“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates
Close your eyes and imagine sitting in a small and narrow cell. It is completely dark and there are no windows from which even a speck of light could illuminate it. You have been trapped here for quite some time now and can feel the walls closing in day after day. Despondent, with no hope of finding the key to unlatch the door and set yourself free, you resign yourself to the idea that these are your circumstances and that this is where you belong. You have forgotten what it feels like to rise each morning to greet the sun, smell the scent of coffee brewing in the kitchen, or hear the pleasant sound of birds singing softly in the trees. This, dear reader, is your mind when immersed in negative thoughts, the perils and pitfalls of an unexamined set of core beliefs sabotage growth and limit success as well as erode potential for long-term happiness.
Because you are solely responsible for manifesting your goals, it is important to question your beliefs on a regular basis, as doing so allows space for you to clear the clutter that may subconsciously be holding you back from achieving what it is you desire. The beliefs that you must examine, more often than not, are the ones you hold about yourself. When you believe you are incapable or unworthy, you effectively set yourself up for failure, albeit unconsciously, due to stories you have created about who you are, what you can do and what it is you do or don’t deserve to have. Failure then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and self-criticism ensues. Self-sabotage is like a tantalizing cocktail, however toxic, and self-hatred, its loyal bystander, runs through your veins like poison. No longer are you free to see yourself, your life, or your highest potential clearly. You are intoxicated by destructive habits that bypass any chances of finding happiness.
Past experience has taught me that without changing my own belief patterns for the better, I was doomed to general unhappiness. I had to recognize within me a deeply ingrained thought pattern programmed during my earliest childhood years. I believed that, due to having ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), I was not enough. Because I had this core belief, I failed to take advantage of certain opportunities that would enhance the quality of my life. “Not enough” soon morphed into the belief that I was not smart or capable enough, and soon thereafter, my attitudes and behaviors revealed this limited perception I had. You cannot pour from an empty cup and you also can’t effectively handle life’s inevitable ups and downs and put forth positive sustained effort toward your goals if you’re running on faulty programming in your head.
Here are four ways you can change your beliefs to suit your purposes and achieve the happiness you deserve:
1. Identify your triggers
Triggers are things that remind you of something that hurt or upset you in the past. You may not be able to recall these events, but they continue to haunt you in one way or another. Your feelings toward the situations or people who trigger you can actually serve to help you identify any underlying thought patterns that accompany them.
2. Question your stories regarding your triggers
Feelings can only be as comfortable as the quality of your thoughts, because thoughts exist before the corresponding set of emotions that follow them. Your feelings show you how positive or negative your thought patterns are. For example, if and when you feel sad or angry, you can take the time to really tune in to your thoughts and recognize which ones in particular may be sabotaging your happiness in that immediate moment. Then, you can ask yourself whether or not these thoughts are always or necessarily true.
3. Reframe your thoughts to become more positive
“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Similarly, positive thoughts produce emotions that propel you toward actions that are proactive and usually lead to a more rewarding outcome. For example, imagine you are a kid sitting alone in a lunchroom in a brand-new school and haven’t yet made any new friends. If you think you are likeable, you will feel good about yourself and therefore confident in your ability to meet new people and make a positive impression on them. You will then most likely feel more inclined to reach out and introduce yourself to other kids, sit down next to them, and talk to them with ease. When you recognize a negative belief underlying a thought, you can actively work on changing that belief to a healthier one that will help you achieve your goals. Instead of thinking to yourself, “Other people find me boring,” you can reprogram yourself to think, “The people who appreciate me for who I am truly value me and are the only people worthy of my time and attention.” This is called cognitive reframing.
4. Write yourself positive daily affirmations
You become who you think you are. The more you practice a skill, the easier it becomes to master. Learning something new builds new neural pathways in the brain. In a similar vein, when you repeatedly reinforce a thought pattern, it becomes like an old tape recording you play in your subconscious mind whenever something or someone triggers it. Daily positive affirmations help you rewire your mind and alter your neurochemicals. Thinking positively about yourself becomes more automatic with time and effort.
It is never too late to change your thinking and beliefs about yourself. Only when you question those beliefs can you set yourself free, experience more contentment, and bask in the glory and wonder of what your life has to offer you. When this happens, the sun will shine and the path ahead of you will be as clear as day. A new dawn will come. So, give yourself the time, dear reader, to recognize and change your thought patterns for the better. You are more than worth the effort it takes!