It’s easier to tell yourself that you can’t do something than it is to tell yourself that you can do it. If you can change what you believe about your own abilities, you might just increase your chance for success.
A belief, or a thought that is reinforced by emotion, can come from several sources, including family, gender, culture, education and experience, according to Patricia Soldati in her article Beliefs That Hold You Back. Beliefs can become ingrained so that we don’t even realize they’re negatively influencing our lives, she claims.
Here are some common beliefs that you may hold, whether you know it or not:
“It’s noble to be a hard worker.”
“I can only find fulfillment from my personal life, not my work life.”
“I need more skills before I can advance in my career.”
“It’s too late in life to make a career change.”
“I’m afraid to take risks and fail.”
Fix Your Sabotaging Beliefs
There are three reasons why people hold on to beliefs and reinforce them, according to Soldati. We start by labeling them, which includes a rationalization of where the belief stems from and why it’s okay to hold on to the belief.
Then, we participate in what Soldati calls “selective data gathering.” We ignore evidence that contradicts the belief and focus on any evidence that supports the belief.
Finally, we disguise the belief as an advantage. For example, if you believe that hard work is noble, you’ll turn this belief into “I work harder than John, which is why I’ll get the promotion.” While this may empower you in some ways, it can also be limiting. You’re ignoring the fact that you might have more than hard work at your disposal, such as experience and intelligence.
What you can do: The good news is that you can work to change your beliefs and open more doors for success. Soldati recommends these five steps toward re-programming a belief:
- Recognize the belief that’s holding you back and make a commitment to change it.
- Create a new belief to substitute the old one. Make sure the belief is in the present tense, has a tone of certainty, is self-respecting, is free from limitations and means something to you on an emotional level.
- Repeat the new belief every day for about a month. Picture the belief positively influencing your life, recommends Soldati.
- Be aware of the old belief when it resurfaces, acknowledge it without beating yourself up and then just make a conscious effort to redirect your focus to the new belief.
- Actively live your new belief. Become the embodiment of the belief so that it becomes your reality.