Engaging the Power of Belief, Learning, and the Ability to Create Change
“Day by day, in every way, I am getting better and better.”
– Emile Coue
Some years ago, I directed a multi-community coalition for prevention of substance abuse. There were many challenging responsibilities, and at times I felt that I was not up to meeting them. An older, wiser colleague who became a life-long friend shared the quote noted above; she inspired me to learn about and challenge my beliefs.
How powerful is belief?
Significant research in neuroscience demonstrates that our beliefs, meanings, understandings, thoughts, and behaviors actually change us. According to Esther Sternberg, MD, a leading neuroscience expert, “Believing is many things. It can be fervent prayer. It can be thoughtful meditation. It can be deep conviction. Or it can be a set of assumptions so ingrained that we don’t even realize they’re there…. And at the core of such expectation is learning.” ( p. 160)
Can we intentionally choose to change our beliefs and thinking?
Can these changes impact our personal and professional lives?
The answer is a resounding yes.
In many ways, our beliefs frame who we are and who we become. My friend, Bernadette Kohn, DO, sometimes reminds me “we create our own reality.” A more conservative view is that we participate in creating our realities. Thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes are powerful, and impact how we feel about our experiences.
While we may not have control over many events, we do have oversight over our beliefs and how we relate to what happens to us and in the world around us.
- We choose the story we tell ourselves about whatever has happened. We have options to write and edit that story.
- We choose how we respond to ourselves and others, such as with kindness and compassion (or anger or divisiveness).
- We can choose not to believe an inner critic that tells us we are flawed and can put that critic aside using experiences as opportunities to reflect on our beliefs, find meaning, and learn.
Strategies / Calls to Action:
1. Pay attention to your beliefs; recognize that beliefs impact experiences. Notice messages and stories you tell yourself. You have choices about your self-talk, so why not choose positive messages that bolster positive emotions, strengths, connections, and well-being.
2. Understand the connection between your beliefs about adversity, and your emotional and behavioral responses. Many training/education programs in positive psychology are based on the ABC model (Seligman, 2011; Ellis, 1997), which emphasizes that it is our beliefs about an Adversity that cause the feelings we experience. When something happens we create an explanation about what happened and why, and these Beliefs influence our reactions (Consequences).
For example, let’s say you set a goal to walk five days weekly for a half hour. For three weeks you meet your goal. During the fourth week you walk three times, and the fifth week you walk only twice. If your belief is that you never finish anything you start and this is an example of another failure, you might give up on your goal. However, if you believe this is a minor setback, you know that setbacks are part of creating behavior change, and you are renewing your efforts, you may proceed to work successfully toward your goal.
For more information about the ABC model and learning to respond to adversity, click here.
3. Learn to notice things that go right. At the end of each day, practice gratitude. Make a note of the positives and successes of the day, large and small.
4. Calming, awareness-building behaviors like pausing, mindfulness, breath awareness, and meditation can change the brain. Get quiet each day. Choose and practice one or more strategies to help bring awareness to your beliefs. How can you engage these practices to positively impact your life and work?
“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.”
– J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
Resources You May Find Useful:
- Ellis, A. & Harper, R.A, (1997). A Guide to Rational Living. Albert Ellis Institute.
- Pearson, J & Kordich Hall, D. (2006). Reaching IN…Reaching OUT Resiliency Guidebook: Bounce Back Thinking Skills for Children and Adults – Guide 3: Understanding Our Response to Adversity and Stress. The YMCA of Greater Toronto. Retrieved from: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~eap/
- Salzburg, S. (2014). Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace. Workman Publishing, N.Y.
- Seligman, M. (2011). Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being. Atria, NY.
- Sternberg, E. (2001) The Balance Within: The Science Connecting Health and Emotions. W.H. Freeman and Co., NY.
- Berns-Zare, I. (2017). Mindfulness, Self-Awareness and Calm: Powerful Tools for the Effective Leader’s Toolbox. http://
ibzlifecoaching.com/2017/04/ mindfulness-self-awareness- calm-leader/
- Berns-Zare, I. (2016). Mindfulness, Balance, and Confessions of a Life/Work Coach. http://ibzlifecoaching.
com/2016/11/mindfulness- balance-confessions-lifework- coach/
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