When I was growing up, as a child, I was exposed to many ideas, actions, behaviors and experiences. The most important of those were ones that I heard over and over and saw over and over in peoples' behavior around me. I started believing things such as "Men are not emotional", "Women must behave a certain way", "I must be a good student", "I must respect authority", "I must be loyal to my family, culture and religion, no matter what", "I must be nice to people", "I must be loving", "I must be a great host", so on and so forth. Over time, I accumulated a whole lot of beliefs, some that were good, many that were not so good and some that were downright damaging and dangerous. These beliefs became a big part of how I thought, behaved and lived my life as a whole.
However, there came a point in my life, when many of my beliefs were challenged. This happened when I moved to Canada from Pakistan in my late teens, a country very far and different from the one I was about to step into. I started noticing that many of the beliefs that I held to be true were completely the opposite in this part of the world. For example, I was taught since childhood to respect my teachers by not challenging what they say in any way. When I started attending school in Canada, I started to notice students constantly challenging the teachers, some in positive ways (which I learned was positive later) and others in very negative ways.
To make things even more challenging, living in Toronto, Canada, I was exposed to people from other cultural backgrounds that came with their own set of beliefs and behaviors even more different; neither Western nor what I grew up with. One belief after another, I was forced to see that not everything that I was taught was valid and on top of that, I had no idea how to differentiate what was true from what was false. After many years of suffering, at the thought of not understanding my own reality, I finally made a decision to understand where my beliefs came from, what they meant, and whether they were true and/or beneficial in my life.
So then, what did I learn? I learned that beliefs are at the core of how we see ourselves and our environment. Beliefs are thoughts, ideas and ways of living that we have accepted to be true in our minds for a prolonged period of time, and the longer we hold onto a belief as true and the more emotional energy we attach to those beliefs, the more powerful they become in directing the course of our lives. For example, if we have been taught over and over that the world is a dangerous place, by protective parents and our environment or we have had one or two experiences with dangerous situations (reinforced by our lack of knowledge or experience) or a combination of the two, then it becomes part of our belief system. So what does this mean? This means that by accepting an arbitrary idea to be true we make it a very important aspect of our life which then holds a strong emotional energy within us.
Slowly but surely an idea or thought over time moves into our subconscious mind. As we have learned from neuroscience, psychology and from observing peoples' behavior in terms of their habits, most of our thoughts and behaviors are processed subconsciously. For instance, when we are learning to drive, we have to be very aware of everything from the way the car moves, to the way we are sitting, to our surroundings. Eventually, this awareness goes into our subconscious mind, which can not only process it faster, but is able to do all of the learned actions without our complete conscious awareness. In the same manner, if we believe an idea to be true, for an extended period of time, the idea moves into our subconscious. So the subconscious mind is able to process the idea that "The world is a dangerous place", which initially took time to learn, a lot faster and without our complete conscious awareness. So, just as we stop becoming completely aware of the way we are driving, we stop being completely aware of our actions in relation to the belief “The world is a dangerous place”. This means that the belief "The world is a dangerous place” keeps showing up in our thoughts and in our actions without our conscious awareness.
You might have heard or read the quote attributed to Gandhi or Lao Tzu “Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your character, and your character becomes your destiny”. This quote is probably one of the most important and true statements in summarizing how our mind works in terms of habit because our habits are based on subconscious processes which have a great deal to do with our beliefs that operate in our lives through our subconscious mind.
So then, what do we do with beliefs? When I exhausted every kind of escape mechanism I had inside of me, to avoid the pain of facing my beliefs that were being challenged, I made a decision to face my beliefs. I made this decision because in order to see what was true and more importantly what was true for me, I had to question my beliefs and where they came from without a need to reject or accept them. It was a sort of rediscovery or relearning of what I already knew from a different vantage point. When I made the decision to question my beliefs, the pain started to subside and what came about was a child-like curiosity to learn more! This became my Aha moment. When I started to become open to learning, to different perspectives, to new experiences, over time, I started to see clearly what kind of beliefs were holding me back and what kind of beliefs were benefiting me and what kind of beliefs held true for me. So I went on a journey to question everything that I knew to be true, and I can tell you that I am still on that journey of self-discovery, adventure and learning; as we all are naturally, if we allow our natural Self to do what it does best which is to learn and experience or experience and learn.
So here is my challenge to you. I want you to do these 3 things from now on:
1) Learn to become aware of your thoughts and actions; specifically thoughts and actions that are part of your habits. Habitual thoughts from "I am a Man, and I must be a certain way or I am a woman, I must behave a certain way" to "Rich people are crooks" to "I must go to the doctor to get better" to having habits that make you want to be really nice to everyone for no apparent reason to getting angry at things that might seem irrational to you or to others to any other habitual thoughts and actions that are part of your personality. I will also be exploring different strategies on how to become more aware of your thoughts and actions in future articles.
2) When you become aware of your thoughts and actions, start asking yourself “where does this thought or action come from?” and “why is it true and important for me?
When you start to question your thoughts and actions in relation to your habits, you will start to move towards finding out why they are important to you and whether or not the beliefs you hold are true or beneficial to your life.
3) Become open to learning. Before learning something new, either from another person, a book, a documentary or an experience, put aside your beliefs (when you become aware of your thoughts and actions, it will be easy to place a pause button on your beliefs) and really listen to and understand new perspectives without the biased input from your beliefs that might or might not be true.
When you do these three things, you will become open to learning and to a bigger perspective than you had before. Your mind will have more to work with. You will become conscious of your thoughts and actions and you will start to take responsibility for your life. When you take full responsibility for your thoughts, actions and habits, you will start to see the power that you have within yourself - The power of knowledge, action and choice. The power to direct your life based on your conscious awareness.
It is my promise to you that when you apply these concepts in your life, on a consistent basis, you will start to see yourself and your world change for the better.
These exercises and concepts come with a warning label. When facing your beliefs – you might be facing some of the most painful aspects of yourself. They might make you completely uncomfortable, unsure, unclear and hopeless in life but only in the beginning. Over time, if you are open to learning and possibilities, you will start to make sense of yourself and your life, but this time, it will be something that you came up with yourself and not something that you were conditioned to believe without your complete understanding or awareness.
To learn more about how your beliefs affect you and your life, click on the following link to watch a powerful training video that I did with Adam Dare (Entrepreneur, Fitness expert, Life coach) Own Your Fitness
In this training video with Adam dare, you will learn:
- How you developed the beliefs that you have.
- How do your beliefs affect your life
- How can you deal with limiting beliefs
- How to raise your awareness to see past your limiting beliefs.
from the perspective of health/fitness and life.
Here is the link again: