Beliefs often make up a huge part of who we are or how we define ourselves to others. Be it spirituals beliefs, beliefs about relationships, family, money or just morality and ethics, we are all driven at our core by our beliefs and their structure. There isn’t very much you do in a day that isn’t spurred on or influenced by your personal belief system. I can’t count the number of times a day I say or think “I believe…” and I’m not counting the “Facts” one knows to be true, I’m just talking about my personal belief structure.
Perhaps, this is why it is so difficult to change or let go of beliefs. They are usually very grounded in our soul and were instilled in us at a very young age when we were pliable and easy to influence. At some point in life most people become very rigid and not open to change, which makes letting go of beliefs that no longer work for us a challenge. However, if you are ever going to attain an Intentional Life you almost HAVE to be willing to look at your beliefs and let go of the ones that really don’t apply to you or are inhibiting your growth toward your goals. Often these are beliefs we obtained from our parents that really are not a proper fit for us, but we cling to them anyway because “that is just how things are”. In actuality those beliefs, while possibly nice or good for most people, could be what is preventing you from true happiness and the road to intentional living. To live intentionally you must have beliefs you chose intentionally, as opposed to those chosen for you.
Here is an example from my life, I held a certain belief related to family that was basically family should support you and help you in times of need. I clung desperately to this belief because it is what I was told, it was what I had always done for others in my family, and the belief that it was true is very comforting and gives a warm fuzzy I wanted desperately to believe in so I would feel less alone and less like I was twisting in the wind with all external forces working against me. However, in 39 years of living I can count on maybe one hand the number of times my family has actually been there to help me in tough times. Worse still, I can narrow that down to about 3 people who meet the requirements of my belief. So the belief wasn’t really true, and it was creating a lot of disappoint for me as family would habitually and regularly disappoint me by being selfish, unapproachable, or down right cruel. When I got married I continued to hold to my belief and hoped that maybe a family with less mental illness than mine would support my belief better. Interestingly enough, I find the belief is still not holding true and the more I share this with others, the more I hear that others share my experience; so while not universally true, family being unsupportive is just as likely as family being supportive.
So where does that leave me? Clinging to a belief that family will be there in tough times, then family isn’t there in tough times, then I am disappointed and fail because I don’t have the support I counted on in my tool box. Its all very hurtful and creates feelings of anger and distrust. So I have the option of continuing to cling to this faulty belief, or I can let go of the belief and create a new and improved belief that goes something like this:
People who truly care about you and love you will be there for you when you need them without judgment or persecution.
See my original belief had a fallacy of logic in it. It assumed that the group of family included only people who love and care about you. Unless you have the world’s best family (kudos to you if you do), I think we can all see the problem there, it is false. Not everyone is going to love you, or act selflessly toward you, simply because they share your DNA or even your belief that they should. However, by definition, people who love and care about you will likely support you and act selflessly toward when their life allows it. Beliefs that need letting go often contain a fallacy in logic, which makes them easy to spot. If a belief makes an assumption in order to be true, you can bet it probably has a fallacy of logic in it too. (I love logic)
Unfortunately for me, I have spent a lot of time and many tears on this specific belief and trying to let it go. As I get older and have built a family of my own, I have gotten better at making the mental and emotional shift away from my original belief about family. It isn’t perfect yet, but it is far better than it used to be. Some may see this as a pessimistic view of life, the alteration of my belief in this manner, but to me it is actually very optimistic. I haven’t said no one is ever there to support me, I have simply redefined who is there by using real world experiences to support my change in definition. This has led to an overall greater satisfaction in life and more realistic expectations of family. For me, this is a happier way to live. I haven’t removed expectations, I’ve just changed the name of the game to reflect what is really happening. You can believe something all you like, but it rarely makes it so, and often leads to dissatisfaction.
Just the other weekend I told my friend Dink that I would rather fill my life, and my children’s lives, with chosen family members who really care about us, than to waste time and effort on blood family that can’t seem to see past their own needs. My kids deserve an awesome family and if I have to let go of my original, and frankly antiquated, definition of family in order to provide them with one, that is exactly what I will do. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t managed to fully let go of this belief, it is hard to change your hard wired center, but I work on it every day and I am no longer surprised or hurt when family disappoints, sad I agree, but a necessary shift for me so I no longer feel the stab in my back. My belief that I need to let go of this belief is further supported on a regular basis, which helps in the letting go process. Nothing like being proven wrong on a daily basis to make change easy.
There are other beliefs that people hold that limit their intentional life or severely inhibit their personal growth. Some of these I have touched on before, like believing you are a victim, or have bad luck, or are guilty of something. Certainly believing you are a victim or that you deserve to be victimized is something one should let go of. Broad definitions of belief that impact your self-esteem or ability to act outside your comfort zone need to be addressed first. I think everyone can benefit from letting go of at least one strongly held belief. I know it sounds terrible, but if you really look at your life, and the ways in which you are unhappy, or areas where you experience un-fulfillment, you will probably find a big old useless belief sitting in the road blocking your way forward.
If a belief inhibits your ability to be happy, or it results in your sacrificing something that makes you happy, you must let it go and replace it with an improved version of the belief.
I’m not talking about commandments or the obvious beliefs that help society run smoothly. Certainly the belief of ‘thou shalt not kill’ is a nice one for all of us, even if you aren’t religious. However, if someone is trying to kill or harm you, then the belief structure quickly changes and it now become acceptable to kill, doesn’t it? Not guilty by self-defense. This is a shift in beliefs, a modification to address a wider variety of options and outcomes. So sometimes, instead of letting go of a belief completely, you can just make modification that result in a better belief.
Almost by definition beliefs can’t just go changing on the fly willy nilly, or they cease to truly be beliefs. However, beliefs that no longer work, are mucking up the system, or creating undo damage to your life are not necessary, and should be let go of or modified. What beliefs do you hold fast to that really inhibit your growth and future happiness? Share them, I bet you aren’t the only person stuck.
What I’m Reading: Remember Me? By Sophie Kinsella If you have ever hoped to just wake up a better version of yourself, it is an interesting light hearted read with a lesson about what you may have to sacrifice to be this so called improved version.
What I’m also reading: The Amateur’s Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness by Britt Reints. This woman was brave enough to do what I have always wanted to try, a cross country road trip with my family in an RV for a year. I’d love to be this much of a risk taker, and maybe when we have less dogs I’ll be brave enough to do this. What a great education for my kids, seeing the land they call home up close and personal.
What I’m listening to: Screaming children
New thing learned today: Septic systems are far more complex than you think, and there is a lot of money to be had in poop. Note to my children, if you plan to be rich, plan to wade in shit.