There is only one cause of unhappiness: the false beliefs you have in your head, beliefs so widespread, so commonly held, that it never occurs to you to question them. – Anthony de Mello
In fact, the thing that holds us back the most isn’t external resistance, scarcity of resources, or even lack of capability. What holds us back most are our own false beliefs about ourselves, each other, and the world around us.
Behind every bit of reluctance, every hint of futility, every bad habit, is a lie that we’ve let creep in and grow into a belief—something we cling to as if it were true. False beliefs come in all shapes and sizes. Some are small (I’m no good at talking to strangers), some are huge (No one could ever love me), others are personal (I don’t have what it takes to lead others), many are professional (People at work don’t care how I’m feeling).
The first step in dislodging these subtle self-saboteurs is to call them what they are: Lies. At some point someone told you, “you’ll never be any good at math” or “don’t use your hands when you speak” or “that’s how we always do it around here” and you believed them. It probably wasn’t a conscious choice, but it happened. Now you’re living out those beliefs and dealing with the consequences.
The next thing to realize is that you can’t just stop believing something. You can’t delete false beliefs, they must be replaced. Here’s a process I’ve used to do just that:
1. Reflect on your own experiences. Look at the decisions you make—what factors are driving them? Dig into your fears—where do they come from? Identify the assumptions you’re living by—and challenge their validity. Write down the lies you think you believe. This is a difficult, but liberating, action. It’s humiliating to confess on paper some of the stuff we’ve bought into, but the moment we do, those false beliefs lose half their power.
2. Feed yourself truth. Experiment. Read. Listen. Learn. Question. Debate. Wrestle. Journal. Write the truths down that will counter the false beliefs you recorded earlier. The idea is that you’ll have them at the ready should you be tempted to go back to those familiar lies again. What I’ve found, however, is that writing down the counter-truths diminishes the power of false beliefs all the more.
3. Surround yourself with good friends. I define a good friend as someone who both cares about you and will tell you the truth. You can find plenty of people who fulfill one of those requirements, but finding someone that’s committed to you and to telling you the truth is a rare and beautiful gift. Listen to them. Trust them.
How else have you seen false beliefs displaced?