How to Create a New You: The Six
Beliefs That May Be Holding You Back
Anything is possible -- but we reject certain alternatives without
a second thought. Weve convinced ourselves -- or social
conditioning has convinced us -- that rejecting these options
is necessary or proper.
Examples: An unemployed office worker
might automatically reject a blue-collar job... a retiree might
automatically decide hes too old to go on a backpacking
trip in the mountains.
We need to dislodge our negative beliefs if we wish to weigh
all of our options, overcome the power of "no" and elevate
our lives to a higher level. Here, the negative beliefs that are
holding us back and what to do...
Negative belief: Were stuck with our habits. A habit
is simply a shortcut imprinted on the brain. We cook our eggs
the same way every morning or sit in front of the television every
evening because we have done this so many times that we now do
it without making a conscious choice.
A habit is just a choice that is ingrained for practical purposes,
but the fact that our habits have become ingrained does not mean
that we cannot pursue alternatives.
What keeps us trapped is the "spell of no." We voluntarily
renounce the power to change, while at the same time blaming our
bad habits as if they have an independent will. The spell that
our habits hold over us is one that we have created and thus one
that we can break.
What to do: Examine your
unwanted habits objectively, as if they belonged to someone else.
Ask yourself why you have chosen a bad habit. Search for a hidden
benefit that it provides. Does this habit make you feel like a
victim, a convenient way to avoid taking responsibility for your
Spend six weeks doing what you want to do, rather than what your
habit encourages you to. After six weeks, the new way of doing
things will be imprinted on your brain in place of the old habit.
Negative belief: Our obsessions are not really obsessions.
People tend to believe the term "obsessive" applies
only to those with mental disorders. We certainly dont consider
ourselves obsessive. In truth, many of us are obsessive -- we
simply chose to overlook our obsessions, because we believe that
the things we obsess about are things that deserve this much time
Examples: Obsessions that people tend to view as positive include
obsessions with health and safety... career or income... religion...
their childrens success... or a political or charitable
There might be positive aspects to these obsessions, but having
any obsession robs us of our ability to make objective choices
-- automatically saying yes to spending our time and resources
on an obsession means automatically saying no to alternatives.
This blunts our ability to evolve and get the most from our lives.
What to do: Stop taking pride
in your consistency or single-mindedness even in pursuit of a
good cause. Engage in activities that reduce your stress levels,
such as meditation or hobbies. Relaxed minds are more open to
Negative belief: Our fears are valid because they seem
valid to us. External threats arent what make the world
seem unsafe -- its the concerns and beliefs that we project
onto every situation that create our fears. If we worry about
crime, then everyone we pass on the street becomes a potential
mugger. If were afraid of heights, then even a small stepladder
may seem too dangerous to climb.
Our fears deny us our most basic freedom, the freedom to feel
safe in the world. They encourage us to reject possibilities that
deserve our consideration by making them seem too risky. Some
threats are real, but our fears dont help us identify these.
Our fears deprive us of our ability to rationally evaluate dangers.
What to do: Dont try
to fight your fears at times when you feel afraid -- thats
when fears are most powerful. At these times, just remind yourself
that fear is a passing emotion that soon will be released. Later,
when you are calm, recall the fear for objective examination.
With long-standing fears, remind yourself that the fact that you
have worried about something for years does not mean that this
thing is especially dangerous -- it just means that your mind
has had a lot of time to blow it out of proportion.
Show yourself compassion about your fears. Fear is not a sign
of weakness. It affects everyone.
Negative belief: People dont change. Most of us
think this from time to time when those close to us chronically
repeat mistakes or misbehavior. Yet paradoxically, most of us
believe that we, personally, are capable of change and growth.
We cannot have it both ways -- if we are capable of change, then
other people must be, too.
In fact, not only are people capable of change, we all change
all the time. When we think, People dont change, were
just giving in to resignation and defeatism. Thinking in this
way could dissuade us -- and those around us -- from attempting
positive growth in the future.
What to do: View yourself
as in a perpetual state of change. Search for options for anything
in your life that seems fixed and unchangeable. Dont listen
to naysayers when you attempt change -- their warnings and criticisms
are rooted in defeatism, not reality. Encourage attempts to change
by others, particularly when these changes are new and fragile.
Example: If a seemingly stingy friend finally offers to pick
up a small check, dont make a joke or belittle the effort.
Choose to view this person as generous and offer a heartfelt thanks.
Your positive reaction could reinforce your friends attempt
to change and encourage greater generosity in the future.
Negative belief: "Bad" thoughts are forbidden
and dangerous. Many of us waste energy repressing thoughts that
we wish we didnt have. These "bad" thoughts might
be feelings of jealousy, rage, lust or a desire for vengeance.
Trouble is, repressing thoughts doesnt make them go away
-- it allows them to grow.
Viewing some of our own thoughts as bad also encourages us to
divide ourselves into a good side and a bad side, creating an
inner struggle that we can never win.
The truth is, we all have thoughts that we wish we didnt
have. That doesnt mean were bad people, as long as
we dont act on these thoughts.
What to do: Understand that
it is not in our power to stop "bad" thoughts. It is
in our power to let these thoughts pass rather than repress them
or act on them. Dont believe that the thoughts drifting
through your mind define who you are -- these thoughts are not
Never condemn anyone for his/her thoughts, including yourself.
Give up the impossible goal of totally controlling your mind.
Deepak Chopra, MD, is a fellow of the American College of Physicians,
member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists,
adjunct professor at Kellogg School of Management, Evanston, Illinois,
and senior scientist with The Gallup Organization. Time has called
him the "poet-prophet of alternative medicine" and listed
him among the top 100 heroes and icons of the 20th century. His
most recent book is Reinventing
the Body, Resurrecting the Soul: How to Create a New You (Harmony).
February 19, 2010