How to Permanently Change Your Beliefs
(No Affirmations Required)
You’ll hear me talk a lot about the importance of working on your beliefs.
So, what is a belief? A belief is any statement about reality that you hold as “the truth.” Not all beliefs are harmful. Some are useful simplifications of how the world works that save us time and energy. Such as “stoves are hot” “knives are sharp” and “red means stop."
But some beliefs that we hold get in the way of us living the lives we desire. Why is this? Because the majority of our days are run by our unconscious minds, aka our beliefs. So the majority of our actions are congruent with what we believe to be true, not with what we think or know to be true.
This is why you can know you should do one thing, but do the opposite no matter how hard you try!
Although not all beliefs are harmful, I’ll be talking about the harmful ones because those are the focus of the change work I do. Learning about negative and limiting beliefs can seem like a downer at first, but once you experience the process of eliminating them, I think you’ll be just as passionate about them as I am.
The beliefs that I help people change fit into three general categories:
Self or core beliefs - things that you hold to be true about yourself, such as:
I’m not good enough
I’m not important
Life or world beliefs - things that you hold to be true about the world in general, such as:
Life is hard
Mistakes are bad
Strangers are dangerous
Specific beliefs - things you hold to be true about a specific thing, such as:
There’s not enough money to go around
Hiring is hard
This industry is feast or famine
Okay, for now that will serve as a brief introduction to beliefs, and specifically the ones that limit us.
So how do we eliminate them?
I’ll give a high level overview here, if you want to dive deep you'll be able to download the Belief Change Bible soon.
Before we change anything, it’s important to document what we're changing, so we can do a before and after comparison. So before eliminating a belief, we’ll document a problematic behavior or emotion that’s stemming from that belief. That way when the behavior stops without making a conscious effort we know we were successful. We could call this Phase 0.
The process for actually changing our beliefs can be broken down into three general phases:
Phase 1: Activate
In the first phase, our goal is to activate the belief and the associated emotional memory content that we wish to change. If your mind were a library, the specific beliefs would be stored on specific pages in specific books. If you realize there’s an error in a book, you can’t just randomly start shouting things in the library. You need to find the specific book in the library, open it to the right page, and then make a targeted edit. In phase one, we’re finding the correct book and the specific page, and opening to that page. You can’t make an edit to a book you don’t have open!
The process of activating the correct content involves saying the belief out loud, and identifying the experiences and memories that generated the belief in the first place. Together, these steps bring the right book and the right page into the conscious mind.
Phase 2: Mismatch
In phase 2, we make the actual edits to the book. Finding the specific page is a large part of the process, but it’s not enough if we just open and close the book without changing anything. This is the trap a lot of attempts at change fall into. They open and close books endlessly, but never actually change anything!
And here’s why: our mind has an internal librarian that prevents us from making edits willy nilly. Otherwise we’d have a bunch of gibberish written all over our different books, and we wouldn’t know what to trust or not. So the librarian acts as a gatekeeper, ensuring that a few key conditions are met before we can make any edits. The first condition is that we’re editing the right book and the right page, see phase 1 for that. The second condition is that we have a compelling and believable improvement or edit to make. Note the word improvement. If the change doesn’t move you in a positive direction, it won’t count.
If you have a compelling, believable edit to make, but don’t know the right page to make it, no dice. The librarian will veto you, and no change will occur. This is another mistake that so many people make. They know they are good enough, and they try to just shout that throughout the library without finding the right book to edit, and the librarian shushes them.
Similarly, if you know the dewey decimal number and the title of the book, and you find it on the right shelf, and you know the page number, but you don’t have a compelling, believable improvement or edit to make, the inner librarian will put the kibosh on your attempt and again no change will occur.
But, when you know the right book and page, and you open the book to that page. And you have a compelling improvement to make, you can make a clean and permanent edit to the book. And then once you close the book, your brain will use the new and improved version going forward, without any effort.
In practice, the mismatch process involves creating one or multiple alternative ways of interpreting the relevant memory content. This looks like a new perspective or different meaning to attribute to the experiences and memories that generated the belief in the first place. There are a few more specifics to how you make the edit, but this is how you do it generally.
Phase 3: Check
So we’ve found the right spot + created a compelling improvement (thereby granting the librarian’s permission to make changes) and finally made the edit.
All that’s left to do at this point is to check the belief, and check the pattern stemming from it. We check the belief by saying it out loud once more, like we did in phase 1, and checking for emotional resonance. If the emotional resonance that we felt at first is gone, we know we’ve successfully eliminated the belief.
Then we check the pattern by imagining the same type of circumstances that were troubling us before, now in a future instance. If the circumstances no longer produce a troubling response, we know we’ve cleared the pattern entirely. If there is a new or altered trouble in the circumstance, we look for additional beliefs that are contributing to the pattern and repeat the process from the beginning with the new belief.