Do you know the story of the 1843 novel by Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol”? 13 It is the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a cold-hearted and greedy man. He did not enjoy life very much, which was depressing to those around him. Scrooge faced redemption after an encounter with the three ghosts of Christmas: the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come. By seeing the consequences of his limiting beliefs in the past, present, and future, he changed his outlook by the end of the story.
A powerful exercise to change beliefs is to meet with the ghosts of your past, present, and future. You can use this to associate your limiting beliefs with negative emotions. Likewise, this exercise can help you associate empowering beliefs with positive emotions, so you can adopt empowering beliefs and avoid negative beliefs.
Let me walk you through a life-changing exercise. This exercise is one of the most powerful, transformative processes ever created for changing a core-limiting belief into a more empowering belief. It’s called the Dickens Technique. Even if you can’t identify a core belief to start with, you can come back and do this exercise again and again.
Remember, your unconscious mind controls over 95% or more of your behavior. 9 That’s where core beliefs reside. However, these beliefs often do not occur to us as beliefs. Instead, they appear as “just the way things are.”
You can believe anything you want. You will find evidence for whatever you choose to believe. Your brain will find proof for that belief, and it will omit information that is contrary to it. So no matter what you believe, it will show up to you as being the way things are. That is why a core limiting belief can be tricky to identify.
Mindfulness to the Rescue
Since changing your unconscious beliefs requires that we first identify them, mindfulness plays a critical role in becoming aware of them. When you are mindful or aware of the thoughts that form your beliefs, you can then work on replacing limiting beliefs with more empowering ones.
When you regularly practice mindfulness meditation, it gradually clears and peels away layers of negative mental and emotional imprints. This cleansing process also leaves mental space for new positive and life-enhancing beliefs to emerge.
Next, we will dive deeper into your unconscious mind to identify those beliefs and mindsets that might be sabotaging your success.
Action Step: Identifying a Core Belief or Mindset
When identifying a core belief, it is helpful to start with your big vision. If you have a written vision statement that you have created for your business or your life, spend a few minutes looking at it.
If you do not have a vision statement, take a long, slow, deep breath and be fully present. I will ask you a few questions to help you clear your mind. Take out a notebook and write down the answers to the following questions. Write your answers quickly without putting too much thought into them. Let your answers flow like a stream of consciousness.
Imagine that it is 12 months from today and that you have just had one of your best and most successful years. What was most remarkable about that year to you? What made it a success? Take a moment and reflect on that.
Hold that vision of success in your mind as you determine your most limiting thought about what it is going to take to get you there. Be brutally honest, confess, and come clean.
Maybe you don’t believe it is possible. If so, ask yourself why you cannot achieve this vision. What are you afraid might be true? What could stop you from reaching that goal or that vision?
What do you think about yourself? What is it about the way you are? What would stop you from being successful?
Next, consider what you think about the world. What do you think about life itself? What would stop you from attaining your goal or vision? Stop and write down your answer to this question.
What did you discover to be underneath these investigations? What is the most fundamental idea that you have about yourself or your life? What is holding you back?
Your limiting belief is probably not going to be sophisticated. It is going to sound more like the voice of a child. It will probably be straightforward and simple. You may have written something like, “I am not good enough,” or “I am just not capable.”
When you get to that core belief, it will resonate with you, and you will feel it. It will feel like, “Yeah, this has been true all my life. I wish it were different, but this is the way it is.” Spend time reflecting on these questions until you feel like you have found a core limiting belief you can work on changing.
If you were unable to find a core belief, here a few examples:
- I can’t do anything about it.
- It’s their problem.
- I am overwhelmed.
- I am not responsible.
- I can’t figure them out.
- They don’t understand me.
- No one appreciates me.
- No one else can do things as well as I can.
- I need to be in control of everything that goes on in my organization.
- I need complete information to make a decision.
- I need everything to be perfect before it leaves my office.
- When things go even a little bit wrong, I need to take over.
- I like the feeling of being needed by my team.
- I can’t find good employees.
- I don’t trust my staff to complete what needs to get done, especially if I am not there.
- I dislike conflict and tend to avoid it.
- It is imperative for our team to have harmony.
- I don’t want to show my human side at work through humor, apologizing, asking for advice, or other ways to be vulnerable.
- No one listens to me.
If you identified a core belief, you probably felt it in your body. Your emotions are the bridge between your mind and your body. Emotions influence your mind and your body, and your mind and body are influenced by your emotions. The key to changing a core belief is to change the emotional associations you have with those beliefs.
When it comes to associations, it usually begins with a thought, and that thought creates an emotional reaction that affects your body. So, the key to changing a belief is to go right to the source: the emotional response that you experience because of certain thought patterns. Here’s where mindfulness comes in. When you practice being mindful of your daily thought patterns, it will lead you to be mindful of your emotional reactions and limiting beliefs.
The best way to become aware of your daily thought patterns is to take up the practice of mindfulness meditation.