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Not all beliefs are alike

My 4-year old daughter made me smile after I heard her mentioning that she is lucky. Upon querying it with her it turns out that she built this belief because she was told she is lucky when she got a soft toy at a supermarket in a loyalty programme, when the location she wanted was available for her birthday, when she won 2EUR or when we were among the first on the skating rink one morning. This naive example just stands to show how easy beliefs are built and how oftentimes they are rooted in our childhood. Beliefs have a powerful unconscious effect on us as they will impact our mindset, physiology and behaviour. What is more, beliefs create a behaviour-results loop which further fuels the belief.

If I am presented with new people and I think of myself as being unsociable, I’m surely going to find "clues" that those people don't like me, that they are bored in my presence etc. In other words, the belief is like a pair of lenses through which we see the world; it determines where our attention goes and how we adjust the world to make it fit our belief. They also impact our physiology which contributes to the feedback loop.

To go back to the hypothetical example, if one person is communicating minimally with me, I would distort that as being a sign that I am indeed unsociable, I will ignore in my assessment those who are maybe more communicative, and I will generalise that I can't socialize with anybody. In reality, the person sending out the "bad vibe" might have other reasons for not communicating with me but my belief will limit me from considering these possibilities. In NLP this “algorithm” is known as Delete-Distort-Generalize and beliefs are one of the main variables that determine the outcome of the algorithm.

I grew up learning that I'm a lucky person and although that didn't push me into gambling it did contribute to some of my decisions which ultimately confirmed that I am indeed lucky. I would for example apply for jobs that were attractive for me even when I didn't meet most of the experience requirements as I was whispering to myself "I'm lucky, who knows, maybe I get it?". In all honesty I focused most of my attention on the job description and judging if I have the skills to do it.

I made a practice of seeking opportunities rather than wait for them to occur. This is not to say that I wasn't considering failure as a possibility nor that I would ignore what I can reasonably achieve. Rather, this belief allowed me to CONSIDER something and then take a decision rather than ignoring it from the beginning. It nudged me to first look at what I want rather than getting stuck in why I might not be able to have it. In a nutshell, I guess it just provided me with a different mindset when building objectives or assessing opportunities and I hence consider it a positive belief.

It is not uncommon to carry with us beliefs that date way back in time, some of which don't serve us any good (eg. As a child one might heard adults around him/she repeatedly say that he/she is shy and grew up with this belief). For this reason we should sick to identify such beliefs, most commonly known as limiting beliefs and update them as necessary :).

In our communication with others we should also be on the watch and only contribute to empowering beliefs. Parents might be familiar for instance with the advice of keeping in mind that a child is not their behaviour; that is, we are advised to comment on the behaviour rather than attributing adjectives to the child (eg. “Bad thing to say” rather than “bad girl”). However, what you might have not considered is that the same should apply when relating to adults (I surely didn’t). Our adult subconscious minds are as well skewed towards learning and they are just as likely to draw the wrong (ie. Unintended) conclusion if they are repeatedly faced with the same statements (or if the these come in an emotionally charged moment). And watch out for the self-talk as well…your subconscious is always listening.

On the reverse, we can use words purposefully to build beliefs that empower those around us, such as employees, partners or children. Empower yourself and those around you whenever you get the chance!

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