What do Ebenezer Scrooge and Anthony Robbins have in common? That may sound like the beginning of a bad joke, but I do have a point and it's a good one. Let me ask you another question first. Have you ever felt that there was something holding you back from reaching your true potential? If you said yes, you are not alone. In fact, you are in very good company, with much of the population feeling the same way. And chances are that the thing holding you back, the obstacle standing in the way of the success you so desperately want and could very well achieve is... you.
I, like anyone with a modicum of ambition, have many things I want to achieve in my life. I have my sights set high, but sometimes I drag my feet, put things off, or drop the ball. This problem, which I recognize is not at all unusual, plagues millions: procrastination. Thus, golden opportunities slip by from my failure to take action. The underlying belief here is that I am a chronic procrastinator.
That, my friends, is a perfect example of a limiting belief. Limiting beliefs are like stories we tell ourselves about our own lives, and they shape and determine how we view our own identity. The problem is that these stories are very often untrue. Or rather, they are true, but only because we feel such a need to be consistent with our own identity that we make them true. We live up to the story in our head, and we let that inner critic limit our full potential. Many experts have written about limiting beliefs and how to overcome them, and one of these experts is Tony Robbins. I have been in the audience at the Tony Robbins event "Unleash The Power Within" several times, and his process for deleting limiting beliefs has had a profound impact on me. He calls this "the Dickens Process."
Simply put, the Dickens Process is a way of making you fully aware of the effects of your limiting beliefs, both on yourself and others. One holiday season, Tony was watching A Christmas Carol on TV and noted that it took Scrooge all three ghosts -- of his past, his present and his future -- before he really understood his own behavior and was ready to make lasting change. Knowing that this could have powerful implications for other people, Tony devised a guided visualization technique to show his audience just how damaging their limiting beliefs are and have always been. And will continue to be if they continue to hold on to them. He takes his audience back into their past and has them imagine the pain they've caused themselves and others by virtue of those limiting beliefs. Then into the present, so they can see how their limiting beliefs continue to cause pain. And finally, into the future five years, 10 years, 15 years hence, stacking up the pain over time so they can see all the potential damage.
Now comes the fun part. After bringing his audience into a place where they are fully cognizant of their limiting beliefs, he has them turn those beliefs upside down. Tony Robbins understands just how powerful language patterns are, particularly those of our inner critics whose voices play over and over like tapes in our heads. So he has you scramble those tapes, first by repeating the limiting belief in a ridiculous voice. I was partial to the Mickey Mouse voice myself. You simply can't take the statement seriously at all when repeating it in a squeaky falsetto. Then he uses pattern interrupters, like saying the old belief while sticking your finger in your nose. Gross, I know, but also very effective. And finally you repeat the new belief, the new truth which is, in fact, far more true than the old belief. In my case, I realized that instead of being a procrastinator, the truth is I am actually a go-getter, highly motivated and driven. I go after what I want and I get stuff done.
To the skeptic, this may seem like a whole lot of hocus pocus, but it is a highly effective technique. There is no doubt that it's also a remarkably painful process; it is difficult to face your demons and to know that you've wreaked havoc on your own life and the lives of others. We spend so much of our valuable time trying to avoid pain so it's certainly not easy to force yourself to see all that damage at once. But only by doing so and by being fully present in all the pain we've caused ourselves and others, we see just how limiting those beliefs truly are.
Besides, seeing 6,000 people in one place with their finger in their nose? Priceless.
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