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.

To Realize

 

 

Realize is the name I chose for my life coaching service company because it expresses the most significant aspects of the coaching missions in my eyes. On one hand it is to cause awareness and the other hand to effect concrete results.

As we are entering a new year I am taking inventory of my realizations. In parallel to that exercise I am considering the direction I want to take and the use I want to make of this blog. I have clearly neglected the exercise of writing articles over the last past year. My heart was not into it for the simple reason that I saw it only as a means to an end. Let me share with you some components of that process. You may relate, find some use to reading my words and gain some awareness regarding an analog situation in your own life.

Running a business is not solely about providing your services or products. There is all the administrative and fiscal dimension of it. You also have to inform your fellow human beings that you exist, that you do what you do and why they want what you have. They call it marketing I was told. Long story short, the blog was a necessary exercise of producing content to bring traffic to the website in order to generate leads. Notice how this last sentence exudes enthusiasm. Just to be clear, it does not. This is where I was coming from. Today, I view “the blog” in a different light. I realized what thoughts I had that kept me in a place of reluctance and stagnation. I also realized certain shifts and gained different perspectives on blogging over the last year.

I was encountering obstacles both regarding form and content. I mentally assaulted myself with plethora of objections that I allowed to slow me down to the point of inertia. I compiled my top five thoughts that echoed my doubts and fears and associated them with my newer perspectives.

Regarding the form:

“I am not a writer”. Granted I have not trained myself in forging a style nor do I have literary talents. The objective of this blog is not to write a novel but to communicate ideas. It is a communication exercise. I am willing to do my best to seek efficiency in articulating these ideas. Moreover, I think it is beneficial on every level to train one’s communication skills in whatever form.

“English is not my first language”. I was concerned to produce clunky sentences that would seem weird to an English reader but then again I realized that it is a great place for me to improve my English. Writing is a little more demanding than speaking therefore it provides me with a little extra challenge that in turn will benefit me.

“It will not be perfect”. Here is an opportunity to exercise letting go of perfection. Perfectionism in my observation leads more often than not to crippling individuals into inaction rather than support them in achieving excellence. I can do my best with the tools and knowledge I have and seek improvement any chance I get. I can strive for excellence rather than waste my time and energy with the mirage of perfection. Doing my best requires to set certain criteria and standards, and then respect those the best I can.

Concerning the content:

“What am I going to talk about? I have nothing new nor earth-shattering to say!” I realized there was hardly any idea that is truly new under the sun and that novelty was not the primary objective. A better use for me of this platform of expression is to share the tools, concepts and insights that have impacted positively my quality of life and participated in my own development. I can also answer the recurring questions and misconceptions I come across regarding coaching.

“What if they criticize me?” It is never pleasant to be made fun of or to be attacked. I came across a comment that said: “If you walk on water, haters will say that it is because you can’t swim.” I have made my peace with the fact that unless this blog is perfect it will receive a certain amount of criticism and we have established that perfection is not an option. I decided to get over myself already! I will do my best to use constructive criticism to advance and refine the quality of my work and where nonproductive comments are made to avoid taking it personally.

Needless to say that there were many other objections that I have faced but these five ones were the most tenacious. Like most thoughts, once they are identified they can be reasonably counteracted or eliminated. They may lead also to realizing bigger or deeper issues. In this case, I have assessed for myself that there is value in many ways in writing this blog. I see how writing connects with my purpose and my passion. I thrive on sharing the good stuff. I love to share what gives me joy and participates in accessing peace of mind. I am now clearer on what the benefits of this blog are for me and for others.

It is also a display of what coaching is about: unearthing, bringing to one’s conscious and attention what is playing in the background. Putting “it” into words rather than dealing with an obscure discomfort that is hidden in the darkness and the recesses of the mind where lurks the self-sabotaging thoughts. All that we accomplish requires realizing our perceived limitations, realizing breakthroughs and take action wherever possible to achieve that which participates in our betterment and development. My aspiration is to effectively share my processes, experience and tools that I have gathered to contribute to your realizations.

 

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.

Fresh Start: Do not let Procrastination get in your Way!

Fresh Start: Do not let Procrastination get in your Way!

Let us talk today about procrastination. We are in January and in the culture in which I was born, it is the beginning of the year. It usually is an opportunity to make a fresh start as well as the occasion to commit to changes in one’s life. For example: go to the gym, go on a diet, meet someone are the classics. I could go on and on. What I observed though is that many of these promises were dropped sooner or later.

Starting another year is seen by some people as a chance to take on projects with a new eye, from a different perspective or they may experience a sense of regained energy and develop a certain enthusiasm for new challenges. There is a quote that I love and I used it as the first post on this blog: “Though you cannot go back and make a brand new start my friend, you can start from now and make a brand new end” (Anonymous). It is never too late, is it? To be perfectly honest, I had planned on writing this post quite a while back, when my friend Dennis finished creating this website. He even guided me step by step through all the technical aspects and patiently taught me what to do. I was ready to get started and yet the other day I realized that the entry “create a new post” had been on my “to do” list since July!

As many others, under the impulse of this New Year I felt it was time to get started. My idea is to share observations, raise certain questions on a different subject every month in 2014 and provoke awareness in best cases. So, I guess it starts with me. Looking more closely at the reasons why this entry on my to-do lists had not yet been taken care of many reasons and excuses came up. Definitely, a lot took place and I did cross out many other items from my lists. Again, being perfectly honest I was forced to admit that I could have made the time and that there were opportunities I did not seize.

Seize the day tomorrow
Procrastinator’s philosophy

I could see that there were other instances when I lost my focus and I would end up feeling utterly overwhelmed. I grew aware of how frequent it had been in my life as well as in the lives of the people surrounding me. I observed how often we postpone taking actions although they would be tremendously helpful, healthy, fun, necessary and even vital. We all put ourselves through painful moments of frustration or in deep trouble because of delaying completing certain tasks. I do not mean to be indulgent towards my past choices. Again, I merely observe that this phenomenon is broad and in certain cases quite destructive. This phenomenon has a name: Procrastination.

I will find a picture tomorrow
The empty frame symbolizes the consequence of procrastination

Procrastination is taken more and more seriously in the field of psychology. Clearly, in order to overcome a problem it is necessary to understand what it is about and what impact it has. I will not engage in extensively describing or commenting on Procrastination when there are many very interesting articles written by specialists. This is the reason why I chose to share a few links to articles I found interesting to start with.

It appears to me that one’s degree of Procrastination can be put on a scale. Where most people experience it from time to time or in only a certain area of their life others suffer from it to the extent they are paralyzed and it cripples them to the point they dramatically sabotage themselves. It can be very subtle, often misunderstood and confused with laziness, lack of ambition or plain carelessness. Yet, a lot of times, delaying certain tasks does not necessarily mean doing nothing. I could not count the amount of times when I delayed my concentrating on a paper in favor of doing the dishes, re-organizing my emails or anything else that was not fundamentally urgent. Now I see that it was merely easier for me to launch myself in something boring yet comfortable than in an activity more challenging and stressful. Paul Graham outlines that very well in his article where he qualifies good and bad procrastination (see attached link). At any rate, procrastination of any sort clearly stands in our way to being fully efficient and it may take a physical as well as an emotional toll on us.

Procrastinate now and panic later
Procrastinate now and panic later

I strongly believe we are all affected by episodes of procrastination and it has various impacts on our lives. That is why I think that gaining awareness on how we do it, to what frequency and in what circumstances is a key to leading a more effective and comfortable life. There is no point in beating oneself up over it and from what I have seen so far I doubt it can be fully eradicated. Yet, from what I read it we can progressively overcome it. We can trick ourselves to procrastinate effectively (see article on structured procrastination). By implementing strategies to get around it, we can progress in a less painful manner than by pushing ourselves brutally with what we think to be self-will.

What I find to be efficient is first of all to know myself well enough. That is where neutral observation and acceptance come handy. It is a difficult exercise yet necessary to make an accurate assessment in order to determine strategies and actions. In addition to creating awareness I have experienced that when I am pulled by a goal and excited by a certain outcome, my motivation enables me to overcome the fear and the discomfort that usually take me right in “procrastination land”. Therefore, creating a vision by depicting as accurately as possible the life I want for myself is the best way I know to muster the necessary energy to deal with some steps that I do not qualify as interesting or enjoyable and to arm myself for the battle against my doubts and fears.

Temporal Motivation Theory
How to remain motivated and defeat procrastination

Moreover, with time I created for myself tools that help me to stay on the top my to-do list. These tools correspond to my needs and to my personality. They are tailored for me. I had to try on several approaches. There are still tasks that I am more or less enthusiastic to perform. I try to bring a certain balance between urgent missions, long-term projects, interesting work and compulsory chores. My point is that I try to make my day enjoyable and efficient. I never missed deadlines and using my tools I progressed at meeting them with more ease and effectiveness.

Making fun of one's procrastinating habits
Making fun of one’s procrastinating habits

I would like to end this text wishing you a productive and fulfilling year. I also invite you to consider what tools and resources could support you in bringing to fruition the projects you have at heart to develop this year and that procrastination may end as just another funny sounding word in the dictionary.

The following links and resources may be of help if you want to gain a better understanding of what Procrastination is about:

PDF: Belonging to Tomorrow: An Overview of Procrastination by Brian A. Wilson

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Procrastination: Wikipedia definition.

http://www.raptitude.com/2011/05/procrastination-is-not-laziness/: defines and describes procrastination. Some of the origins explained by Neil Fiore’s “The Now Habit”.

http://www.structuredprocrastination.com/: on how to deceive oneself in using a flaw to counter act on defeating habits.

http://www.paulgraham.com/procrastination.html: Good and bad procrastination. How errands can kill good work.

http://youarenotsosmart.com/2010/10/27/procrastination/: self-control, notion of laziness.