Thursday, January 18, 2007

What Stops You?

We have been discussing the power of our beliefs and how they shape our reality. We introduced the technique of using classifying sentences to uncover the beliefs that impact us unobtrusively.

In this post, I'll introduce you to a follow-on technique you can use to change your beliefs once you have identified them. The process starts (as all great processes do) with asking questions. You ask these questions after the "I can't..." statements we talked about previously.

When you are uncover a belief using an "I can't..." statement, try asking the question, What would happen if you did? For example:
I can't get rich.
What would happen if you did?
I would be able to run my own business (or take time off or ???)
I can't lose weight.
What would happen if you did?
I would finally be able to find my soulmate (or get the job I want or ???)
Try this yourself and you should see that you have structured a belief about the end condition that you probably need to reconsider if you are ever going to achieve your end condition. If hidden behind your statements about your financial situation is a belief about your abilities or potential, then changing that belief is the first step towards influencing yourself to achieve that end condition. Why is this true?

Our minds control everything about us. They control our physical behaviors, but they also filter and scope reality around us to make it manageable. If in your head you are walking around with the belief that you are poor, then when your mind presents you with reality it will try and make reality and your belief match up. It doesn't want you to be a liar, right?

Generally speaking I use this question to break myself (or someone I'm working with) out of the pattern of following their limiting belief. Answering this question helps to unlock the belief pattern as internally you have to envision a path in which you achieved the positive end result. Simply put, you can't not think about a pink elephant. Internally, you have to construct the reality of a pink elephant in your mind so that you can not think about it.

When I am seeking to find why my beliefs have been formed a certain way, or how to unblock particularly well established beliefs, I sometimes find a more direct approach works well. After an "I Can't…" statement, ask the question "What stops you?" For example:
I can't lose weight.
What stops you?
It's genetic, my whole family is large. (or I have no discipline or ???)
I can't become rich. What stops you? It takes money to make money. (or I don't have the education/opportunity/time or ??)
The thing about this question is that it causes you to internally run through the strategy you've been using to limit or restrict your behavior. As G.I. Joe always said, Now you know, and knowing is half the battle. When we can face the beliefs that have been controlling our behavior they become much easier to change.

When using this question in conversation with another person, watch the nonverbal queues that will invariably harmonize the response. Generally you can gather a wealth of information from eye movements, physical gestures, changes in breath rate, alterations in skin tone and so on. All of these will give you insight into the internal process because used as well as the depth and severity of the conflict.

Of course, these types of queries are best used between participants that are already in rapport.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Changing Direction

In the previous post we discussed how our beliefs guide our behaviors just like the rudder on a ship. Now let's talk about how to uncover those beliefs and use them to change our direction. If you want the ship of your life to head somewhere specific, you have to know how to control your rudder so you can steer.

If you recall, there are two types of beliefs: positive and negative. When it comes to dragging us off course, it is our negative beliefs that tend to be more dangerous. If you want to control the direction of your behaviors, you first need to understand your negative beliefs.

Identifying your negative beliefs can be tricky, but let me walk you through a simple technique that can help you to to discover your negative beliefs.

Start with an area of your life where you are haven't been seeing the results you'd like. Then construct a sentence starting with the words "I can't..." that you believe to be true. For example:
  • I can't lose weight.
  • I can't become rich.
  • I can't find my soulmate.
  • I can't learn to speak another language.
  • I can't take the vacation I would like.
So now you have a statement that gives you a clue to your beliefs in this area. Remember, many of our beliefs we don't even realize are there, but an obvious statement like this will give us the opening we need to discover the other less obvious beliefs.

Now consider the statement you just constructed (I can't...). Construct another statement that explains how you know that your original statement is true. We often call this a Classify step. This exercises the internal process you normally use to verify beliefs or statements. For example:
I can't lose weight.
Because I've tried dieting and that doesn't work.
I can't become rich.
Because it takes money to make money.
I can't find my soulmate.
Because all the good ones are already taken.
The classifying sentences you come up with should give you a good starting place to identify the beliefs you hold that are guiding this area of your life. Once you can clearly state your beliefs, you can begin to change them. If you can change your beliefs, then like a rudder on ship, you can change the direction for your life.

As we continue through this series I'll introduce some other techniques like the one discussed in this post. As you bring together these tools and practice you will become adept and influence. First with yourself and then with others.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Where's Your Rudder?

Our beliefs about ourselves and about the world around us are like the rudder of ship. They guide us to follow certain directions to avoid others. Just like a rudder on a ship, your beliefs are very small but enormously influential. Because they are usually out of the way they are easily overlooked. Most of us don't even realize they are there.

In this discussion beliefs aren't those heavy presuppositions about God, politics, or freedom. We're focused more on the little beliefs like whether you can become wealthy, or lose weight, or whether all jobs are draining and devoid of enjoyment. Does someone have to lose for someone else to win? Do any good deeds go unpunished? Will you ever be good at languages? These are the types of (mostly) unspoken questions that we answer with our beliefs every day.

Do you know about the foundational beliefs you hold that are silently guiding your life? There is an easy way to find out what they are, and how they are guiding you. Just look at the results that have been occurring in your life over a recent period of time. Just like you can tell what a ship has been through and where a ship is heading by looking at the wake it leaves behind.

We develop and grow our beliefs in a variety of ways. We learn them some of them directly from other people. We might draw them from the experiences we have had. If we are fortunate we might learn them by observing the experiences of others.

We develop our beliefs quickly, they are plentiful, and cover the vast landscape of our lives. It is our beliefs that give us the sense of stability we require to operate everyday in a chaotic world. These feelings of security and certainty are necessary for us to predict, plan, and proceed each and every day in every situation.

Because our beliefs provide this amazing ability, we often fail to remember one of the most important aspects about any belief:
Beliefs are not Truth.
It is easy to forget that beliefs aren't reality. They are not necessarily true, and they are definitely not Truth. That is because we've just made them up. We've fabricated them from what we learn. They speak about the world, they are not the world. While they can give you a picture of the landscape, they are not the landscape.

There are two basic kinds of beliefs. There are beliefs that are positive. These empower us and give us the capability for forward direction. There are also beliefs that are negative. They limit or restrict us. Both types are valuable and necessary. But it can be interesting to discover which ones are influencing you in particular ways.

Think about the situations you have recently been faced with. Were you reacting to restrictions or limitations? Or were you pursuing something you desired?

In the next few posts in this series, I'll discuss some ways you can influence your own thinking (and by extension your own performance) simply by being aware of your beliefs and how they are motivating you.