For some of us, even when we realize a certain belief is no longer serving us, we can’t seem to let it go. Change is one of the hardest things we do as humans. Vlad Dolezal has identified a methodology for changing deeply held beliefs. Click here to see his website and the original article I’m sharing with you today.
Elephant keepers in India have an interesting way of keeping their elephants from running away. They tie them to a wooden peg with a rope.
It doesn’t make sense on the surface, since a rope like that has no hope of holding a grown elephant. But ask any elephant keeper and he will chuckle and explain:
When a baby elephant is born, the herder ties it to a peg with a rope. At this point, the rope is strong enough to hold the elephant.
The baby elephant quickly learns that trying to escape the rope is futile. And he keeps that learning with him, even as he grows up and the rope becomes far too weak to hold him.
And like that rope, we often form beliefs that might be useful at first, but then hold us back in life, long after the original reasons are gone.
I won’t go into much detail on why limiting beliefs suck. If you’re reading this, you probably already know that they do! (If not, just google it).
Instead, I’ll get right into how to change them!
So get ready, because soon you will learn how to dissolve emotional superglue, cut off table legs of evidence, and replace limiting beliefs with empowering ones!
What is a belief, exactly?
I covered this briefly in EVERYTHING Is A Belief. If you don’t feel like reading it, here are the key points:
- there is no “true” or “false” with beliefs, only useful and detrimental
- a belief is just the best available explanation of the evidence you observe
This time, we’ll dig a bit deeper. And I’ve prepared some pictures to help you understand (behold my artistic skills…)
Think of a belief as a tabletop. The legs are the supporting evidence. And sometimes the legs are even superglued to the floor of your mind with emotions.
(Here in the UK we weirdos call it “maths” because it’s short for mathematics. If that confuses you, just pretend I say “math” throughout this article )
And to break a limiting belief, you will first need to get rid of the superglue, then get rid of the evidence, and only then can you change it.
Here’s the step-by-step process:
Changing your limiting beliefs
Let’s go through this process together. This will work best if you pick a limiting belief, and go through this process with that in mind.
1. Identify a limiting belief
Take a few moments to think about beliefs you hold that might be holding you back.
It can be in the form “I am …” or just about the world in general. As long as you think it might be holding you back, that will work.
Remember, there is no true or false with beliefs. Only useful and detrimental. Don’t worry about “truth”, and instead decide if it’s useful to you, or if a different belief would be more useful.
For example, you might believe that “The recession is a bad time to start a business”. That would definitely be more limiting than “There will always be demand for exceptional products and services.”
Take a few moments to pick a limiting belief. You can still carry on reading if you can’t think of anything, but it would be really helpful if you do.
2. Choose a belief you would like to have instead
This will become important later (when we dislodge the evidence for your old, limiting belief and replace it with evidence for the new one).
I think this step is pretty self-explanatory, so I’ll just give you two examples:
old: “I am unattractive.”
new: “I can attract just the right partner for me.”
old: “I will never earn over $30,000 a year.”
new: “I can earn as much as I want for my ideal life.”
3. Get rid of the emotional superglue
Very often, beliefs have an emotional charge attached to them.
I was at a life coaching seminar recently and I heard a great example of this. We talked about beliefs, and one woman in her forties put up her hand timidly:
“Yes?” Asked the presenter.
“I still believe in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy,” she piped up.
The presenter dug a bit deeper. It turns out the woman still believed in those things, because it brought her the feelings of:
- being in touch with her roots
- sharing the culture with other people
And so she held on to it. Note that this was NOT a limiting belief for her. She lived her life quite fine with it.
I just wanted to give you an example of beliefs giving emotional payoffs.
With that in mind, once you’ve identified your limiting belief, think about the emotional payoff it gives you.
For example, thinking you suck at maths might give you:
- commiserating with friends who also claim to suck at maths
- giving up responsibility for your maths grade
- avoiding being called a “geek”
- and many others…
The emotional payoff you get is unique to you.
Once you’ve figured out what it gives you, it’s time for the all-important question: Is the emotional payoff worth holding on to this belief?
Take a good few moments to answer this. Because you know what? Sometimes the answer is “yes”. In which case you can stop right there, because no technique (except advanced psychotherapy) will help you change something you don’t want to change.
But let’s say you decide the emotional payoff isn’t really worth the limitation. You decide you want to change!
At this point, you’ve already begun dissolving the emotional superglue. There’s still some left, but every time you remind yourself that you really want to change, it gets weaker.
(Using the Pain and Pleasure Principle might help at this point. It will help you increase the motivation to change and decrease the motivation to stick with your old beliefs.)
4. Re-frame the evidence
Remember how a belief is just the best available explanation for the evidence?
Well, you decide what is the “best” explanation for the evidence! You can easily choose an alternate explanation that doesn’t limit you. And once you do, this new way of thinking about the evidence often makes more sense than the old one!
Let’s go with the tabletop, and re-frame the evidence so it no longer supports “I suck at maths”:
I failed the last two tests
I haven’t studied properly for them. I used the wrong studying methods.
I got an answer wrong in class
I was tired
Even the best students sometimes get it wrong. Getting an answer wrong is not an indication of maths skills.
I have become better at maths by stepping up and getting the chance to fail and get feedback.
My mother said it’s her genes
Robert has parents who claim they suck at maths, yet he’s a maths genius.
Notice how the evidence no longer supports “I suck at maths”?
Some evidence might take a bit of skill to re-frame. But with a bit of practice, you can easily dislodge most evidence for your negative beliefs quickly.
Take a moment now to re-frame the evidence for you own limiting belief. (You’re carrying one in mind as we go along, right?)
Also, sometimes you will find it hard, or even impossible to reframe all of the evidence. That’s ok. As long as you take away as many supporting legs as possible, you will be able to shift the belief with this next step:
5. Find evidence for your new belief
Beliefs have a funny way of operating.
They focus your mind on certain things… so you completely miss things that are inconsistent with those beliefs.
If you believe you’re unattractive, you will notice all the snide remarks and dirty looks – yet completely miss the smiles, greetings and compliments, or just discount them as irrelevant.
Because of this, beliefs automatically snowball. Once a belief gains certain weight, it will start to tack on more and more legs of evidence, and ignore any contrary evidence. So deep-seated beliefs might take several sessions like this, over several days, to get rid of. But the process still works.
In this step, you will actively find all the evidence you can think of to support your new belief!
Think back to all the things that happened in your life, no matter how small or irrelevant they seem, that support it.
The goal here is to establish as many legs as possible. If you get enough evidence, this new belief will blow the old one right out.
And once the new belief become entrenched in your mind, it will start to accumulate even more evidence for itself! Suddenly, the snowballing effect works in your favour!
So take a few moments to remember all the evidence from your life that supports your new belief.
Summary and next actions
Hopefully, you’ve gone through this post with a limiting belief in mind. If you did, you already know how well this method works.
If you couldn’t think of one, that’s ok. You now know what to do the next time you notice one!
- Identify a limiting belief
- Pick a belief you would like to hold instead
- Get rid of the emotional superglue
- Cut off the table legs of evidence by reframing them
- Gather as much evidence as possible for your new empowering belief
And as you practice this method, it will become ever easier and more effective. You might even start noticing limiting beliefs that your friends hold. Feel free to share this method with them- I want as many people as possible to benefit from this!
And even though the effect might be small at first… it builds up over time. Like the butterfly flapping its wings that causes a tornado in the distant future – swapping out your limiting belief for an empowering one will have bigger and bigger positive consequences as you go through life!
Make the best of this method. It will serve you well!