unfolding into JOY

 
 
Don’t Believe Everything You Think:
Five Things YOU Can Do To Overcome Negative Beliefs

I don’t know about you but as a child I learned to be proud of my mind. Some kids have abilities that enable them to remember large amounts of information, others excel at sports or can play a musical instrument. I could draw well and I was good at math.

Our gifts feed into our concepts of who we are and enable us to define and differentiate ourselves. They also become shortcuts for how we are seen by others. I was “a math kid” and became known as such. My other gifts were sometimes acknowledged in passing but not furthered. Yes, I could play the piano nicely. Yes, I kept myself busy for hours drawing. It pleased my mother, yes, but not because she saw a budding artist in me; no, in her world view drawing was good because it kept me out of trouble. What stuck to me as a simplified label was, “Eva has a good mind.” In fact, it was this identity that informed my educational choices and early career path, and that separated me from other possibilities, such as being a sports kid.

Mentioning sports... I was told that sports were not my strong suit. Instead of supporting me in my physical wildness my mom had me excused from physical education most of the time. She thought it was too dangerous. I became the girl who avoided sports. Of course, that did not help me be an asset to the volleyball team. Just as I learned there are some things that come easily, I also learned there are other things that are more difficult – or even impossible. But are they? Is anything truly impossible? Or are we simply responding to the conditioning we received while growing up?

I took on the identity “Eva has a good mind” which defined me through my intellectual capacities, at the expense of other dimensions of myself. I had to move out of my mom’s house to discover that I also enjoy being physically active. And along the way of revealing other hidden aspects of myself I learned that some of the thoughts I had been thinking weren’t even mine (it was my mom who convinced me I couldn’t succeed in sports), and that some of them were limiting.

Let me give you an example: These days I keep fit through yoga. In fact, I’ve been practicing yoga for 19 years. And in the entirety of that time – for 19 years – I believed that I could not, under any circumstances, do a handstand. Putting my hands on the floor and kicking my feet into the air was not going to happen in this lifetime. No way.

“Why not?” you may ask. It seems simple enough for some, especially for an experienced yoga practioner. In the tradition that my mother started when I was a small kid I came up with many reasons: my wrists are not strong enough, my arms are not straight enough, and don’t forget “I could hurt myself.” Whenever the teacher told us to do a handstand I would do something else instead, a shoulder-stand or a headstand.

Until recently. I was in class with my favorite teacher, David, someone who questions beliefs and encourages exploration. And on this day, for some reason, I was exuberant and in a mood to embrace the entire world. When David directed the class to do a handstand and prepared us thoroughly, I decided, “What the heck, let’s give it a try.” WOW!

I asked for his help. David came, made sure that I placed my hands and shoulders just right so I would not get injured. And then...drum roll...with his help, I went for it! I kicked my feet into the air where they stayed for about 5 seconds before I got overwhelmed with the strangeness of doing a handstand — the impossible! I did it. And what a surprise: it felt great! In 5 seconds I untied a lifetime of negative belief. I stepped beyond the limited vision that there is something I cannot do. I was filled with awe. Imagine what else I can do??

This experience inspired me to take a close look at what actually happened leading up to those 5 seconds and identify specific techniques you can use to overcome your own limited vision, in whatever way it may arise.

So here they are:

Five things YOU can do to overcome
Negative Beliefs

Be willing to let go of what you think is true
This is the hardest part. I’m not suggesting you let go of what you think is true. I’m only suggesting you be willing to let go of it. There is no pressure to let go – simply open yourself to the possibility that there are other possibilities. A simple way to achieve this is with a positive affirmation you repeat to yourself, such as “there are other possibilities” or “I can do anything.” Your mind will believe whatever you tell it. So tell it something positive.

Be curious
Try starting sentences with “why” or “what if”. “What if I plant vegetables together with flowers this year?” “Why did Barak Obama get elected president and not John McCain?” There are endless examples. Stimulating your curiosity will achieve 2 things. It will lead you to fresh ideas and it will inspire you to try them out. What would happen if you planted arugula among the poppies and the daisies? You can’t know unless you try. And you can’t try unless you have some curiosity in the first place.

Imagine what else you can do
Take a moment to actively imagine yourself doing something you currently believe is impossible. Maybe it’s doing a handstand or making a larger salary or finding your life partner. Whatever it is...close your eyes and imagine it happening. Make the vision as real and visceral as you can. What are you wearing? Where are you standing? Who else is involved? Seeing the experience clearly in your mind will enable you to get comfortable with the idea of it actually happening. And then, when it does actually happen, you wont be so surprised (like I was during the handstand).

Allow yourself to try something new
It doesn’t really matter what you try and there is no need to try something scary or intimidating. Just try something new. It can be as simple as a new route on your commute to work or a new recipe. Doing new things, even small ones, opens our perceptions of what is possible. If you can create a beautiful dish from a new recipe what other new things can you create?

Acknowledge yourself Every day
“I got out of bed! YES!” “I made coffee! YES!” “I got to work on time! YES!” There are three opportunities to acknowledge yourself before 9am. It may seem silly but bringing more positive thought into your life will mean there is less room for those negative views. And congratulating yourself, even for the smallest things, gets you into the habit of being, feeling and believing yourself to be successful.

Change takes time and discipline – two things most of us struggle to find more of. It’s certainly easier with a teacher, coach or mentor but even without someone in that role you can go a long way toward overcoming negative beliefs and coming closer to realizing your full potential. Even an experience that only lasts 5 seconds can be enough to change your thinking. What is one thing you can do today to start creating new possibilities? Make it easy. It is not so much about what we do but about what we allow ourselves to imagine possible.



 

 


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