Stale beliefs are outdated, unnecessary, and make it difficult to improve, grow, and evolve. By identifying stale beliefs, you can alter or eliminate them.
In Stale Beliefs (Part 1: Definition), I discussed how beliefs are formed and what constitutes a stale belief. Indicators you may have a stale belief include certain behaviors, a change in environment, health issues, or age.
Using Behavior to Identify Beliefs
Because you behave in accordance with what you believe, stale beliefs can be discovered by observing your behavior. For example, one sign for identifying a stale belief is being stuck in a detrimental behavior pattern. These patterns may include care taking at the expense of self care, being a workaholic, or always choosing romantic partners with similar traits, but who are not right for you. The beliefs behind these patterns are likely to have been formed as a protective mechanism or to be accepted. One widely-held belief that drives these behaviors is the belief you are not good enough. A person who helps everyone else at their own expense may believe that is what makes them a good person or it is what they have to do in order to be loved or taken care of by others. A workaholic may believe work is how they are valued.
Habits are also indicators of stale beliefs. Some habits may be good, such as drinking enough water or exercising, and probably don’t need to be examined unless they become excessive. Destructive habits, like nail biting or smoking, and habits that have turned into addictions are strong indicators of stale beliefs. Beliefs driving habits and addictions are often formed to feel good, cope, survive, fit in, or impress.
Making or keeping unhealthy or inappropriate relationships indicates the existence of a stale belief. These types of relationships may be old and familiar, but they are damaging, abusive, or unhappy. Beliefs behind unhealthy relationships result from growing up in a family where they were present, lack of self confidence, believing you are not good enough, thinking you don’t deserve anyone better, or believing this is just how it is or is supposed to be.
Environment as an Indicator of Stale Beliefs
A new environment can cause beliefs to become stale. New circumstances often require modifications to beliefs in order to fit in, be accepted, or reduce stress. These changes include a culture change, a new job, an ended relationship, or moving to a new location.
When your environment changes, you can identify beliefs that have become stale by monitoring your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Although a decline in any of these can be because new setting is wrong for you, it could also mean you are holding onto a belief that doesn’t work in the new environment. For example, if you’ve worked with Gen X or older and are reassigned to a team comprised of Millennials, a belief you should not share openly with colleagues about your personal life or emotions is likely to become stale.
Although it can be caused by other, underlying issues (bad diet, lack of exercise, depression, etc.), poor health may also be a clue to a stale belief. The stale belief behind poor health may be thinking it runs in the family, so there’s nothing you can do about it (See Breaking the Cycle).
Another factor that can cause a belief to become outdated is aging. A belief that was appropriate when you were younger my no longer serve you. An example of an age-related stale belief is believing parents are omnipotent. As children enter adolescence and adulthood, this belief is shattered. Another example is our physical self-view, which is forced to alter as our body is injured over time or from the natural decline due to age.
The next installment in this series will look at addressing stale beliefs.