If you have read any of the writings of the top self-help experts during the past 10 years -- such as Deepak Chopra, Jack Canfield or Joe Vitale -- you've learned that permanent change is impossible without eliminating the beliefs that are keeping you stuck.
I agree; beliefs do have that power. But why? What gives our beliefs the power they have to determine our behavior and feelings?
There are two reasons why beliefs have the power they have -- one is obvious, the other more subtle.
Our beliefs about reality ARE our reality
First, a belief is a statement about people, reality, or ourselves that feels like the truth to us. Although you might think that you would consciously agree with what you believe, in fact, it is possible to consciously disagree with something you believe.
For example, you can know intellectually that mistakes are good learning experiences and still believe that mistakes are bad. If you have that belief, you would be afraid of trying new things or allowing others to know about your mistakes, even if you consciously think that mistakes are not bad at all.
Because most of us usually act consistently with reality, we act consistently with what we think reality is, not with what reality actually is. In other words, if we believe "I'm not good enough," "People can't be trusted," or "Life is difficult" (none of which are true) -- then we will deal with reality as if these statements are the truth. As a result, they will determine what we do and how we feel.
To use one simple example, if you believe "I'm not lovable," "Relationships don't work" and "Men/women can't be trusted" -- if that is your reality -- you have virtually no chance of having a nurturing, loving long-term relationship. Get rid of those and other related beliefs and you've changed your reality. At which point the possibility of a nurturing, loving long-term relationships becomes possible.
Because we view reality through the filter of our beliefs, which color our perceptions, long-term fundamental change requires eliminating the beliefs that limit us. Yes, it sometimes is possible to use will power to act against our beliefs in the short run, but ultimately we will act consistently with the way we view reality.
Beliefs are the primary source of our "occurrings."
There is a second way in which beliefs determine our lives: by influencing our moment-to-moment reactions.
For about 25 years I thought that beliefs affected our behavior and feelings directly, as explained above. To some extent I still think that is true. But a couple of years ago I realized that our moment-to-moment actions and feelings are determined primarily by the meaning we unconsciously and automatically give reality, in other words, how reality occurs to us -- not by what actually happens in reality.
For example, imagine a friend of yours walks in a room that you are in, notices you and doesn't talk to you. Most people would think: My friend is angry with me. This would be so real that most people would say to someone with them: Don't you see that my friend is angry with me?
But all that actually happened is the friend noticed you and didn't talk to you. That event could occur to you as: He is angry with me. And because you deal with reality based on how it occurs to you -- which you are convinced is what actually happened -- you would respond to your friend as if he really is angry with you. Even though his anger exists only in your mind, not in reality.
We are constantly giving meaning to events. We do it 20-40 times a day. And we are hardly ever aware of it. So our "occurrings" run our lives. And what is the relationship between our occurrings and our beliefs? Our beliefs are the primary determinant of how reality occurs to us.
The meaning we give events, which have no inherent meaning, is determined largely by our beliefs, although our moods and physical condition also play a role.
Thus our beliefs determine our lives in two ways: directly, because they are what we think reality actually is, and indirectly, by significantly influencing our occurrings, which have the biggest impact on our moment-to-moment reactions.
The bad news and the good news
As a result, the bad news is: Long-term fundamental behavioral and emotional change is virtually impossible without eliminating the limiting beliefs that are running your life. The good news is: You can make massive positive changes in your life -- such as taking actions you were afraid to take and ridding yourself of such negative feelings as anxiety and anger -- by eliminating your limiting beliefs.
It might well be that getting rid of a bunch of limiting beliefs is the best way to reduce the negative and increase the positive in your life in 2012.
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Morty Lefkoe is the creator of The Lefkoe Method, a system for permanently eliminating limiting beliefs. For more information go to http://recreateyourlife.com/free
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