“Your subconscious mind does not argue with you. It accepts what your conscious mind decrees.” -Dr. Joseph Murphy
I liked to distance run as a child, so in ninth grade I decided to go out for cross country. I went to the introductory meetings, but that was as far as I got. The coach was disappointed when I quit before the season even started. Why did I quit after having been excited about this sport? I suddenly got it into my head that it was going to be too hard.
Where did that “I can’t do it” belief come from? I’m not exactly sure, but every time I talked to my parents about cross country, they made comments like, “Why do you want to do that?” or “It’s going to be hard.” I don’t recall the exact words, but with every comment they made, I realized I was not going to be supported if I continued cross country. If I had been strong, I would have done it anyway, if only out of a desire to prove myself. But unfortunately, I was weak and had little self-confidence at that time.
Going into my senior year, I realized that it was my last chance to run cross country. I didn’t want to graduate from high school having regrets. During that previous three years, I had developed greater confidence in myself, so I went for it. I had a great time and loved being part of a team. I made some good friends, whom I wished I had gotten to know years earlier. However, I was never a strong competitor and was always back running with the freshmen girls. The other seniors, having had trained the previous three years, were out of my league. It was disappointing knowing I could have been like them if I hadn’t quit in 9th grade.
It would be easy to blame my parents for not supporting me, but I don’t. They simply weren’t, and still aren’t, interested in sports or competition. They didn’t really play sports growing up, and none of my brothers really did either. I think that they also weren’t excited about the prospect of having to drive me to and from practices and meets, which would have demanded a lot of their time. (And let’s face it, cross-country isn’t exactly thrilling for spectators!) Or maybe they wanted to protect me from disappointment and failure. Now I’m able to look back and see other motives for the negative commentary and lack of support, but at the time, all I could see was that they didn’t think I could do it, so it meant I couldn’t do hard things.
This was a belief that limited me–physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially–as I grew up. Thinking that “I can’t” is actually one of the most widespread and destructive beliefs in our society. The belief that “Life is hard” is something I hear all the time. I’ve bought into many beliefs that fall under that category, such as:
- Change is hard.
- Exercise is hard.
- Marriage is hard.
- Raising children is hard.
- Keeping a clean and orderly home is hard.
- Teaching is hard (and unrewarding).
- Overcoming addiction is hard.
- Trials are hard, and necessary in order to grow spiritually.
Are these statements true? In my experience so far, they seem to be. But I wonder how much I’ve needlessly struggled and suffered simply because I have always believed things are supposed to be hard? Maybe everything would seem easier if I change this idea that “Life is hard” to more empowering belief, such as that “I flow easily and effortlessly through all the challenges and experiences life brings.”
There are countless other limiting beliefs, especially in the areas of finances and love. A lot of our limiting beliefs come from adults who have influence over us as we’re growing up, as was the case in this example. But these kinds of beliefs can come from anywhere: our peers, the media, myths, debunked science, etc. Beliefs are never “true,” they are simply a models that help us make sense of our world. However, in our minds, they represent reality as we know it. Our subconscious minds make no distinction between fantasy and reality, truth and fiction. It simply takes at face value whatever our conscious mind feeds it.
So, if we don’t examine our beliefs, the scary thing is that these programs are running us and could be sabotaging our success without our even realizing it. The good news is that we can reprogram these beliefs so that our minds work for us rather than against us, so that we can reach our goals. How can this be done? Use this simple tool I learned from Jack Canfield (author of The Success Principles):
- Brainstorm all the beliefs you can think of that you feel are limiting you. Make a list of all the things you heard growing up that might somehow still be limiting you. Identify which belief you want to change.
- Determine how this belief limits you.
- Decide how you’d rather be, act, or feel.
- Create a turnaround statement that affirms or gives you permission to be, act, or feel this new way.
An example using this tool might look like this:
- “I can’t do hard things.”
- This keeps me from taking on challenges that help me grow and allow me to create, keeps me from joining new social circles and creating new friendships, and contributes to low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence.
- I would rather face challenges with a positive attitude that I can succeed. I would like to feel empowered and capable. I’d love to accomplish more.
- “I am capable of succeeding at challenging tasks.” Or, “I enjoy new experiences that challenge me and make me grow.”
Once you’ve created your empowering turnaround statement, to reprogram your subconscious mind, speak it out loud several times a day for a minimum of 30 days. Repetition and intensity are the keys here. This process is powerful. Any idea implanted this way can penetrate the subconscious mind, going deeper than reason, deeper than the conscious mind could ever hope to go.
Why should life keep being hard when it doesn’t have to be? I know I’m going to be working on this over the next month. I hope you’ll give it a try, too!