Beliefs are products of our experiences and environment. They are the source of behavior. If you accept you are here to evolve, questioning what you believe is inevitable. If you have behaviors you want to change, questioning what you believe is imperative.
In Belief, the Source of Behavior, I discussed identifying belief causing undesirable behavior. Challenging a belief is the next step in deciding to change, discard, or keep it. Challenging belief boils down to a few questions:
How does this belief serve me?
How did it form in the first place?
What will happen if I give up this belief?
Do I want to change, discard, or keep this belief?
How Does This Belief Serve Me?
Generally speaking, beliefs are kept because they somehow help us in our survival. This is as true of the beliefs that are not healthy for us as it is of those that are.
For example, I held the belief I could handle any project or any crisis alone. This belief worked well for my survival, but was the same belief that did not serve me. It helped me get through a difficult time in my life and focus on what needed to be done without getting lost in the emotion of some very painful events. However, it did not serve me because I failed to check on my own needs. My evolution stalled until I let myself feel how the events affected me, examined what I could learn from them, and stopped trying to do it all on my own. That meant I had to let go of the belief.
Where Did This Belief Come From?
Some beliefs are taught or accepted, others are born out of cultural or environmental exposure, and some are inherited. Belief systems change as a result of what you experience throughout your life.
When challenging belief, it is beneficial to explore how a belief formed in the first place, as long as you don’t get stuck in an endless quest to discover the belief’s source. There are some cases where you may never understand where or how a belief got started.
What Will Happen If I Give Up This Belief?
Altering or eliminating a belief evokes one of three responses:
- Neutrality – You do not care if the belief is changed or not
- Excitement – You are excited about the change and imagine the good things that will happen if you choose to give up the belief
- Fear – You are panicked at the possibility of change
Do I Want to Change, Discard, or Keep This Belief?
If you fall into the first category (neutrality), then it is a simple choice: keep, eliminate, or change the belief. If you are in the second category (excitement), you are ready to change the belief. If you are in the last category (fear), address the fear until you feel safe in changing it. This boosts the chance of successfully and permanently changing the belief.
Leaving a belief unchanged means the behavior driven by it will continue. So even though challenging my belief about my ability to handle projects and crises conjured up fear, my desire to change the behavior was strong enough to press forward. I examined the fear and discovered I had lived by this belief for so long that I was afraid I wouldn’t know how to function without it. I addressed changing the belief slowly in order to manage the fear. I graduated from asking for a little help to turning over complete responsibility to others. Although I still slip up, I am more conscious of my behavior and course correct sooner.