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Insights: Beliefs - Power or Problem?
August 26, 2008

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Beliefs - Power or Problem?

“I would never die for my beliefs
because I might be wrong.”

- Bertrand Russell

Oh, how our perception of this world is conditioned by it!

My wife and I went to a dinner party on Saturday night that was hosted by my brother and sister-in-law. What fun it was!

On Sunday morning, nursing my third cup of coffee as I tried to kick-start my recovery, I reflected on how different the typical dinner party in South Africa is to the English equivalent that my wife and I had enjoyed while living over there.

I’m always wary of generalization but I have to say that my experiences in this regard have been pretty consistent. Whereas the English, when entertaining, are rather reserved and acutely aware of following ‘protocol’ (whatever that might be) South Africans tend to wear their hearts on their sleeves, adopting an ‘anything goes’ approach to what they say and do at parties.

The native English, I have found, are curiously difficult to get close to unless you’re part of the family or you’ve known them long enough to be a part of their furniture. South Africans, on the other hand, will be slapping each other on the back, acting like best of friends and – given half the chance – dancing the can-can together on the table, within an hour of first having been introduced!

Which approach is the right one?

Well, quite obviously, both have pros and cons and neither is right or wrong – it just boils down to what you prefer. And that, in turn, will depend on what you’re used to – or what you’ve been conditioned to expect.

Which leads me neatly into the subject for this week’s newsletter – beliefs.

What you believe will determine the actions you take and the consequences you will expect – and most likely get – from those actions.

"Your beliefs, therefore, are the key to leading the kind of life you truly desire.

Hmm… powerful statement, not so?

So what are beliefs and where do they come from?

Well, our beliefs develop over time as we grow up and experience more of life. Any belief starts as a thought or idea and, thanks to other validating, affirming thoughts it steadily grows to become a concept about which we are convinced – or which we believe in.

Such is human nature that we tend to latch on far more enthusiastically to anything that will affirm and validate our ideas than we do to anything that invalidates them.

Now this is great – IF the idea is one that serves our best interests. It’s not so great, however, when that thought or idea is one that conflicts with our best interests.

Let me offer a purely fictional example to illustrate this:

  • Tom is a highly talented violinist who lives and breathes classical music and whose deepest desire is to play for the London Symphony Orchestra one day.

    Unfortunately, when Tom enters his teenage years, his peers at school start to tease him about being a musician. His so-called best friend, a surfer and ‘outdoorsy’ type, tells him that playing the violin is a sign of an effeminate character. This weighs heavily on Tom’s mind, despite the best efforts of his parents and teachers to try to dispel this as utter nonsense.

    Some while later, Tom stumbles across some dodgy research on the internet that claims that females are more attracted to orchestral music because of their genetic make-up. Tom links this piece of information with what his friend carelessly blurted out - and the idea of male musicians being effeminate gains strength in his mind.

    Another year goes by and Tom, who now boasts a beautiful girlfriend, invites the girl out for dinner. She tells him how much she appreciates his love for the violin and his dream to play for an internationally acclaimed orchestra, saying that she finds him far more attractive than all those ‘normal macho males’ she meets.

    The comment, though sincere and well-intended, has the effect of affirming and validating Tom’s previous thoughts to the point where Tom becomes convinced that he is effeminate!

    The effect is disastrous for both his musical career and his social life as he becomes reclusive and despondent, not wanting the outside world to be exposed to his love for the violin and his supposed effeminacy.

It’s clear that Tom’s belief contains no basis for truth whatsoever – yet it is very real for him and has a profoundly negative effect on his life, his happiness and his ability to reach for his dream.

Such a belief – one that acts as an obstacle to achieving what you truly desire in life – is called a ‘limiting belief’ because it restricts or limits us.

Take a minute to think about your own life and how you might have imposed limits to your own achievements through allowing such limiting beliefs to develop and take hold.

Now – I have some good news!

Limiting beliefs can be banished just as easily as they can take root!

You simply need to be clear on what it is that underpins the beliefs (at New Insights we call these ‘reference legs’) and where that came from. Then you need to spend some quality time (and probably some help) questioning – and shaking – those underpinnings!

Back to our story about Tom…

  • Tom’s parents, wanting to do the best for him, hire a life coach! Tom, feeling frustrated and confused, willingly accepts the offer of help – and very soon he is a changed young man.

    His coach shakes and eventually destroys the ‘reference legs’ for Tom’s belief, first by questioning Tom on how he arrived at the conclusions that have bolstered his belief and then by using evidence from Tom’s life and experiences to categorically disprove the belief.

    The process continues with the coach helping Tom to replace the discredited belief with a new, accurate and wonderfully empowering belief about himself, his manliness and his terrific musical talents.

Yep, for those of you who were worried, the story has a happy ending! ☺

I hope that by now you can see how easy it is to get in our own way by allowing limiting beliefs to develop and grow, while we shun the development and growth of the beliefs that can really serve and empower us to be, do and have whatever it is we want.

I’m going to end off by offering you another quote, this time from Sanaya Roman, that I think sums up today’s message beautifully:

“If any area of your life is not working, one of your beliefs in that area needs to be changed.”

Thank you for reading Insights again this week. I hope that it has served to inspire you – and make you reflect – in some way.

If you have ever felt the desire to become a life coach, imparting the secrets to a life of personal freedom, confidence and growth to others, while enjoying a rewarding and amazingly fulfilling career, now’s definitely the time to act!
With warm regards


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