Beliefs hold a great deal of power over our actions, and in many situations our inactions. Bringing mindfulness to our beliefs about ourselves, others, and the world is necessary to live in freedom and truth. It is natural to develop beliefs that are limiting or not true, because we label our experiences in ways that create meaning. Recently, I was sharing my desire and interest in increasing my activity level and just as I said it out loud, I caught my limiting belief that was holding me back. I shared my belief, “I need to exercise in the morning.” There I spotted an old, and recurring limiting belief, that “I have to” exercise in the morning. I was holding a belief that it is better to move in the morning, and that it’s the only time I can do it and therefore I would have to sleep less to add an exercise routine back into my life. Yet that’s not true…
Mindfulness practice is a helpful tool to bring awareness to thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. In that moment I became aware that I had fallen into the same old belief that was formed earlier in my life. The truth is I enjoyed exercising in the morning and feeling the effects of being wide awake, alert, and sensing all the motivating neurochemicals flowing through me at work and school. However, I also recalled a time when I challenged this belief and accomplished setting up a routine that fit into my life as it is and how I felt the same benefits and enjoyment, just at a different time of day. This immediately popped the belief bubble that I was holding about exercise and I saw all the possibilities that existed. I could feel a shift and change in my attitude and motivation.
I know this example may sound silly, but I was stuck in a pattern of behavior that was being maintained by an old limiting belief. Despite challenging the belief earlier in my life with great success and satisfaction, I fell back into the doubt again. The first time I overcame the belief was by doing opposite action (with support of others), I still held the belief but did the exercise in the middle of the day with co-workers. Over time this became a routine and yet it still was not enough to solidify or change this belief forever in me. Once the routine changed, I returned back to my strongly held belief that I need to exercise in the morning.
So, what is different now? My hope is that seeing the beliefs that limit my actions around movement and other health-promoting behaviors will prompt me to challenge them and continue to practice opposite action if effective until the behavior turns into a habit and the false belief no longer controls my actions.
How can you identify limiting beliefs?
Start by asking yourself a few questions:
- What am I doing that is not in alignment with my goals and values?
- What actions do I need to take to reach my goals or live with greater ease and purpose?
- What are my beliefs around these actions?
- What might be getting in the way?
As you form answers around these questions, get curious about what beliefs you may be holding about yourself, the actions required, other people, and the world. See if you can identify any limiting beliefs and if so can you challenge those beliefs with acting opposite, AKA, taking action in spite of the beliefs, and repeating the action enough times that you experience how actions can change our thinking and override limiting beliefs.If you need help, seek support through a mindfulness coach, supportive friend, or therapists.
With loving and healthy intentions,
Patty and the The Sacred Treehouse Faculty
Patty Thomas Shutt, founder of Sacred Treehouse, is a licensed psychologist and co-owner of Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches. Dr. Shutt is passionate about helping others discover the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. She offers Beginner Meditation & Advanced Meditation classes at Sacred Treehouse, in addition to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindful Self-Compassion and various book studies throughout the year.