“The outer conditions of a person’s life will always be found to reflect their inner beliefs.”– James Lane Allen, American novelist and short story writer
“When I snap my fingers, number one will disappear from your mind.”
The audience laughed, and my subject looked at me with mild amusement. I snapped my fingers, and the audience grew quiet. I asked the young lady if she felt any different, and she shook her head. I then asked her to count how many noses she had on her face. She laughed and told me two. Everyone burst out laughing. Confused, she told me that wasn’t correct and that the right answer was two. Even more laughter from the audience. Now my subject was totally perplexed. The room erupted when asked how many eyes she had, and the reply was “three”.
As a master hypnotist, I sometimes perform hypnosis shows. When I hypnotize someone, I implant a belief into the subject’s mind, influencing their thoughts and behaviour. This simple parlour trick illustrates a powerful truth: what we believe shapes our experience. Some beliefs are positive and expansive, opening us up to new and exciting possibilities. Other beliefs are negative and contractive, limiting our lives and restricting our ability to succeed.
We accept a belief as truth, but often, our beliefs are not accurate reflections of reality. Most of our foundational beliefs are hand-me-downs from the masters of our early programming – our parents, teachers and preachers. Other influencers include societal expectations, cultural background and even our place of birth. Bringing awareness to what we believe is vital if we are to shift the negative beliefs that bind us. The ideas we hold as true influence every aspect of our lives and, consequently, our level of happiness and self-esteem.
Whatever people believe to be true, regardless of whether true or not, will influence their thoughts and actions. And once accepted as true, they will look for evidence to support the beliefs. I call this process of belief reinforcement “congruency questing.” We will only acknowledge evidence congruent or in keeping with what we “know” to be true.
Let’s say we believe the world is a place of hope, possibility and endless opportunity; that will tend to be our experience. And should we encounter resistance and disappointment, we will take it in stride and use it to fire our enthusiasm and determination further. If, instead, we believe the world to be a frightening place filled with disappointment, dashed hopes and rejection, that will tend to be our experience. And even if we occasionally experience success and happiness, we will believe it is temporary as we wait for the other shoe to fall.
That’s why it is so important to examine and challenge disempowering beliefs. If we don’t, we’ll live below our potential and never achieve what we’re capable of. To change our beliefs, we must allow for the accommodation of new information. Instead of cherry-picking, we need to look for evidence supporting the opposite of what we believe to be true. Instead of fear and disappointment, can we also find proof of hope and possibility?
The false assumption of certainty is one of the most significant barriers to overcoming negative programming. If we’re convinced that something is true, we’ll automatically reject conflicting information. And sadly, the more conflicting the information, the harder we often try to hang onto and defend the false belief. This may also taint our opinion of others with opposing views.
We might think we can shift negative beliefs through sheer force of will, but though this may help to some extent, it’s unlikely to produce lasting results. This is because our beliefs function at an unconscious level. That’s why people who begin to experience happiness and success – and find it contrary to deeply held beliefs – will often (unconsciously) sabotage themselves. Our beliefs, therefore, will bring us closer to success or closer to failure.
Admittedly, some of what we believe to be true is true. Many beliefs serve us and others in positive and productive ways. However, to make the determination and challenge mistaken certainties that keep us locked down, we need to raise our level of awareness. To that end, here are some techniques I’ve used to open my mind to new and different possibilities.
Stop automatically defending your views. In fact, pay attention to the things you strongly defend and things that trigger feelings of anger or inadequacy. This will provide a good indicator of the ingrained beliefs that you’ve been hanging onto and how they’re affecting you.
Reflect on your life and look for recurring themes. For example, have you sabotaged your own best efforts? Have you thrown up barriers to your success and happiness? Have you stood your ground, pulled the pin, and ran away when faced with conflict and confrontation? If your life does not reflect what you desire, you’ve likely bought into several disempowering beliefs.
Question the validity of current beliefs and ask yourself if they’re really true. Then, as best you can, disconnect from your emotional attachment to these beliefs and look for factual evidence to support them. Can you look back and find someone in your past who shared a similar view? Perhaps certain beliefs have been implanted firmly into your mind by someone else.
“You are today where your thoughts have brought you,” wrote American novelist and short story writer James Lane Allen. “You will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.”
When you stop looking to reinforce your beliefs and instead look to challenge their validity, you’ll find that everything becomes a little clearer, and a bright, new path of possibilities unfolds before you. It may not happen in a snap, but disempowering beliefs will eventually disappear from your mind.