Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Choosing Beliefs That Support A Happy Life

by Peg McQuarrie, M.Ed., ACPC, ACC

Certified Professional Coach

Researchers who study resilience have found that our beliefs affect everything including our view of the world, others, and ourselves.  Our beliefs affect our faith in our own abilities and our trust of others’ motives and actions and their abilities as well.  Our beliefs influence our actions and reactions to people and events.  

We often are unaware of our beliefs.  They hover underneath our consciousness, often driven by family and cultural messages, similar to how our values and inner critic voices operate.  In The Resilience Factor, researchers Dr. Karen Reivich and Dr. Andrew Shatte say we experience an event and see the consequences of events, but we miss the most important factor of all: our underlying beliefs about the event.

Our beliefs can be negative and limit our lives and they can be positive and sustaining.  Limiting beliefs bind, constrain and confine us.  They connect us to judgment and criticism of ourselves and others and leave no room for hope or change.  Sustaining beliefs nourish and buoy us up.  They connect us to the best parts of ourselves and form a foundation for happiness and change.  Here are some examples of limiting and sustaining beliefs.  Do any of them sound familiar?


Limiting Beliefs

  • There’s never enough.
  • Life is so unfair.
  • I’m so unlucky.
  • I never get a fair shake.
  • I’ll never get over this.
  • It’s all my fault.
  • It’s all their fault.  They are to blame for this.
  • Things will never change.

Sustaining Beliefs

  • I am strong.
  • I have value.  I am worthy of good things.
  • I contribute to the lives of others.
  • I am responsible for my choices and actions.
  • I can handle problems as they arise.
  • I am capable, and respond to difficult events with calm and dignity.
  • Everything passes. I can get through this.

Turning Limiting Beliefs Around

It’s important to not be a victim to automatic negative beliefs and thoughts – take action, take control!  Here are a few practices to get you started:

Ø  Be in gratitude – make a list each evening of things you are grateful for throughout the day.

Ø  Appreciate yourself – make a list each evening of the qualities and strengths that you most appreciate about yourself.  Take special note of ways you contributed this day to your family and to people and groups at work and in your community. 

Ø  Notice your limiting beliefs.  Keep a diary of your thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs for a few weeks and examine them for patterns.  Pay special attention to how they make you feel and the impact they have on others and on your life.  Be honest about what you see. 

Ø  Notice what triggers limiting beliefs.  Decide if you really want to continue to believe them.

Ø  When you notice a limiting belief, practice turning it to a sustaining belief.  Make it into a game and have fun with the process. 

Ø  Ask a family member or a friend to notice when you state a limiting belief.  Ask them to help you challenge the belief and turn it into a sustaining belief.   

Ø  Look for the positive in a difficult situation.

Ø  Partner with someone to talk with on a weekly basis to gain deeper awareness about limiting and sustaining beliefs and to share ideas.

Ø  Journal on a daily basis – notice yourself getting stronger as you leave limiting thoughts behind and replace them with healthy, positive, sustaining beliefs.

A fun website to visit is on the University of Pennsylvania website called Authentic Happiness.   This is the homepage of Dr. Martin Seligman, Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania and founder of positive psychology, a branch of psychology which focuses on the empirical study of such things as positive emotions, strengths-based character, and healthy institutions.  The site holds many interesting surveys and resources intended to help you learn about yourself and increase happiness in your life.

Peg McQuarrie is a certified professional coach and the owner of WellSprings Consulting.  Her passion is to support others as they step into the successful, meaningful, authentic lives they are meant to live!  For almost 20 years, she has helped individuals and work groups maximize their potential and achieve personal, business, and organizational success.  Her services include coaching for individuals and teams; specialized coaching for facilitators; design and facilitation of group retreats; design and delivery of personal and professional development workshops; and organizational consulting.  Peg earned her Masters in Education from Northern Arizona University and received her coach training through the Adler School of Professional Coaching.  She is certified by the International Coach Federation.   Learn more at www.wellspringsconsulting.com or check out her page on LinkedIn.


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