What are the forces running your life? Is it your clients, or customers? Your spouse? The economy? The weather? I want to explore this question with you today and to introduce you to a powerful force in your life–the little voice in your head! I want to talk about beliefs: what they are, why they’re so powerful, and what to do about them.
Stories about Beliefs
Let me begin with 3 stories to illustrate 3 ways in which beliefs run our lives.
? How conflicting beliefs can produce stress: The story of Bob and his 13-year-old son who was wearing the same clothes for 5 days in a row. Bob was upset because he believed “you should change your clothes every day.”
? How negative beliefs about ourselves can undermine us and influence our success or failure: The story about my running the half mile in high school and believing I could never beat Joe, one of my teammates, until something happened to change that belief.
? How beliefs affect our behavior and lead to overload: The story about a woman in her 50s who was taught by her mother that “you have to make your bed every day.”
These 3 stories illustrate how beliefs affect our interaction with other people, our self-confidence and self-esteem, and the ways we put pressure on ourselves and add to our own stress.
What are beliefs? Beliefs are the premises and assumptions that we hold about how the world works, how we should behave, what we’re capable of, among other points. They are very powerful for 2 main reasons: one is that we hold our beliefs to be “The Truth,” and so they become “The Truth” for us, leading to self-fulfilling prophesies. The other reason is that most of our beliefs are subconscious. We don’t even know that we have them until we start exploring our behaviors, thoughts and feelings.
Let’s look at some common beliefs, their consequences and some alternatives.
People who are overloaded (especially Type A individuals) are often driven by beliefs such as “you have to work long hours to be successful,” “you have to be busy all the time,” and “you always have to give 110%.” One question to ask is, “Where do these beliefs come from?”
Here’s a story about a man who grew up in the Great Depression. When he was 5 years old, working on the family farm, everyone was expected to do everything fast in order to be more productive and make more money. At age 10, he was selling newspapers and again felt that he had to hurry because the faster he worked, the more money he made.
However, when I saw him as a patient, he was a middle-aged multimillionaire. He didn’t have to hustle anymore, but he was still living his life in overdrive. He did everything quickly, even playing golf. What at one time served him well and delivered a payoff was now unnecessary–even harmful. When he finally started to slow down, he not only felt calmer, but he took 5 strokes off his golf game!
Challenging Your Beliefs
Let’s explore and challenge some of these beliefs that are driving Type A and other busy, overloaded, high-striving people. Here are 3 diagrams that offer some interesting perspectives:
(1) The human function curve shows that performance and productivity increase as stress and arousal increase–but only to a point. Beyond that point, performance and productivity actually start to decline. The message is that when you’re past the peak on the curve, working longer and/or harder is not only unproductive, it’s counterproductive.