew that God didn’t exist
I know that no one can ever be trusted
When my business failed, I realised that I’m a complete failure
So What Now?
Once you have a list of beliefs, look at them. You are looking at your engine. You are looking at the things that push you forward and the things that hold you back. Your fears and your dreams laid bare. THESE BELIEFS are what make you do what you do and get what you get. If you want to get new and different stuff you’ll need to change some of them.
Now, this is the point you can finally get back to using your intellect…examine them in turn, evaluate them for accuracy.
Are they literally true?
What irrefutable evidence do you have?
Are they over generalisations?
Are they routed in a past which is no longer relevant?
Are they more about pain and fear – than they are about truth?
How could you modify the wording of each belief to remove the faults and make it accurate? Which beliefs need to go to File 13?
Now this is where you’ll be thinking “What is he on about now? What’ve cars got to do with anything?” Well, I’m glad you asked…
…you know how if you’re thinking of buying a new car of a certain type you’ll keep seeing that type of car in the streets? That’s because of a part of your brain called the “Reticular Activating System” (R.A.S.). When you load your new car into your conscious thinking, your RAS will note that you have an interest in it and it will remain alert for relevant sensory data and make sure that your conscious mind is made aware of it. It will do this subconsciously – you will need no effort to make it work. Those pink Mercedes convertibles were out there before, but your R.A.S. wasn’t programmed and so you never noticed them.
Well, now that you have examined these beliefs of yours, they will be in your R.A.S. and will start to trigger new awarenesses. Throughout your day, you’ll see events unfolding in which one of your beliefs is at work.
Well, I hope you get the picture. I have other exercises I use with clients, but this article is already too long, and you’ll get a good start from this technique.
That’s it for now…Stay safe.