There are many ways to expand awareness and the thing I want to foreground today is BELIEFS. Why they are significant lies in the fact that they are mostly unconscious and yet they shape our lives, effectively re-creating the same reality again and again. 

Beliefs refer to a subtle yet powerful and mostly invisible thought around something significant. They create a perceptual framing about ourselves, our relationships and how we see the world. Beliefs are cognitive, but are fuelled by emotions such as fear or shame. What makes something a belief is that we believe it – actually we feel we KNOW it –  as the truth! An example – I’m not worthy of being loved or having a decent job.

So much has been said about the topic of ‘beliefs creating our reality’ (and thanks Aha Project for really landing this), yet, I along with the fascinating human beings I meet, still experience our beliefs and the associated emotions manifesting realities we don’t choose. We can’t seem to get out of the never-ending cycle of our deep down beliefs manifesting our reality.

Just look to the media to see how this could be playing out for the many leaders around the world stepping towards elections and navigating conflict!

For me, how it has recently played out is … This time last year I decided there was a reality I was determined to change. I was tired of a repeating pattern of starting the year with anxiety around not enough work and money flow. Although the year can start slow in the field I work in (coaching, facilitation and leadership development), I also realized there was more that was creating this reality. I started digging into my feelings and beliefs and discovered some really significant, deeply held views I had about myself, which link to my childhood trauma…

After processing some of this deep-seated stuff, I questioned the veracity of these limiting beliefs. I recognised they were childhood emotions and messages that felt true at the time they were generated to help me cope with what was happening in and around me. I was still determined to change the pattern and decided to take responsibility for manifesting something different. Over the year, I took a number of courageous actions to expand work opportunities, coming from a place of worth despite my limiting beliefs popping up again and again. It was a case of I see you – shame, fear and limiting belief – and I’m choosing to manifest something different. A year later, I have more opportunities than ever before at this time of year! 

Here are some of my learnings about our beliefs and how to work with them:

#1 Our beliefs mostly come from childhood messages we adopt as our own

We internalize beliefs early on in our lives. These are messages our caregivers/teachers in childhood pass on (mostly unconsciously) that we take to be our own. Beliefs such as “you’re not good enough or capable” (imposter syndrome) or “you don’t fit or belong” or “you need to be good, right and perfect” or “you need to avoid conflict or conflict is bad”. These beliefs tend to feel more like facts, hard truths, inside us. 

We all have difficult feelings and beliefs. This is quite normal for human beings, it’s part of the human condition, it’s part of the trauma we experience in one form or another. 

These days, with authenticity and vulnerability more encouraged in leaders, we hear a range of people owning up to the normality of challenging emotions and beliefs. 

From Dr Gabor Mate (the Canadian physician who has become the world expert on trauma), who talks about his self-doubt when speaking to an audience of 2100 people recently in London and how he works with this. Watch the first 6 mins of this Diary of a CEO podcast.

To actor / director Jesse Eisenberg who acknowledges his ‘fraud’ syndrome when working with other great actors and how he navigates this (4 mins clip) (Thanks Kim Hawke for the video link).

The goal here is not to get rid of the feelings and beliefs but to become conscious of them, as well as the underlying emotion that sustains them. The issue is that most of us are unaware of our beliefs that we’ve carried forward from childhood, especially the limiting ones, and we don’t realise just how much they restrict our range of behaviour and possibilities in the world.

Beliefs underpin our personalities and ego structures and keep running us until we start catching them. 

#2 Identify the beliefs driving your reality

A first step to working more consciously with beliefs is knowing these ‘secret’ parts of our selves. Take a moment and look at your own life. What do you notice? How is your reality a mirror of the beliefs and underlying emotions you hold? Could a lack of human connection relate to a belief that “I don’t belong” and / or “I’m not loved”? Could struggles with money reflect a belief that “I don’t deserve money” or “our family is not good with money”? Could missed opportunities at work mirror a belief that “I’m not good enough or not capable”? Could a flashy house or car relate to an underlying belief that “I’m not valued” so I need material things to make myself feel more valued in the world?

“Where attention goes, energy flows”

This is an oft used quote and points to the crux of what happens with difficult emotions and beliefs. When we keep (unconsciously) focusing our attention on something, we keep reinforcing and manifesting it. 

I’m making this a bit simpler than it is, but the point is we all have a range of beliefs, and many of them limit us and the more aware we can be of this, the more choices we have. 

#3 Acknowledge your beliefs and take responsibility for what you CHOOSE

Once you have more awareness of the beliefs driving you, the next thing is to manage them better. What I’ve found helps is:

  1. Over time do the personal / leadership growth work that opens up your maturity (not age or grey hair!), or ‘action logic’ as it is termed. This is the way we make meaning of ourselves, our relationships and the wider context, which then determines our behaviour in both business and everyday life. The idea is that when our own identity is very limited we only see the world in a very narrow way. How we experience ourselves determines how we experience the world and how we lead and manage in the world. The more we expand our maturity, the less identified or attached we are to our thoughts, feelings and limiting beliefs. We are more able to observe them rather than be sunk by them.
  2. Observe and acknowledge the emotion and belief – Don’t try and push it away, that gives it more energy. Acknowledge and see the belief and all the concomitant feelings and body sensations that come with it. 
  3. Challenge the belief – Is it true? Can you absolutely know that it is true? (great questions from Byron Katie). Mostly we find that it isn’t true for us or for anyone. Human beings are innately lovable, valued and good enough. 
  4. Decide to take responsibility for what you want – Even if your emotions and beliefs keep popping up with anxiety or shame and “you’re not good enough” or whatever it is, decide to focus your attention more on where you want to put your energy, what you want to manifest. 

As I write this, one of my beliefs keeps popping up – “is this good enough”, “am I good enough”? I notice how this draws my attention, and I come back to taking responsibility for what I want anyway. Bringing my attention back to the CHOICE I’m making now. The more times I make the CHOICE I want, the more likely my brain will re-predict a new neural pathway, because that’s how neurobiology works.

Give it a try! Know your self, know your limiting beliefs, catch them and acknowledge them, and go for what you CHOOSE anyway.

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