In “The Process part 1” we looked at my general process for personal growth and covered the first four steps toward establishing a permanent positive change in your life. This week we will discuss the remaining three steps and how to adjust to a sudden new lifestyle.
Step five: Identify key beliefs that are involved.
When you have started to really connect the dots between all the odd behaviors you are engaging in, you’ll start to see a theme gradually appear. Last week I gave an example of a person who was trying to exercise more.
In that example, the person in question, found they had a tendency to want to exercise more after reading because they were reading beauty magazines that made them wish they looked nicer. They also tend to spend more time on the computer after reading because they don’t like how they feel after reading and so they engage in escapism. Lastly, they don’t exercise because they feel awkward about others seeing them when they work out. In this you can see some themes about discomfort, exercising, and appearance.
When you have a good grasp of the theme, you want to figure out what key belief is motivating all this behavior. This is also a relatively difficult step and can take some time to figure out.
Usually the key belief will be something negative, and it will usually be a belief that you have been actively finding ways to deny. Usually, you’ll start by guessing and saying random possible beliefs you could have. For example, “exercise is unpleasant”, “I am lazy”, “I am embrassed about exercise”, etc.
Many of your guesses could be somewhat accurate, like you might find exercise unpleasant, but what you want to look for a is a belief that hits you in the gut. When you say it, you’ll know you have found it, because you’ll feel a really strong emotion. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find yourself crying. This is normal, because you’ve just unearthed some very deep feelings about yourself that you were probably trying to hide from.
In this example, the belief would be something like “I am ugly”. Upon saying it, you’d feel a heavy weight in the pit of your stomach and you’d feel the full impact of how that belief affects you every day. You may have to do several rewordings to find the right phrase. For example, you might say, “people don’t like me”, “I am unattractive”, “I don’t like my body”. As you get closer, that weight in your stomach feeling will get stronger.
It’s also normal to feel extreme discomfort in this step. It’s ok to stop if you need to and come back when you are ready. If possible, it’s better to let yourself be uncomfortable, so that you can really tackle the issue.
Step six: If a belief is not serving you, find a new one
This step is only difficult in that it means you have to suspend any disbelief you have. The best way I’ve found to do this is to imagine yourself taking a trip to imagination land. In otherwords, it absolutely does not matter how far fetched your ideas are, because when you are imagining anything goes.
Once you are in a mindstate where anything goes, take a moment and to answer the following question: “If you could suddenly be in a state where anything you believe is true, what new belief would you want instead of your current one.”
I emphasize again, that you do not have to even remotely believe that this new belief is at all true. In fact, usually more skepticism just means that you will have bigger positive change when you do the next step.
You want whatever new belief you choose to give you a very opposite feeling to your old belief. Setting aside the skepticism, you should ideally feel very empowered, excited, motivated and positive when you imagine a world where your new belief was true.
Step seven: Take action to embrace your new belief.
As I said in the last step, skepticism is expected and even somewhat healthy when looking at a new belief. Now our goal is to remove that skepticism and make your new belief an actual reality instead of a fantasy.
The secret to this is to create some simple goal that will encourage you to believe just a little bit more in your new world view. One example of this was a client I had a few years back. She was developing a career as an actor and she had a belief that only black actors who were sellouts were successful. This was a major barrier to her because she couldn’t be an actor and maintain her integrity.
The belief we changed her to was that black actors can be successful while still having their own sense of dignity and integrity. To make this real for her, she set a goal to research and find actors fitting this description. It didn’t take her long until she had a hefty list of names showing her she could be successful.
If for some reason she could not find actors fitting this, we would have found a new way to reinforce this belief, or created a new belief such as “I can be the first successful black actor to ever succeed without selling out” and found ways to reinforce that.
In the case of “I am ugly”, you might choose “I am awesome” (new belief are not always the exact opposite of the old one). Your goal might be then to look in the mirror each day and point out something awesome about yourself. It sounds silly, but over time this causes huge changes with people carrying body-image issues.
When you complete your first goal to reinforce your new belief, you’ll want to make a new goal that reinforces it further and keep doing this until you have no doubts about your new way of seeing the world.
When you work long enough with steps one through seven (this can be anywhere from days to years depending on the topic), you’ll start seeing big shifts in your behaviors, attitudes, and general way of life.
This is where you need to be concerned with what is called meta-planning. Meta-planning is all the changes that come with making a big shift in your life. In the example of changing “I am ugly” to “I am awesome”, you might find that you are out socializing more and you need to get better at time management, or you might find you like your body so you want to buy more flattering clothes.
For meta-planning you essentially want to just think of and prepare for any big changes you can see happening with your new lifestyle. When you plan ahead this helps reduce the dissonance that comes with a sudden life transition and can make the process a lot smoother.
Images provided by Diloz, Eddy Van 3000, and Shining-Mind.