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Believing the Unbelievable


When is it useful to believe something you don’t? Is it even possible?

  1. The world is an abundant place, full of opportunity.

  2. The world is a limited place, full of scarcity.

Which do you believe? Most people would say “it depends”, or “both”.


However, if I have a jar full of strawberry jam, it can’t also be full of raspberry jam. So the world can’t be full of abundance and full of scarcity. One of the beauties of being human is we can hold this paradox!


Which is true? Can you prove it?


Let’s say they are both lies. Which would you rather believe? Which would make your life better?


When we have beliefs about how the world works - beliefs about “the world out there” - it can be very very helpful to choose beliefs that serve us rather than following our pre-conceived ideas of what is “true”.


Let’s call these global beliefs. One of mine is “things always work out”. Can I tell you this is an absolute truth? Nope. Would I rather believe this than “things always go wrong”... 100%!


We can choose these beliefs in an instant. We can make a decision to hold it as true from this moment forward. If sometimes we get counter evidence that’s ok, it might challenge the belief a little but it doesn’t do us any harm.


The curious thing is that whichever we choose will become our reality. We really do create our world from the beliefs we have about it.


I want to contrast this with identity beliefs.

If we want to change the beliefs we have about ourselves, we need to tread more carefully.


The “positive thinking” crowd will tell you all you need to do is to chant your mantra everyday for who you want to become and it will magically happen.


“I am happy, confident and assertive!”

“I am happy, confident and assertive!”

“I am happy, confident and assertive!”


This can work!


But only if somewhere deep inside you already believe it. Otherwise there is a horrible dissonance between the words you are saying and the reality of what you feel. Then what follows is counter-productive self-judgement.


For sustained, meaningful change we need to build our evidence so we can “get it in our bones”.


That evidence can come very quickly. A single event where you did something outside your comfort zone can shift everything in an instant. The first time someone paid me for coaching I had such a shift, to a belief of “I am a professional coach!”.


Or it comes more slowly. To build a belief such as “I am a confident public speaker” may take months or years of practice.


To start to shift an identity belief, take your current belief, say “I’m scared of public speaking”, and find a new belief that you can still believe, such as “I can speak confidently in-front of my work colleagues but I get scared in-front of new people”.


Then go and do something to build the evidence to shift that belief further. You might join a public speaking organisation, such as Toastmasters, and start talking in-front of new people in a safe environment. Then you can hold a new belief: “I can speak confidently in-front of new people in certain environments”.


This cycle of reframing and taking action builds our self-esteem and sense of agency. It is sustainable and enjoyable. It brings deep feelings of satisfaction and fulfillment.

So:

  • Global beliefs: They are “out there”. There is no right/wrong, or true/false. They are not about who you are. They will create your world though, so choose empowering ones!

  • Identity beliefs: They are “in here”. Reframe your current beliefs to ones you can still believe. Then go and build your evidence. Rinse and repeat!

Is what I’m saying in this article true? You get to choose.


Jon


#100daysofcreation #beliefs #identity #leadership #coaching


This article is part of 100 Days of Creation, my challenge to myself to write 100 articles in 140 days, each taking no longer than 30 minutes to write and publish.

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