Recently, my personal trainer asked whether I played sports when I was younger. She assumed the answer was yes because, as she put it, I have “natural athletic ability.”
I thought she must be joking.
Not only have I never played sports, I had a doctor’s permission to skip phys ed class for the majority of my school years. I have always been the opposite of athletic. I took up yoga in college. I like to walk. I owned a bicycle once.
When I was in my early 30’s, I climbed into a kayak for the first time, and I started hiking. Partly for social reasons. Partly because it gets me into nature. Two years ago, I started experimenting with weight training to gain strength.
So I’m more physically active now than at any other time in my life, but I am not athletic. Why? Because I have never believed myself to be.
It really is that simple.
My trainer, though, has a different view of what my body is capable of. This week, I put on gloves and boxed. (The girl with a medical exemption from phys ed would be amazed by that.)
We live into our beliefs as if we’re compiling evidence. We lead ourselves forward into the reality that we believe to be possible. Slowly, maybe. But surely.
This dynamic plays out in and around our lives every single day. Our thoughts drive our experience. Thoughts do, in fact, become things. Things like emotions, words, actions, habits, results, values.
They become our life.
Examining what you believe is a critical path to getting the results– and creating the life– that you want.
That’s the reason that “What do you believe about that?” and “Why do you believe that?” and simply, “Is that true?” are some of my favorite questions to ask.
Tell me what you believe.
- Do you believe in your capacity to build what you desire?
- Do you believe that you have what it takes to get the promotion or start a business? Or that the competition is too fierce and you aren’t ready?
- Do you believe that work-life balance is an impossible media myth? Or do you believe that balance, as you define it, is a non-negotiable in your life?
- Do you believe you can do hard things? Or that you will be defined by that one hard thing (that you’ve already survived)?
- Do you believe that you can define your lifestyle and what success looks like for you?
- What do you believe– and not believe– about yourself? About your big dream? About how you should spend your time?
Your beliefs aren’t right or wrong, bad or good. This is where it’s easy to trip up. Put judgment aside and ask instead, “What results are those beliefs producing?” It’s really a matter of whether those are the results that you want.
Research in the field of positive psychology shows that we can create positive change—and a more optimistic viewpoint— by disputing our own beliefs instead of taking them as gospel all the time. I’d argue that it shows us that we should challenge our own thinking, especially when we’re not getting results that we’re happy with.
It’s a habit that takes time to grow. It’s a perspective shift and a practice, one that starts with simple awareness. Often, it helps to start with the result—or whatever you believe to be the trigger that led to that result. Then, you can trace it back to emotions and beliefs.
Maybe, just maybe, what you believe isn’t the only option out there. Maybe it needs revisiting. Maybe it’s not even tethered to reality.
Maybe you could try on a new perspective that would create a different feeling and a different result. You get to choose.
As for me, I’m perfectly happy never playing a sport or scaling a mountain. But I am getting fit in a way that feels good to me– something that would not be happening if I had not challenged my own beliefs.
Is something you believe tripping you up– or holding you back from creating what you want?
Maybe it’s time to put that belief to the test and see what becomes possible for you.
Photo credit:davidmulder61 via photopin