What Do You Believe?
So you went to a party last night and ate “way” more than you should have? You told yourself you weren’t going to. You were only going to eat one small plate-full of “veggies.” You had it all planned out, but then you got to the party – and everything fell apart. You started with the veggie tray. Things were going well for awhile, but then you saw the meatballs, the cheese ball, the little stuffed pastries and things just sort of “happened.” Before you knew it, you were sampling everything in sight. Now you are sitting there feeling a little depressed, upset with your self, feeling weak-willed, maybe even wondering what the heck went wrong.
Sound familiar? How many times have we had the best of intentions “go up in smoke” in the face of temptation? How many times have we set out to “be good” only to follow right back down the path we usually take and wind up feeling like a bloated, power-less, total loser?
There seems to be “something” that just takes over. It’s almost like we can’t help ourselves. We know what we want to do, we just somehow wind up doing what we usually do. It’s frustrating, isn’t it?
It is easy to walk away from such an experience feeling like a failure. It is likely that we will feel like we have no will-power, that maybe something is wrong with us. We often feel like giving up. “What’s the use? No matter how hard I try, I just keep winding up doing the same thing over and over.” We might even be feeling that we might as well just accept the inevitable and buy bigger clothes.
What most people don’t know, however, is that the problem has a much simpler solution than most of us ever could have imagined. Allow me to explain.
At the moment of truth, when we put down the veggies and picked up the meatballs, we were simply falling into temptation – or were we? It just “sort of happened, without thinking much about it” – or did it? We tell ourselves these things, and thereby, ironically, we bury the truth even further. The truth is it didn’t “just happen.” In actuality, a profoundly complex and intricate process occurred in our brains that we were almost completely unaware of. In that moment of transition from veggies to meatballs, a virtual battle was going on between two major forces in our brains, the conscious and the subconscious. Unfortunately, it was not a fair battle. Our subconscious won by a landslide and off we went, eating everything, as usual.
In our conscious mind, we were thinking: “Stick to the veggies, drink water, maybe just one meatball or two.” In our subconscious mind, however, we were busy evaluating what we really believe we should be doing right now. Housed in our subconscious mind is what we have come to know as our belief system. Our belief system is, quite literally, the vast collection of beliefs about the world as we know it. It is at the very core of who we are and how we think things are or should be. It is built from experiences we have had, beginning from the time we were old enough to even register memories.
So back to the meatballs; our subconscious mind was screaming thoughts from our core belief system: “Meatballs taste good, veggies taste not so good.” “Food means celebration, passing up food means no celebration.” “Restraining oneself from eating means depriving oneself of the simple pleasures in life.” Pounding away were the pesky little irrational beliefs: “It’s only one night, I can pick it back up tomorrow.” “Look at everyone else enjoying their fill, and here I am, with a plate full of rabbit food.” Blaring in the background were the generalizations: “One is not satisfied until he feels full.” “Veggies don’t satisfy an appetite, meatballs do.”
I could go on forever, but you get the point. Our conscious mind was simply no match for the thousands, perhaps millions, of messages being generated by our belief system. Unfortunately, we weren’t listening to those messages – or were we? Paradoxically, we were listening to those messages, loud and clear. The proof is in the behavior. We ate the meatballs, didn’t we? (And the cheese ball? And everything else on the table?) We simply didn’t know we were listening to those messages. We probably didn’t even know the messages were occurring.
We call these messages, generated by our belief systems, automatic thoughts. Most people are almost completely unaware that any thinking is going on at all. That’s precisely what makes them so diabolical. They fly below the radar and drive our behaviors, virtually undetected. Then, when we see ourselves doing the very thing we swore we were not going to do, it seems like some mysterious force has taken over and rendered us powerless. It’s no mysterious force, it’s our very own belief system, built from scratch by our life experiences. Our belief systems are powerful, literally driving nearly every human behavior.
That sounds like bad news doesn’t it – human beings being driven by a powerful belief system that causes them to do things they don’t want to do? On the surface, yes, but let’s take a closer look. What if you could change that belief system? What if you could re-configure this powerful driving force to support doing the things you really want to do? Here’s the good news – you can.
That’s right – you can! Ironically, the same mysterious force that seemingly has doomed a person to keep doing what they don’t want to do, over and over again, can with a little practice, be transformed into an equally powerful force that keeps a person doing what he wants to do, over and over again. Sound too good to be true? Guess again.
Thousands of people the world over have learned the secret, and the numbers are growing. Over the past several decades, scores of people have literally transformed their lives by learning to alter their hidden beliefs that for years have kept them hopelessly stuck and frustrated. It’s not magic, voodoo or snake oil, its simply honest-to-goodness, logical effort that works its magic over time. The “secret” is in the process.
So why then, you ask, do you need to be taught to do it? It sounds simple enough, why don’t people just naturally figure it out on their own? The answer to that is wrapped up in the nature of humanity. As human beings, we rarely question the validity of our own beliefs. And why should we? To accept our beliefs as faulty, we have to accept ourselves as faulty – or do we? It sure feels like that to most newcomers. Parting with a belief usually feels like cutting off a part of yourself, like a hand or a foot, which just seems like a really dumb thing to do. Again, the irony. What feels like giving up the power is actually gaining the power, exponentially.
If I am feeding you a line, then you tell me why millions of people, who are highly intelligent and disciplined individuals, walk around with 20-30 extra pounds of body fat, convinced they can’t lose it? Tell me why millions more don’t exercise when they know full well it is one of the best things they could possibly do for themselves? It isn’t fate, it isn’t lack of some mystical force we call “will-power,” it isn’t even laziness – rather, it is an intricate web of hidden personal beliefs that keep one hopelessly locked into repetitive behaviors we call habit.
Do I have your attention? Good. This is the first in a series of articles that will explore the nature of belief systems and unveil the enormous hidden potential each one of us has to master our own hidden thinking. In articles to come, you will learn to tap into this vast reservoir of thought and emotion and build a system of thinking that will, literally, put you in complete control – should you choose to put in the effort.
Want to be able to stick with the veggies? Stay tuned.