Why does it matter to free yourself from some of your beliefs?

 

 

Most beliefs that are composing our belief systems originated from the meaning we gave events that occurred in our lives. Once we attribute a certain meaning and hold a belief about the world or ourselves as the Truth we consistently seek evidence to prove this belief true. Before we know it, these beliefs integrate the background of our daily thoughts. Imperceptibly, we build our entire approach to life and mindset around these beliefs.

 

Some of these beliefs can be painfully restricting and confine us into unnecessary fears. Some even say that FEAR stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. We are utterly convinced the world is a certain way. We continuously supplement this belief with what we hold for evidence, shut down all other possibilities and it becomes a cognitive bias.

 

As open-minded as we would like to think we are we all have biases. They are the result of an automatized association. This way we process a massive number of pieces of information faster. It is a natural way our brain has to form conclusions. The only problem is that when there is a bias, the conclusion is slightly or hugely slanted. The only way to rectify biases is to become aware of them and that is the hardest part. Identifying biases as well as identifying any one of our beliefs requires a lot of awareness and a thorough work of inquiry. Undoubtedly, it would be a colossal task to submit all and every thought to such a process.

 

Nonetheless, an indispensable place to investigate is the belief system we apply to ourselves. To wholeheartedly question what we hold to be true about ourselves has the potential to give us access to immense progress in our personal growth. Why? Because a number of beliefs we have about ourselves hold us back. They feed fear and self-doubt. We believe ourselves to be too much “this” or that we cannot do “that”. We hold on strongly to that belief because it provides us with an excuse for not being more successful for instance or happier. The way we operate within our belief system is comparable in many ways to the filter bubble; we find more of what we came across or looked for in previous researches on the Internet. Our mind tends to work in the same way.

 

Definitely, our most deeply entrenched beliefs are the hardest to beat. The longer we lived with them and the more real they seem to us even when they defy plain logic. Here is an example: I was reflecting on my experience on quitting smoking as I was answering a question on Quora about what was a major realization in my life. Aside from realizing that my smoking habit proceeded greatly as a coping mechanism to manage my emotions and that it would more certainly affect my health than dealing with the emotion itself, I recollected the fight I had to put up with myself to believe I could quit smoking.

 

The struggle was not so much in dealing with the chemical addiction. It had more to do with picturing myself as never smoking again. I could not believe I could “survive” without ever smoking again. I had all the evidence on how damageable to my health my habit was. I was clear on the toll it was taking on my finances. Yet, for the longest time, I could not convince myself I could be free from my smoking habit. My belief that I could not quit remained stronger until I challenged the deeper and more hidden beliefs I had about myself. Our own beliefs have a strong hold on us, especially when we are unaware of them.

 

Furthermore, the beliefs others have about us may just as well hold us back. Have you ever noticed how you are more easily irritated in the presence of certain relatives? Especially when they persist in categorizing you a certain way or that they endlessly bring up that same anecdote from the time you were four years old for instance? There is an amazing and sometimes frightening freedom in finding yourself in an environment devoid of any individual who knows anything about you. Travel in a foreign country, in a complete different frame of reference and you will surprise yourself. You may even think “so and so would never believe I am doing this!” That is one major added value in traveling. Encountering different cultures and people is also a lot about discovering oneself all over again. It expands your mind and brings renewed insight on your what you may take for granted and hold as obvious on your skills, views, and approach to life.

 

Yes, it is egocentric to a degree. I say there is no virtue in denying oneself. On the contrary, I think there is great value in knowing oneself well. How else can you evolve and develop without an honest and accurate assessment of yourself? And if you are ignorant of your traits how can you relate and connect with the world that surrounds you? Rigorous honesty is challenging. Yet, it is indispensable to live in reality. Our beliefs tend to lull us away from reality. They distort our perceptions. We bend our interpretations to fit our belief system. We come to confuse our beliefs with evidence. We consistently pay attention to what reinforces our beliefs. The meaning we attribute to events is one of the sources to our beliefs.

 

All this to say that there is great value in questioning our belief system. It gives us keys to expand beyond our limitations. It is hard to let go of certitudes, even if they are unfounded. We pride ourselves in having answers and we fear to appear dumb or inadequate if we fail to produce an answer. We think it may come off as weakness if we seem undecided. For some of us admitting that we do not know something feels downright shameful. Sometimes we want to be right at all cost or we assume that there is only one way.

 

Let me share these words:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense.

Rumi – 13th century

 

We may feel very passionate about a certain issue. Just taking a moment to pause and think what we are basing this feeling on and question the origin of our position. Fact checking may be tricky at times as well. What sources are we using? Where is the piece of information coming from and how reliable is it. Without entering in the detail or in any form of debate on where the Truth may be I merely invite you to challenge the point of origin of the emotions you experience or the thoughts that are crossing your mind.

 

There were some beliefs that I held for true. Questioning them and checking in with their relevancy has freed up a lot of space in my mind to open to other views and grow as a person. It does not mean that I buy into everything I hear or that I change my position on certain issues based on what the last person said. I have fundamental views and ideas that I am glad to enrich with additional nuances of reasoning or inspirations from external sources. I merely find it indispensable to go check in once in a while with the thoughts that participate in building my belief system. I may observe that it is merely that, a belief. It is not a fact. It is not a universal truth. It can be opposed by contradictory examples. Then it is for me to decide what I want to do with that belief.

 

What is the purpose of challenging one’s belief system? Empowerment for one thing. If I free myself from my limiting beliefs I have access to a more proactive approach to life. If I believe economy sucks and there are no opportunities for my career I will most likely maintain a passive and whiny attitude combined with little to no action. Also, freeing oneself from the hold of certain beliefs opens up new avenues of thinking. The mind expands and where the mind goes the body follows and so do our actions and attitudes towards life in general.

 

Also, do you have pleasure having a conversation with a person who knows it all and who will just raise their voice when you merely venture an idea of your own? Did you ever witness a conversation where someone is in agreement with you yet they have to be “more right”. It is just sign they are not listening. If there is no listening then there is no exchange. We grow from connection. There is no way around it. When we hold on tight to our beliefs we deprive ourselves of a possible opportunity for growth.

 

In order to grow we have to be willing to bridge our knowledge gaps, be curious and inquisitive about the world that surrounds us as well as ourselves. The exercise of challenging our beliefs has for result to build trust in ourselves. Instead of solely relying on a belief, which places us more often than not on the effect side of the cause/effect equation, we are empowering ourselves in gaining awareness on what we do and why we interact with the world the way we do. As we gain a clearer understanding we have more choices and that places us on the cause side of the equation. This empowerment leads to more confidence and therefore to more trust and peace with life.

Visions

Visions
What is 2015 going to be about for you?

Visions

A new year is beginning with its load of good resolutions. Most of which will be abandoned before the end of the month. To avoid that it is time to affirm one’s vision. It is only natural to wish for improvement from one year to the next and we all are motivated at first to loose this extra weight or quit our nasty habits. The worst part is that we give ourselves such a hard time when we fail to keep to our promises. So, not only did we not achieve our goals, we also end up more miserable then when we started.

There are two main reasons why these good resolutions do not stick. Firstly, we may not be as committed to the end result as much as we would like to. Secondly, we may fail to incorporate our goals into the bigger picture. In both cases the risk of failure is higher due to a lack of clarity on one’s vision or to a lack of authentic attachment to one’s vision.

To begin with, let me clarify what I mean by vision. A vision is a mental picture of how we see our future life. It is composed of elements that we have at heart to be and accomplish. A vision is a translation of our core values and deepest desires. It is the projection of our inner life to the outside world. It is the expression of our inner voice.

The more accurate and complete a vision is and the more likely we are to reach our goals. Jerrold Mundis points out that it is obvious that it is more difficult to get what we want if we are not clear about what it is in the first place. Let us say that I am starting to look for a new car. The more precise my description is the better chances I have to find my ideal car. It may seem counter intuitive at first. One would think that by keeping an open mind the chances of being happy are bigger. I say that if I have a clear idea of what I want I do not waste my time on checking out less satisfactory options. I save my energy by being specific and selective to begin with.

The place to start is by defining what it is that we want. It happens to be the most difficult phase for a number of us. Once again, we may let our desires be contaminated by our friends’ opinions or society’s standards. Being crystal clear and honest with ourselves is not that easy. We all are, to some degree, influenced by our surroundings. All this to say that creating an authentic vision of our life can be a little more challenging that what one may expect and a lot of times we fail to achieve our goals simply because our heart is just not really into it. We may unintentionally embrace others expectations for us rather than give ourselves permission to follow our own desires.

There are more than one way to build ones vision. Among the numerous techniques and methods, something as simple as talking and sharing our thoughts with someone else may be most effective. Having to articulate our thoughts and to hear oneself put it in words begins to give these mental constructions some validation and vividness. Journaling also helps to clarify our priorities and sort out what feels important from the more trivial. Vision boards provide us with a recurring reminder of our plans and desires. It is not a mere artistic project to pursue a rainy Sunday afternoon. By compiling pictures and phrases that really speak to us, inspire us and bring us joy we create new pathways in our brains and reinforce our commitments. We become more prone to take action when we have this constant reminder of what we want to achieve.

It is key to maintain a certain level of clarity on what we want. It may evolve and change with time but we need to set our inner compass in a certain direction and set a process into motion. Sadly, we all know how easy it is to let ourselves get swamped in our daily routines and to just “get by”. That is why holding up our vision for ourselves is critical in order reach the next level in our lives. It conveys a sense of purpose and when chasing our goals becomes a game it lightens up our everyday life.

For this reason, the goal of loosing our extra pounds has more chances to be reached when it is strongly anchored into a broader vision of a healthy life that allows us to enjoy and enhance the quality of our existence. It helps to overcome cravings or to let go more easily of the little slips we may have. By inscribing it in the big picture of the person we want to be and the happiness and freedom we gain by achieving this or that objective then the obstacles may become less discouraging or the challenges less overwhelming. The vision, when it is strong and well aligned with our authentic self will carry us through any hardship and add texture to our daily life.

Fear

Fears

 

I was struggling to find an idea for this month. Then I realized that one of the highlights of October is the celebration of Halloween. What is one of the central themes of Halloween? The answer I came up with is Fear. As kids we all love the excitation that fear brings along. We enjoy the occasional ghost story, the scary movie and the thrill of the roller coaster. Some of us stay hooked on adrenaline seeking speed, jumping off planes and taking risks in general. Scaring oneself is something we grow out of or not.

 

Regardless of how daredevil one may seem we all have deep ingrained fears that we need to overcome in order to live life to the fullest. For example, one may be perfectly comfortable with the rush that comes as a consequence of racing a car full speed and yet have a strong fear of commitment. We tend to measure bravery and courage through outstanding accomplishments that put us in danger or require strength and certain skills. For sure there is an element of courage in embarking on certain adventures but courageous does not mean fearless. Courage is to do something in the face of the fear that we are experiencing.

 

Fear can be obvious such as a fear of heights or spiders. We have a choice whether or not we want to conquer these fears. There is also a wide range of fears that are far subtler, embedded in our subconscious and that end up running our lives. The first step is to become aware of those fears. Some of them stem from our core beliefs. They are so inherent to our experience of life that they are invisible. Before we know it we make a whole set of decisions primarily based on our fears. It can be anything from a fear of looking stupid, making a wrong decision, failing, getting stuck, being betrayed and the list is endless.

 

We all react differently in the face of fear. Some get mildly challenged, others seriously slowed down in their progression and sadly some of us become utterly paralyzed. Our minds are powerful and can play some serious tricks on us. We become skilled at proving ourselves right by focusing on all that serves as evidence. An acronym for FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real. Before we know it we whip up a very convincing story that our original statement is the Truth and we nurture it with more and more evidence: X cannot be trusted, snakes/cars/teddy bears are dangerous, Xs are all liars/crooks/dishonest and etc.

 

Fear gets to us on every level. It has its toll on our bodies. More than a study has demonstrated the immense impact of stress on our health. It cripples our mind as well. It is impossible to think straight when all we rehash is the negative fear-based self-talk we run on most of the day. It also harms us spiritually. We shut ourselves to the experience of life by trying to protect ourselves from physical and emotional pain.

 

Fear is not a harmless enemy. It is powerful and sneaky. It is the source of the blocks we encounter in our lives. We easily blame others and circumstances for not being exactly where we want to be in life but in truth we often are the reason why we are not as fulfilled as we could be. As scary as it is, when we decide to be 100% responsible for the life we have we experience empowerment. And in order to change our lives we need to become aware of what is stopping us. That alone requires an honest and demanding self-examination. Then we get a choice to stay where we are or to take on the challenges to transform our lives.

 

No matter what choices we make it is fundamental to confront our deepest fears. Where there is fear there is no place for growth or fulfillment. We cut ourselves from the beauty of life and we condemn ourselves to an existence of suffering where we feel powerless and victimized. Fear is the antithesis of love. Fear is a tough enemy and it possible to surmount it.

 

One of the numerous pay offs of tracking our fears is that on the other side of those we often find our true desires. When we overcome our fears we become more of who we are in essence. And as we reconnect with those desires we access a life where we live by our passions and from our hearts. Also by grounding ourselves in what makes our hearts sing we become stronger to face our remaining fears. We step out of a vicious circle where are fears run the show and constrict our lives to a place where we follow our passion and expand to who we want to be and align with our life purpose. Then we become unstoppable. It is a process that requires work and it is worth it.

Self-care

Self-care

This month I would like to share about the importance of “self-care”. You may also find interesting information on this subject reading articles on “positive selfishness” or “selfhood”. Why this topic? One of the main events in the calendar for this month of February is Valentine’s Day. Of course it is a beautiful thing to celebrate love and show a little additional attention to those who make our life special. I am taking the risk of saying something that is awfully commonplace yet little observed: we do not take care enough of ourselves. We forget or deny ourselves and turn a deaf ear to a lot of our most fundamental needs. So, in parallel to honoring our loved ones let me also make a reminder of the importance of treating ourselves well on a daily basis.

Self Reflection

Undeniably there are periods of time when we want to make a special effort to reach a specific goal. It takes time and awareness to achieve balance between the multitude of activities we want or feel we have to accomplish. Yet, even when things are crystal clear, that we have time at hand, that we know what we want, have the means to do it and how to get it we postpone or cancel a lot of possibilities to enhance our lives.

Self development

My guess is that part of the problem is that a lot of us have a negative view of self-care and associate it with self-centeredness or selfishness. I worked for several years as a massage therapist and I cannot count the number of times when I had anxious moms feeling guilty to use the gift certificate they were offered on Mother’s Day because it meant that there were a ton of other things they could be doing at that moment and it felt truly uncomfortable for them to take a break and enjoy an hour for themselves.

Love Yourself

It took me a lot of time and it is still a fierce battle with myself to allow my little person to rest when I am tired, take a break to eat when I am hungry, get in bed when I am sick or play when I still have items on my to-do list. I observe once again that I am far from being the only one. Yet, I am clear that the days when I make time to take care of my physical and emotional well being I am far more efficient, I am more focused, more energetic and I enjoy myself a great deal more. Do you think that having experienced that on a regular basis it is now an automatism? Certainly not is the answer! Why? There is always something important or urgent to do! I do not feel in the mood. I am too tired etc.

Self

There is no such bargaining in other areas of my life. If I do not put gas in my car, if I forget to change the oil or constantly delay any of the regular maintenance the next sure thing is that it will breakdown. And just like a car nothing is maintenance-free. To be efficient I need maintenance. How can I truly be efficient, happy and have healthy relationships with others if I am hungry, exhausted, depleted, and lacking sleep, physically in pain, overwhelmed and/or at the end of my rope? Obviously, I cannot. And as Richard Moss said “The distance from another is the distance from ourselves”.

Sense of Self

It is as simple as that. Self-care is no more or no less than maintenance. It is fundamental to any sustainable efficiency and meaningful relationships with others. ”Charity begins home,” they say. And I work on a daily basis remembering and applying this to my life. Using others as an excuse is so easy. Then we delve into many other areas such as “people pleasing”, chronic incapacity to say “no”, wanting to be nice, helping out others instead of taking on our own personal business and the rest of the list is long. It is a long process to become aware of such behaviors since most of them are so deeply rooted in our everyday lives. It takes time, acceptance and patience to identify them and modify them. It is uncomfortable as well but the reward is worth it. The reward is a healthier and more authentic existence. Self-care is the indispensable maintenance to ensure a smooth ride.

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