Excerpt From The Relationship Handbook: How to Understand and Improve Every Relationship in Your Life by Kevin B. Burk_
If we want to change our lives in any way, all we need to do is to change our words, thoughts and beliefs. When we change the words, we change the world.
Over the course of this handbook, you may discover a number of beliefs that no longer support you. By following this simple, three-step process, you can change your beliefs. By consciously creating beliefs that support us, we can change our reality and enhance our lives.
The first and most important step towards changing our beliefs and improving our lives is to become consciously aware of our beliefs. We must identify each thought that shapes our experiences. We have to name our thoughts. We must become conscious of the exact words that we have been using to create our realities. This is the first step towards mastering our minds.
So much of our life is governed by our unconscious thoughts, beliefs and patterns. We have lived with so many of these thoughts for so long that we believe that they’re actually real. We tell ourselves “that’s just the way things are. ” Many of these thoughts are beliefs about who we are and what we’re entitled to—and almost all of these beliefs deny the truth of who we are, limit our potential and cut us off from the source of our happiness and prosperity.
We must become aware of our thoughts and beliefs. This handbook is designed to support our awareness.
Once we’ve become aware of a belief, the second step is to own it. We must accept it. We must take personal responsibility for it. We must recognize that the belief belongs to us, and that it is a part of who we are. Most importantly, we must accept that we created the belief.
This process is simple, but not always easy. We have to accept and acknowledge that we are responsible for creating beliefs that are often negative, painful, and limiting. On a conscious level we tell ourselves that we would never do this. Why on earth would we choose to believe that we are unworthy, damaged, unlovable, unskilled, unlucky, or any of the millions of other possibilities? Strange as it seems, even our most negative, painful beliefs were created to serve and support us. Every single one of our beliefs exists because the ego is trying to protect us from pain. As painful as the belief itself may be, the ego believes that the pain that the belief shields us from is infinitely greater. Just because these beliefs no longer serve us, doesn’t mean that they are bad or wrong.
It’s often easier to own a belief when we are able to identify the origins of that belief. If we understand that we created a belief to help us cope with a particular experience, we can accept how that belief served us at the time. This process can also help us to uncover beliefs we created because of things we were told as children.
While it’s often helpful to explore where and when we first created a belief, we have to be careful. Our egos will encourage us to deflect the responsibility for the beliefs to protect us. It’s one thing to recognize that we believe that we’re not worthy of being loved (for example) because our parents didn’t spend enough time with us. It’s quite another to blame our parents for creating this belief and ruining our lives. Our parents didn’t create the belief—we did. We interpreted an experience, created assumptions around it, developed expectations and created the belief. And until we accept this, we can’t change that belief.
Our egos can also interfere with the ownership process by encouraging us to identify with the limiting belief. The ego can trick us into reinforcing our negative beliefs, by turning those beliefs back on us. Essentially, we tell ourselves that we’re unworthy because we created a belief that we’re unworthy. We beat ourselves up for beating ourselves up. Without awareness, the ego has us coming and going.
If we become aware that we’ve fallen into an ego trap, we simply use our awareness to escape the trap. We need only remember that every belief, no matter how limiting, served us well at one time. Many beliefs were created to help us survive difficult and painful situations in our past. However, we’re no longer in those situations. Our circumstances have changed, and we have more experience and new skills that can serve us better now. We’ve simply outgrown the need for the old beliefs. We can release them because we have more elegant options available to us now.
The third and final step is choice. Once we are aware of our beliefs and own them, we have absolute control over them. We can now choose to alter our beliefs, and change our reality. We have the power to change our lives completely in an instant—we simply need to choose to do so now. I’m sure you’ve heard similar motivational statements from any number of sources. While it is essentially true that we can change our lives with a simple choice, it’s also important to read the fine print: We have to continue to make that same choice over and over and over and over and over again. The now when we chose to change our lives is already in the past. We have to keep choosing until our new choices, expectations, and beliefs have become habit. We have to continue to choose until our new choices become second nature to us.
Our past experiences certainly influence us. They shape our beliefs, and our expectations. As long as we continue to let ourselves be guided by the past, we will create similar experiences in the future. The past does not equal the future—unless we choose to carry the past with us. The cliché, “there’s no time like the present” is not entirely correct. The truth is that there’s no time except the present. The only time that matters is now. The past is irrelevant; the future does not exist yet. The only place where we can act, where we can create, where we can choose is now.
While the past does not need to influence or shape the future, many of the choices and thoughts and expectations that we held in the past are old habits—and as the saying goes, old habits are hard to break. This is the one arena where the progress of technology has almost eliminated a perfectly good metaphor. Remember vinyl records? Those big things that came before CDs? The groove of a record represents our old patterns. Records could get scratched—that’s one of the reasons that CDs are so popular, actually—and a scratch represents a change or a break in the old pattern. The only way to truly change the old pattern is to interrupt it enough times that a new pattern starts to form. Our patterns are exactly like grooves in records. The older the pattern, the deeper the groove, and the more interruptions it will take before we make any permanent changes in the pattern. Each time we notice that we have reverted back to our old, negative behaviors, we choose to take a different path.
Sometimes we can get so caught up in our old patterns that it seems like we can’t stop ourselves. It’s essential that we do not beat ourselves up for not being able to change old habits and behaviors on the first try (or even the second or third try)! We may not have completely eliminated the pattern, but we did change it: The fact that we were aware that we were acting out an old pattern is, in itself, a change in that pattern. Each time we encounter the pattern, we will become aware of it sooner. Eventually, we will also be able to interrupt the pattern. And when we can interrupt our old patterns, we have the power to choose different, more elegant and supportive responses.
Kevin B. Burk is the author of The Relationship Handbook: How to Understand and Improve Every Relationship in Your Life.
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