Pliable Perception – Uprooting Limiting Beliefs
Following the introduction to the pliable perception tool, it is now time to take a look at the fundamental insight in this tool: uprooting and reshaping your limiting beliefs.
What are limiting beliefs?
In the tool of creating congruence, we looked at how our Forman (the voice of the egoic mind) compares our stored definition of the perfect human to our definition of me (who we think we are). Where there is a gap between what we think we “should” be doing and what we are doing, our foreman will chastise us with guilt and remorse.
As part of the creating congruence tool, we explored strategies to develop awareness of this pattern and also methods that you can use to update your definition of the perfect human to create a game that you can win.
One key approach with this is updating our definition to be relative rather than absolute. The reason I mention this is because limiting beliefs that are baked in to our perception are fundamentally the same has having a purely absolute definition of the perfect human.
- Relative – A definition of a direction of travel/ideal behaviours
- Absolute – A fixed goal to achieve i.e., more money or a promotion
Limiting belief are rules that we accept as being absolute about the world around us, other people or our self.
How to spot them
This is easy, but hard!
If you say out loud one of your limiting beliefs, it will feel like you have hit a dead end, or a wall. They feel like the perfect excuse, reason or justification for why you have chosen the course of action that you have.
Here are some examples:
- I am no good at…
- I don’t deserve…
- Other people are selfish…
- The world is unfair and life is hard…
- I can’t…
- “X” person is always “XYZ judgement”
- Men should be…
- Women should be…
Spotting them in theory is easy when you know what you are looking for.
The hard part is being aware of when you are applying these beliefs. Because these kinds of limiting beliefs often get baked in to our schemata for understanding the world at a young age, they are absorbed in to our unconscious bias.
This is the base layer of our perception that we build our conscious perception on top of (the bits we actually are aware of thinking about) when we consider our choices.
The way to expose these deep-rooted limiting beliefs is through periodic reflection and contemplation.
When reflecting on the way we behaved and the choices we made in a particular situation, we simply need one question: But why?
But why did I make that choice?… because I assumed this about the other person…
But why did I think that about the other person?… Because XYZ happened before…
But why does that matter?… Because people always behave that way…
But why are you so sure?… Just because.
When logical reasoning expires and you arrive at a just because, you have hit the dead end you are looking for.
This is a very simplistic example of how this process will work, but I hope though that this does give you some degree of understanding of the process for uncovering these beliefs.
Oh, and just in case this bit was not super obvious, you need to be completely honest with yourself as you go through this process!
Yes, that will create fear, but we will talk about that in more detail later in this post.
To replace your limiting beliefs, the first stage is spotting them, you then need to decide what you are going to replace them with. You can’t just decide not to believe them, as without something to plug the gap and build on, you will just slip in to old habits. See the post about the good wolf and the bad.
When defining your alternatives, what you are looking for is a set of foundational principles (beliefs) that lead to a wider perception which can be applicable to an ever-increasing array of circumstances.
What does that mean though?
Here are some examples:
- I never have enough time… becomes… Life is all about prioritising what is most important
- I can’t… becomes… I can’t right now because I have chosen not to prioritise this particular thing
- I don’t deserve… becomes…In life, we reap what we sow and I accept responsibility for creating both the good and bad in my life
- Other people are selfish… It is important to prioritise yourself for time to time, we humans sometimes get the balance wrong though.
- The world is unfair and life is hard… You require both the sweet and the sour in equal measure to make the whole; and; you see what you choose to focus on.
These updated beliefs, rather than being a set of condemning statements become more like a philosophical net which we can wrap our experiences in. No longer do we have a rigid prescriptive view, we have something that becomes, flexible, adaptable and open to interpretation.
Afterall, what matters more?
Being right, or being able to do right by ourselves.
Let’s explore this a little further… limiting beliefs offer us the opportunity to prove ourselves right either about ourselves or other people. In a situation where the limiting beliefs cause us to fail to apply ourselves to achieve our goals, we get a conciliation prise of being right abut that fact that we can’t or that life is unfair.
Updating your beliefs to be more open and universal affords us the opportunity to succeed or fail. This shift to embracing both the yin and yang of life creates fear. Fear because we accept that that the negative exists and is real. A little bit of fear is not a bad thing though.
Before we move on to look at fear, here is a suggested principle that you could add to your list:
My thoughts and ideas about myself and the world are based on what I know. As I experience and learn more, I reserve the right to change what I think.
Embracing the Unknown
Holding limiting beliefs is like placing a cap on your own potential. You draw a line around what you can expect from yourself and the world around you.
When you remove the lid, what lies beyond is the unknown. The unknown creates fear within us. This is because once you uncap your potential, there is both unlimited potential for greatness and failure.
You simply cannot have one without the other.
Fear is not a valid reason for not doing something. It is simply a reminder to be cautious as you proceed.
The difference between a coward and a hero is not that one was afraid and the other was not, it is that one did not act and one did.
Embracing your unknown limitless potential requires you to become non-attached to the fear that is generated as a result of it. It is because of this background process of dealing with the fear that reprogramming your limiting beliefs will take time.
Through awareness and practice, it is possible to accommodate a new way of thinking. You just need to really want to do it to make it happen.
Shaping Your New Beliefs
Here is some other food for thought when evaluating and reprogramming your belief system:
- On reflection, do you find that your belief system is harsh or judgemental?
- Do you accept the cyclical nature of human life and the tendency for natural ups and downs?
- Do you find yourself celebrating success or failure?
When considering these questions, also mediate on these two words… realism and kindness.
To embrace realism, you must cultivate a belief system that enables you to accept what is.
Being kind to yourself and others simply means being realistic about our human tendencies and the cycles of learning and growth.
If you never fail, you will never succeed. They are both sides of the same coin and you cannot have one without the other. Being kind to yourself will enable you to cultivate the resilience needed to push forward in life. Shaping your belief system to promote this lays the foundation for your success.
Here are some examples of beliefs that I hold:
- Every time I make a mistake, I have the opportunity to learn
- I am perfectly imperfect
- All humans have internal struggles, some people just deal with it, or hide it, better than others
- There is no guide book to follow in life, us humans are all working it out together
- My thoughts and ideas about myself and the world are based on what I know. As I experience and learn more, I reserve the right to change what I think.
When it comes to learning about and taking ownership of your perception, identifying and shaping your belief system is the real work. It is simple, but not simplistic and will take time.
All of the other insights that I will share in this tool are great to create a momentary shift allowing you to unlock new view points and ways of thinking. If you want to make a long-term difference, you need to work on your belief system though.
Think of it as a two-pronged attack: working on your belief system is the long-term strategy which will create lasting change, the other insights are like little boosters which can tactically be applied to keep the momentum of change and build energy.
Enjoy, for now.