Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Change Your Belief, Change Your Life.. Momentarily

Many of have seen the power of belief. By changing a single belief, one can completely change his or her life... at least for the moment. In this blog, we'll talk about transforming fledgling beliefs into the powerhouses we know they can become.

It Started at Dinner
The other night Iris and I were having dinner with Louis and Dodge.

One of the questions I'd been pondering lately is:
Why is it that so many people return to personal development programs year after year after year with exactly the same issues and challenges that they faced the year before -- specially when the year before, they had boldly declared having overcome the challenge?
I felt that, if I could answer this question, I could fill in a big missing piece in the puzzle of making life changes sustainable.

I shared my question with Dodge and Louis who were both familiar with the phenomenon. We all had experienced the power of belief and changing belief, but we also had all seen how, for many people, the changes seemed not to last.

So, we began theorizing...

Hypothesis, Hope and Bravado
We quickly came to the notion that beliefs take on many forms and have many qualities.

Hypothesis is a form of belief that asserts something you plan to prove with evidence. Researchers and scientists use this form of belief daily. You begin with an assumption that you believe to be true, an assertion. You then take steps to prove your belief through experiments or studies.

Hope is a form of belief that operates in the absence supportive evidence or in spite of contrary evidence. It's a filtering form of belief that only allows through evidence that supports what we desire. When we abandon hope, we're often flooded with the evidence we ignored.

For example, people often spend years in relationships where all the evidence points to the relationship failing. Still, they're hopeful.

When the relationship does end, all the evidence that hope had overlooked, shows up like a tractor trailer pulling up to the front door. The sudden rush of years or decades of filtered evidence often results in demonizing the former partner.

Bravado is what we do when we don't actually believe something that we really want to believe. Bravado operates on the premise that stating something loudly and confidently can transform doubt into belief.

Of course, the half-life of bravado is typically a couple of days. Bravado gets us through the moment, but is no basis for lasting change.

Changing Belief is Just the Beginning
Over the next couple of days, we continued discussing and thinking about helping beliefs to thrive. We came to the conclusion that changing belief is powerful, but for the change to be pervasive and lasting requires more: we must nurture and refine the new belief.

1. Build Evidence
Treat your newly acquired belief as a scientist with a hypothesis. Begin to look for evidence that supports your belief.

For example, if you believe that you can become a great singer, find people who are great singers, people who started out like you. If want to lose 100 pounds, find people who have done so. If you want relationships to be easy versus a lot of work, find people for whom relationships are easy.

Flood your life with evidence of your new belief.

2. Put Your Belief into Action
The best way to kill a belief is to never act on it. If you want your belief to have staying power, find as many opportunities as possible to put it into action.

For example, if your change of belief has helped you overcome a lack of confidence, throw yourself into those situations in which you normally lack confidence.

If your belief is about being able to do math, don't wait until the next math test to try it out; go google some math problems and start working them.

If your belief is about finding a new job, go out today and by that new power suit. Put your belief into play.

3. Share Your Concerns and Doubts
As you put your belief into action, you'll no doubt discover implications of your belief that you hadn't anticipated, e.g., quitting my job because I believed I can get a new one means I can't go out for dinner as often as I used to.

You may also find evidence that contradicts your belief, e.g., in my first five interviews, the interviewers didn't seem that excited about my credentials.

It's important to recognize that any belief has both supportive and contradictory evidence. As you encounter undesired results and unsupportive evidence, share them with friends. Discuss how they affect your new belief; openly share your doubts and concerns. By keeping doubts and fears inside, you don't protect your belief, you squash it.

4. Refine Your Belief
The beauty of beliefs is that they are completely and instantly malleable. As you encounter new experiences and new evidence that contradict your belief, don't simply discard your belief; instead, adapt your belief to accommodate them.

In some cases, you may replace your belief with a deeper and more profound belief. In others, you may supplement your belief with other supportive beliefs. For example, the belief that you can be a great pianist may require the belief that becoming a great pianist requires daily practice.

Desire Trumps Belief
In end, we don't adopt beliefs because they are true, we adopt beliefs because they align with our desires and wants. I know this may be anathema to many, but try it on; think of how often a change in belief coincides with a change in or recognition of new wants and desires.

If you buy into this premise, then the measure of any belief is the degree to which the belief helps you to achieve what you want to achieve or to become who you want to become.

As we view our beliefs in terms of their being useful and not in terms of their being true, we become better believers and nurturers of belief.

Is there something in your life that you've resolved to change (perhaps many, many times), but still haven't changed? Perhaps it has not to do with the process of changing belief, perhaps it has to do with the nurturing of belief.

I invite your to transform you key beliefs from hypotheses, assertions, hopes and statements of bravado into sustainable powerhouses of transformative energy.

Have a great Wednesday!

Please join us tomorrow night, Thursday, August 20, 2009 at Club Helsinki for a concert of our band No Room for Jello.

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