By Dr. Paula Fellingham
Let’s talk today about turning negative beliefs into positive ones.
Years ago I was profoundly impressed with a quote by William James: “The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their beliefs.”
Although we’ve learned that our beliefs determine who we become, many of us often catch ourselves thinking negative thoughts that are based on our negative beliefs. I’d like to suggest a highly effective way to turn our beliefs from negative to positive.
To begin any change, first we need to identify beliefs, because we can’t alter what we don’t acknowledge. And if we refuse to acknowledge our own self-destructive beliefs and behaviors, not only will they continue, they’ll become more deeply entrenched and grow more resistant to change.
Acknowledgement of our weaknesses (and strengths) requires absolute honesty about what is and what isn’t working in our lives. We need to know both what’s working, which we can celebrate, and what’s not, so we can fix it.
I understand that it’s difficult to re-examine our core beliefs; to scrutinize the personal convictions we’ve held for years. We do this, though, because some of our closely-held beliefs might be preventing us from reaching our goals and becoming our ideal selves. Defining and questioning those beliefs is the first step.
To discover your long-held limiting beliefs, ask why you either succeed or fail in each of the life areas listed below. Ask yourself two questions for each one:
Do I excel in this area? If not, why not?
- With Relationships
Here’s an example of how to do this: Begin with “Physical” and ask yourself these two questions:
Question #1: “Do I excel?” Example answer: “No.”
Question #2: “Why not?” Example answers: “I was never any good at sports” or, “I was overweight” or, “My parents didn’t encourage me.
Ask yourself “Do I excel?” and “Why not?” for every life area.
Changing your negative beliefs about yourself depends on your desire and willingness to improve, and learning/using key skills. One key is to replace negative self-talk and actions with positive ones.
What thoughts and actions can replace negative beliefs? Think something like this:
“Even though I wasn’t involved in sports in school, it isn’t too late to start getting in shape now!” Or, “I can swim each morning with the community group at the local pool or jog around the high school track before work in the mornings ~ I’ll soon be in great shape and feel awesome!” The next step is to take action and begin working out regularly.
Another exercise that provides clarity begins with asking yourself the following questions:
“What will the consequences be (what will happen) if I continue believing as I do?”
“Will those consequences bring me happiness or unhappiness?”
“What would I have to believe to enjoy greater happiness?”
Examining beliefs that keeps you from being as successful as you’d like to be and replacing them with positive ones takes effort, but just as soon as you begin turning your negative beliefs into positive ones you’ll succeed as you never succeeded before.
It begins with believing in the person you’re striving to become.