In India, the method for training an elephant is the following: When the elephant is very young, its leg is tied to a small post with a thin piece of rope. At that age the elephant hasn’t the power to break the rope or dislodge the post. It tries for a while and then gives up. As the elephant grows, there’s no reason to increase the girth of the rope or the post. The elephant of course reaches such size and strength that it could, if it wanted, easily break free from the restraint. But having tried and failed earlier, it stops trying, convinced that it’s entrapped ...Doesn’t that sound like us?
Nothing has such a direct impact on our success in life as our beliefs. Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, says “What the mind conceives and believes, it achieves.” Joseph Chilton Pearce, author of Magical Child, says “Belief effects perception.” Our beliefs affect what we see and what we accomplish.
If you’re to succeed in achieving your life’s dreams, you must begin to adopt what motivational speaker Wayne Dyer calls “No Limit Thinking.” What you can’t do is only what you can’t do yet. You are equipped like every other human being with the capabilities necessary to accomplish your goals. Author Richard Bach says:
“Nobody is given a dream without the power to make it come true.”
Unfortunately, our beliefs are resistant to change because of the method we use for applying evidence to substantiate them. Sometimes we develop a negative belief which starts as a misinterpretation of an event in our lives. That misinterpretation is reinforced by subsequent misinterpretations to the point that the original misinterpretation is now seen as incontrovertible fact. We make our beliefs into reality.
When I was five years old, my family moved into a new neighborhood. The neighborhood kids had been friends with the previous occupants and weren’t open to newcomers. The day I arrived, half the neighborhood kids were in my backyard on my swing set. When I went out there to join in, they wouldn’t let me. They told me I didn’t belong there and that I was stupid and ugly. The wound was substantial. In that moment, I decided that I was undesirable.
From then on, I carried that scar with me. Each new interaction was colored by my decision that I was undesirable. Somehow, I would telegraph my undesirability to others who would use that information, received unconsciously by them, to hold me at a distance. I’d sense their distance and would use it to prove to myself that my notion of my undesirability was accurate. Each new interaction would reinforce my belief, and my belief would recreate the types of interactions which proved the belief true. Further, the inner feeling, which I’d been trained to trust as accurate, would deepen my conviction about my own undesirability. But was I really undesirable or was I just the victim of my misunderstanding of the original situation?
If I were to choose to change that belief, what would I have to face? Well, I’d have to face the feeling that the belief was true, and I’d have to face the voices in my head that would remind me of all the times that things happened which proved the belief to be true. To change the belief, I’d have to fly in the face of both historical evidence and bodily knowing in the form of emotions. That’s a lot of power! What’s the answer? Where could I find the strength to overcome such powerful evidence?
The answer is something known as reframing. Reframing is a technique for looking at a particular situation or set of circumstances and challenging oneself to find the most empowering, resourceful interpretation of that situation. It often requires creative thinking and is underlined by the idea that no situation has an inherently correct interpretation except that which we give it. In other words, there are many ways to view any circumstance and our charge is not to find the right interpretation but to find the most useful interpretation, the one that helps us meet our goals, the one that we will also accept as viable.
Suppose it’s my goal to be happy. Which is a more useful frame to put around the story I told about my childhood? That I was, in fact, fundamentally undesirable or that I was a perfectly normal child who happened to stumble into an unfriendly situation? Which evaluation would have served me more in my growth?
There are probably some among you who, like me in my past, feel that reframing a situation is inherently dishonest. If you’re one of them, let me suggest that you consider the underlying belief that your negative interpretation of a situation is correct. Just because it feels true and has a historic context, does that make it true? Is it not possible that your interpretation is really a misinterpretation? Perhaps you’re holding yourself back from thriving because of outmoded adherence to an indefensible view. Whenever I feel that I must maintain my view of anything, I try to remember the words of Ram Dass, who says, “You’re not who you think you are.” If you’re not who you think you are, how can you defend your position?
Here are some powerful reframes, which, once adopted by your deep subconscious mind, will activate your enthusiasm, creativity, and sense of possibility:
There are no problems, only opportunities.
Those who cause me emotional pain are my teachers, helping to point out the emotional addictions I need to overcome.
What I’ve failed to accomplish doesn’t prove my incapability but my lack of adequate knowledge to this point. There is no failure; only feedback.
When I share my pain, I become more truly human.
Take a few minutes to make your unconscious beliefs conscious. Ask yourself what you believe about yourself, about your role in society, about your capabilities, about the world around you, about family and friends, about men, about women, about your past, about your future, about God, about life and death, and about the role of belief in your future.
Take these questions one at a time and spend one minute writing as many answers as you can to each as quickly as you can, without pausing to reflect. Look for ways of reframing your unresourceful beliefs, finding empowering ways to look at your situation without sacrificing your hold on reality. Be as diligent as you can. With time, you will find your life becoming more satisfying and manageable, even before you’ve actually done anything to change your life circumstances.
(Author: Steve Taubman)