Can you honestly say that your belief system is primarily rooted in a hopeful sense of optimism? Or is it entrenched in negative thought patterns that hold you back from genuine happiness? If that's the case, it may be time to "break up" with the beliefs that no longer serve you.
Your belief system provides a core set of values to live by. These values define how you think and act -- and how you expect others to respond to you. Essentially, your belief system originates from experiences you've had throughout life with family, friends, work associates, even complete strangers. Each one of these beliefs conveys a message that takes hold in your mind and permeates your sense of self and your personal ethics.
Over a lifetime, you accumulate memories and experiences that can do one of two things. They can be a comfort to you and propel you through life with optimism or they can hold you back and prevent you from attaining real happiness.
The path to positive change is often spearheaded by a crisis. The good news is that difficult times can be teaching moments that help you determine what's truly important in life. A sense of mindful perspective in a seemingly gloomy situation may just be your next opportunity for growth and a chance to develop new skills. It's helpful to scrutinize your beliefs every once in a while, in order to see yourself and the world in a new light. You'll find that re-examining what makes you tick may provide the focus to become a better person, leader, business owner, parent and friend. We are all creatures of habit, but we can easily get stuck in a rut of negativity that stagnates our spirit.
It's not easy to redefine what you believe. But without performing a "housecleaning" at regular intervals throughout life, you may find it difficult to identify your route to true contentment. Collecting this information, and amending it as needed, requires commitment and clarity. This is a process that authenticates your personal story. And it's a story that can change on the turn of a dime. Financial setbacks or illness, and relationships that break down can all turn everything inside out without warning. When trouble rears its ugly head, practicing the art of cognitive reappraisal can be your anchor in the storm.
All this process requires is time and the willingness to look at who you are, where you've come from and how you wish to move forward. The secret is to believe in your potential and be fearless about discarding the old, limiting beliefs that imprison your mind, while upholding the beliefs that empower you. Your prevailing beliefs or "mental models" are there, waiting in the shadows. Only by examining them, fully understanding and becoming conscious of them do you have any real chance to change restrictive beliefs.
So, exactly how do you implement this process?
1. Identify your belief system.
There are many ways to do this such as working with a coach or therapist or, if you are particularly introspective, through journaling. The idea is to remain inquisitive in order to discern how your core beliefs serve you, for good or for ill. Your limiting beliefs will reveal themselves in repetitious, painful thoughts such as: "I'm not good enough," "Why does this always happen to me?" or "No matter what I do, I can't get ahead." An unobserved mind can be a dangerous thing. If you're oblivious to the thoughts that hold you back then you'll never be able to shift them. However, if you genuinely want to uncover the beliefs that have not been helpful to you, you can reimagine them to achieve a constructive and comfortable fit.
Start practicing fact-finding behaviors that will help you step into a new frame of mind, and assimilate new mental models so you can begin to live according to the adjustments you have made. When you re-evaluate your beliefs, you are in a position to consciously break free of pain and suffering.
In my book Kensho: A Modern Awakening, I interviewed self-inquiry authority Byron Katie about identifying and changing beliefs. Katie maintains that the most vital thing to be aware of is our stressful thoughts -- the thoughts that cause all our suffering. She suggests recording those limiting thoughts on paper, and then questioning them. She affirms that if you do this, "the truth sets you free."
William James, championed as the "Father of American psychology" said that the "greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another." So, choose your thoughts well and "break up" with the ones that hold you back from realizing true happiness.