Be The Change: Overcoming Your Self-Limiting Beliefs

“You’re under no obligation to be the same person you were 5 minutes ago.” — Alan Watts

“The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.”  — John Maynard Keynes

“To improve is to change, so to be perfect is to have changed often.”   —  Winston Churchill

You can change.

No, I’m serious. You really can.

But why don’t you? Why don’t we?

It’s important to know that you’re not alone in this problem of change. The struggle to change is a human dilemma that every individual faces to one degree or another. What is shared below will hopefully give you the tools to believe change is possible. The belief that can shift our self-limiting perceptions no matter how ingrained they may be.

One-Sided Thinking

Growing up I had zero creative bones in my body… at least that’s what I had thought.

Since I enjoyed the structure, predictability, and formulaic consistency of mathematics, I naturally leaned into where I felt most gifted. I was a “numbers-guy” through and through. In high school, this natural strength continued to show itself as I plowed through college algebra, trigonometry, and calculus, enjoying the challenge every step of the way.

My sister, on the other hand, naturally gravitated toward english and art. She loved creativity and, throughout her high-school years and into college, those creative juices began to blossom into full-bloom. This created a very neat and tidy picture for me—a way to explain our differences away in a logical sense. Simply put: my sister got all the creative genes and I was blessed with none. My perception of myself was contained in a box filled with numbers, logic, and rational thinking, all fueled by the long-standing beliefs I held about the different cards my sister and I were dealt, formed by the repeated thoughts and actions I took all throughout my childhood years.

And then one day, everything changed…

The more honest version of the story is that, over a period of many days, unbeknownst to me, everything changed.

What actually transpired over the years was a change in my thoughts and actions that ultimately led to a shifting of my beliefs, and eventually those beliefs created a whole new perception of myself that has unlocked the right side of my brain to function as it can and should, fueling and creating all the work I am blessed to do today.

This is the process of change, and it’s actually a pretty simple series of steps.

Sometimes It Happens By Chance

For me it really was an unconscious decision that was made over many months of time. After college, I embarked upon a three-and-a-half year journey of playing professional golf. In knowing that this pursuit would take me all over the country, I wanted to have a way to keep my friends, family, and fans up to date on how my career was progressing and what I was learning. With the invention of different tools such as Squarespace and Wordpress, creating and maintaining a web presence was now fairly accessible, and having a website for my golf journey seemed like a perfect fit.

As I created my website and began deciding what would be the best way to keep people in the loop with my career, I figured it could be a fun process to start a blog for tournament results and summaries. Little by little, I began to learn about the world of writing. It began simply, committing to journaling and posting about each tournament I played in. Slowly but surely, as I got a feel for what it took to execute on this vision, I began to start enjoying the process of writing itself!

Me? The numbers guy? The mathematician? The non-creative, only left-side of the brain using dude that grew up thinking there wasn’t a creative bone in his body?

This was absolutely novel to me at the time. I was as shocked as anyone else (and probably more so!). But this was the reality I had to come to terms with, and what I came to realize through that process is that the reason why I was never a creative person before was because I never allowed myself to be. I never saw (or perceived) myself as someone who was good at creative things, and because I couldn’t see it I never believed that I could, and this was largely because I had never given myself the chance to try (partly because I had never thought it was worth it).

This massive change, this major shift in who I am—both to myself and to others—all came by chance (or more accurately, by God’s leading and directing). This was not an intentional choice. This was not a conscious opening of myself up to my full potential. It was more of a “coming through the back door” and finding myself in a place I had never been before.

But what if I had realized that self-limiting belief sooner? What if I had become aware of that closed perception, the narrow view of myself that prevented me from exercising my full potential? I know it was all perfect in God’s timing, but this valuable lesson is one that I want to take forward with me as I continue to grow as a human and I hope you will too.

Admitting The Reality

The first thing we must all admit about change is that it’s hard. Change is always hard because we always have resistance to change, no matter how “good” that change may be.

“Resistance is proportionate to the size and speed of the change, not to whether the change is a favorable or unfavorable one.”  - George Leonard

Change isn’t just hard, it’s also impossible without intention. Positive change never happens by chance. The only change that results by chance is the development of bad habits, a slide into settling for a life of impulsivity and following the passions and desires of the moment—a lifestyle and mode of living that quickly degenerates into compromise and self-sabotage.

“We become addicted to our beliefs; we’re addicted to our emotions of our past. We see our beliefs as truths, not ideas that we can change.”  — Dr. Joe Dispenza

I’m not going to pretend that change isn’t hard, and no one should. But, we must understand and believe that change is possible. Not only is it possible, it can be probable. The way from possibility to probability is by understanding the process, attaching emotion, and then committing to it for the long-run. The fruit? Unlimited potential… but seriously.

Understanding The Process

Two of the best books on change are Switch by Chip & Dan Heath, and You Are The Placebo by Dr. Joe Dispenza, and I will be pulling heavily from the latter in what is shared below.

The process of change begins small and build over time. As we saw in my personal story, it always begins with thoughts, feelings, and actions.

“When you string a succession of thoughts and feelings together so that they ultimately become habituated or automatic, they form an attitude. And since how you think and feel creates a state of being, attitudes are really just shortened states of being.”  (You Are The Placebo, 160)

Once we have formed an attitude about the situation, ourself, or others around us, we then begin to reinforce that attitude which, over time, becomes a belief.

“If you repeat or maintain certain attitudes long enough and you string those attitudes together, that’s how you create a belief. A belief is just an extended state of being—essentially, beliefs are thoughts and feelings (attitudes) that you keep thinking and feeling over and over again until you hardwire them in your brain and emotionally condition them into your body.” (p.161)

Beliefs, as we continue to condition our body and our mind around them, inevitably become our perception of the world—the way we view ourselves, others, and our daily lives.

“If you string a group of related beliefs together, they form your perception. So your perception of reality is a sustained state of being that’s based on your long-standing beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, and feelings. … your perceptions—how you subjectively see things—for the most part, become your subconscious and unconscious view of your reality from the past.”  (p.162)

Here’s the summary:

Thoughts, Feelings, Actions —> Attitudes —> Beliefs —> Perceptions

How we think, feel, and act on a daily level, over time, turns into our attitudes that we carry with us in day-to-day life. As we maintain attitudes over a period of days, weeks, and months, we begin to form beliefs that continue solidifying over years and years of reinforcement. These beliefs are the ideas that make up our perception of reality in all of life, the inherently subjective view we hold on all we say and do.

This is the process of how we form beliefs and why we often think the way we do.

Again, in order to change we must believe that change is possible. How do we believe? First step is always understanding how beliefs are formed. The second step is adding power to the knowledge by attaching our emotions.

“When you change a belief, you have to start by first accepting that it’s possible, then change your level of energy with the heightened emotion you read about earlier, and finally allow your biology to reorganize itself.”  (p.168)

Attaching Emotion

To understand the importance of attaching emotion, let’s compare change to love. If you say that you love your spouse or significant other but don’t show any emotion attached to that statement it won’t be very believable. What helps us know that we are loved are the words and actions filled with emotion that produces the feeling of being loved.

Just as much as we need emotion in love, emotion is required in change.

“But the emotional component is key in this experience; suggestibility isn’t just an intellectual process. Many folks can intellectualize being better, but if they can’t emotionally embrace the result, then they can’t enter into the autonomic nervous system, which is vital because that’s the seat of the subconscious programming that’s been calling all the shots.”  (p.132)

“By holding a clear and firm intention and heightening our emotional energy, we have to create a new internal experience in our minds and bodies that’s greater than the past external experience.”  (p.177)

This is the part of the process that is so often missed in changing our beliefs or perceptions. The power is always found in the emotion. As Chip and Dan Heath frame it in their book Switch, our emotions are similar to an elephant, and our mind or our rational side is the rider of that elephant. In this illustration, the six-ton elephant has unbridled power over the relatively small rider perched atop. This is the importance of recognizing the power of emotions—because we desperately need the elephant’s strength and drive in order to create the lasting change we desire.

Emotions are the fuel the can help us start to be the change.

Commitment Produces Change

Like anything worthwhile in life, this is not an overnight process. I didn’t wake up one day, magically reinvented as a creative genius (still waiting on that to happen). I did wake up one day and decide to commit to making a step. Then I woke up the next day and kept that commitment to make a step once again. Then, over time, these little steps add up to a large distance covered. I went from viewing myself as a purely analytical, mathematical thinker, to seeing myself as someone filled with creativity, enough to face the daunting task of writing a book, a task I never would have even considered before the journey of change during the years spent competing as a professional golfer.

Commitment cannot be overstated or overvalued in it’s importance with the process of development in any genre. We must be committed for a long enough period of time in order to see our new attitudes solidify into beliefs and begin forming a new perception of our own abilities and capacity.

“It takes thinking greater than how they feel—in turn allowing those new thoughts to drive new feelings, which then reinforce those new thoughts—until it becomes a new state of being.”  (p.131)

A new state of being is never accomplished in one day, one week, or even one month. It may be reached in one year, or many years, but it always takes a substantial amount of time, which is why commitment is so necessary.

Practically Speaking

Much of what has been shared is more esoteric in nature, which is often harder to practically apply. The most challenging part of the process is the aspect that we often miss or overlook, the place where the real power lies and the reason why we don’t usually experience much success in changing our beliefs about ourself or others: attaching our emotions

The emotions we are most familiar with in daily life are often our survival emotions — the stress hormones that our modern society is so addicted to. These are the emotions of fear, futility, anger, hostility, impatience, pessimism, judgment, anxiety, guilt, shame, lust, worry, doubt, etc. (just to name a few). All of these emotions are triggering of our fight-or-flight nervous system. These feelings keep us stuck in past emotions and experiences that are reinforced over and over again through these stress responses.

But, as Dr. Joe Dispenza points out in his book, we have the ability to lift our emotions out of the hormonal centers and into the heart. These elevated emotions are only possible if we leave the survival state of being and enter into the thriving state of being, into a selfless mode of existence instead of a selfish state.

To accomplish this, there are two simple tools that we can all practically apply on a daily basis:

  1. Gratitude

  2. Meditation

Gratitude and appreciation are powerful stimulants for helping us embrace the elevated emotions of love, joy, peace, presence, inspiration, and empowerment. It’s an appreciation for what we’ve been given in life and it teaches us to embody that emotion. As Dr. Dispenza goes on to point out, gratitude is typically experienced after an event has transpired. Thus, having a gratitude practice helps us associate future events with a feeling in the present moment, enabling us to be in a place of receiving instead of acquiring, a state of being instead of having.

Meditation is the tool that enables us to better tap into our subconscious mind—the part of our minds that control over 95% of our daily lives. It raises your awareness past the immediate stimuli in life that fill up our conscious thoughts, and into the more important processing of the subconscious—where our beliefs and perceptions reside.

“Meditation takes us from survival to creation; from separation to connection; from imbalance to balance; from emergency mode to growth-and-repair mode; and from the limiting emotions of fear, anger, and sadness to the expansive emotions of joy, freedom, and love. We go from clinging to the known to embracing the unknown.”  — Dr. Joe Dispenza

Wrapping It All Up

Change is hard.

It’s hard because we’ve conditioned ourselves, over time, to perceive of ourselves in a certain way. These self-perceptions are fueled by a string of beliefs that have been created by repeated attitudes informed by the thoughts, feelings, and actions of our daily lives.

By understanding how we got here, how these perceptions were formed, we can begin to understand how we can create new perceptions and change our self-limiting beliefs to actually be the change we wish to see.

The real force of change is found in the power of our emotions—the six-ton elephant that our mind rides atop. To create any deep and lasting change, we must attach emotion to our new belief in order to start experiencing that reality in our future by first feeling it in the present.

This is never an overnight process and it will always take a deep and abiding commitment over a prolonged period of time.

The practical tools we can use to help us are 1) gratitude, and 2) meditation.

Through the daily practice of gratitude, we are able to move from the stress emotions found in our hormonal systems to the elevated emotions of our heart.

By practicing meditation, we are able to cross the divide between our conscious and our subconscious minds, tapping into the limitless potential that can be found when we start utilizing the resources found in the part of our brain that controls 95% of our daily lives.

And guess what? We are all capable of that. We can all be catalysts for the change we wish to be. You are the placebo. You don’t just hold the key, you are the key.

“You can’t be optimistic about the future until you have survived the crucible of change.”  — Andrew Grove