The first step to making any real change is to first define what needs to be changed. Before we start changing beliefs to produce a better life, we need to know what beliefs are producing the life you have now.
Many people are surprised to discover what they really believe on a deep, inner level. We’re very familiar with our surface beliefs, however, our inner, core beliefs can be significantly different. In some cases, our inner beliefs are darker and uglier than we care to admit, so we generally ignore them and pretend we believe something prettier.
It isn’t all bad in there, though. Quite often, we find that a person believes in greater possibilities than they allow themselves to experience. Even though higher-level beliefs are more powerful, they can still be defeated by a swarm of lilliputian beliefs. It’s quite possible you’re a caterpillar about to discover your inner butterfly.
In almost all cases, we find that our inner beliefs were picked up seemingly at random, without any planning or conscious choice. We find that sometimes we believe one thing, while other times we believe something completely different. This contradiction usually occurs when beliefs are associated with situations or emotional feelings. For example, when we feel good, we believe in success, but when we feel bad, we believe in failure. Although we don’t have to be concerned with these connections, knowing they happen makes it easier to understand why the contradictory beliefs exist.
As you discover what you really believe, consider this the ‘before’ picture to be compared with the ‘after’ picture when you’ve reached your goals. There’s no judgment about what you believe. No ‘good’ or ‘bad’ beliefs. The only judgment here is your own — which beliefs support the experiences you want, and which beliefs stand in your way.
Also keep in mind that the process of changing beliefs can be quick and easy. If you find a belief currently preventing you from enjoying life to the fullest, it can be a relatively small matter to change that belief into something better.
You may want to work with this belief first — your ability to change beliefs. If you believe it will be hard to change a belief, it will be. However, if you believe it will be easy, you’ll have a lot more fun. If a belief looks like an angry bear, imagine it as a cute little bunny instead.
Discovering what you believe involves asking yourself questions. Not just any questions, but specific questions. It’s not enough to ask yourself, “What do I believe about the world in general?” The questions eliciting the most accurate answers look more like “Do I believe the sky is blue?” This type of question elicits a more immediate answer that can actually be measured. Regardless of any words that spring forth, there will be an equivalent feeling elicited by the question. The strength of that feeling indicates the strength of the belief.
For instance, most people respond to a question like “Do you believe the sky is blue?” with an answer like “Yes, of course!” This shows that we believe the answer couldn’t be anything other than ‘yes’. On the opposite end, we have questions like “Do you believe you are living on planet Mars?” that usually produce answers like “Of course not!”
Questions producing these types of responses are special and help to calibrate a scale with which we can accurately measure our other beliefs. You can imagine your belief scale as a bathroom scale, a postal scale, a thermometer, or as a scale normally used to measure volumes, tones, pressures, or anything else you can imagine. The only thing your scale needs is a way to record the measurement.
When we ask ourselves questions about our beliefs, we feel a level of confidence in the answer. By choosing to assign a number to the strength of a belief, we are measuring how confident we are in it. It’s like weather predictions. When they say there’s a 60% chance of rain, they’re indicating how confident they are in their belief that it will rain.
At the same time, they’re also saying there’s a 40% chance it won’t rain. This shows us something very important. Any time we have a partial belief in one thing, we also have a partial belief in it’s opposite. An 80% belief in success also includes a 20% belief in failure, and a 90% belief in failure also includes a 10% belief in success.
Just as a weather prediction is for one area only, this splitting of belief is for only one ‘area’ at a time. We usually have different beliefs in different situations, and the numbers may be different in each situation. This is because many beliefs are context dependent, and each situation represents a different context.
This splitting of belief between opposites is a lot like the sand in an hourglass. At any point in time, 100% of the sand is within the glass. Sometimes part of the sand is on one side of the glass and the rest is in the other side. No matter which side the sand is in, we can get all of it to the other side. It just takes a little time.
When you think about it, belief is very much the same as the sand in an hourglass. There’s no way to increase the amount of belief you have. It’s just a matter of where your belief is placed — in success or in failure, in harmony or in discord, in health or in sickness.
Now that we have an understanding of the discovery process, let’s begin by calibrating a scale with which we will measure the strength of our beliefs. We’ll do this by asking ourselves a series of questions that should produce the “of course” feeling on both ends of the scale.
I generally use a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being the “absolutely not” end and 100 being the “absolutely yes” end. Some people use a 0 to 10 scale, and use fractions of a point, like 6.3 or 8.7. Use whichever one feels right for you.
You don’t need to visualize a scale within your mind, although some people find it helpful. If you currently believe visualizing is difficult for you, and also believe that doing so will help, you may want to spend a few minutes developing your visualization skills. Start by looking at a physical scale and then imagine it with your eyes closed. After looking at the scale with your eyes open, then closed, then open, then closed again for several cycles, you’ll eventually get to the point where you can see the scale as clearly with your eyes closed as you do with your eyes open.
What’s important is that you select a number representing the strength of each belief as we go through the process. For this first set of questions, the only numbers that should be recorded are 0 or 100 (or 10 if you’re using that scale).
- Do you believe that the sky is blue?
- Do you believe that 2+2=4?
- Do you believe that you are alive?
- Do you believe that you live on planet Earth?
- Do you believe that you live on planet Mars?
- Do you believe that you are a human being?
- Do you believe that you know your own name?
- Do you believe that there are 12 seasons in a year?
- Do you believe that the sun will rise again tomorrow?
- Do you believe that the Earth circles the moon?
For most people, the above questions produce 7 strong ‘yes’ answers and 3 strong ‘no’ answers. This is enough to calibrate a scale for measuring the strength of other beliefs.