How to Change a Belief

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

The above is a statement that I have seen attributed to both Henry Ford and Confucius. According to the TV program Qi, Henry Ford was not a particularly nice person, so I prefer to think of it as being originated by that wise old owl, Confucius. It is a sentence that captures the essence of what it means to think positively; and yet, at the same time, it says so much about the unhelpful habit of pessimism.

To succeed, you need to become an optimist. You need to believe that you can do what you are setting out to achieve, whatever it is. As Walter D. Wintle put it:

Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man,
But sooner or later, the man who wins is the man who thinks he can.

Belief alone is not enough, of course, but without belief you won’t be prepared to put in the necessary effort, so having belief in yourself is absolutely crucial. That brings up the question of how beliefs are formed and, if your beliefs are not serving you, whether or not they can be changed. First off, it is definitely possible to change your beliefs. Isn’t that exactly what people do when they become Christians, for example? They chuck away one belief system and adopt another.

So we do know that it is possible to change our beliefs and, if you have a particular belief that is incongruent with you achieving your goals, then why should you not consider changing it? It seems like a very pragmatic thing to do to me. The process of changing a belief looks like this:

  • Disempowering Belief
  • Doubt / Disbelief
  • New Possibility
  • New Empowering Belief

Moving from stage 1 to stage 2 isn’t at all difficult because, we don’t really know anything at all with one hundred percent certainty. So, simply by asking ourselves to list reasons why our current belief is absurd is a good starting point for making a transition. Additionally, we can ask ourselves why we believe what we do and where is the real, hard evidence. By asking these questions, it is very easy to cause ourselves to doubt the truth of a belief we had previously held to be true and even move us to the understanding that our previous belief is unfounded and therefore possibly untrue.

So, I recommend that you do this with any self-limiting or disempowering belief you hold about yourself and your abilities. Once you have shaken off those negative, disempowering beliefs, you are ready to move forward to installing a new and empowering belief. My own favourite method is by use of affirmation. By repeatedly making positive statements about yourself, it is possible you get your subconscious mind to accept whatever you tell it. So choose the positive beliefs that will be empowering. Often these will be the reverse of your previous disempowering beliefs.

  • I am calm
  • I am positive
  • I am valued
  • I am healthy
  • I am confident
  • I am in control

Say each affirmation three times and repeat the procedure three times per day – nine times per day in total – and keep doing it until you begin to see the results in your life. You should feel different within one month of using positive affirmations and that’s because you will be seeing the effects of these new positive and empowering beliefs.

What will happen as a result is that you will be more calm, confident and in control – or whatever else you decide to affirm. Why? Because a confident person is someone who believes they are confident and therefore acts in a way that we recognise as confident. So your behaviour will naturally begin to change as a consequence of changing your beliefs.

For more on the use of affirmation, join our free affirmations course.

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