You have the power to change your life.
Even if you don’t think so.
Just because you walked through a door, that doesn’t mean that you can’t just walk right out again and find a better one.
You have more than one chance.
The trick is that you need to believe that you do.
This can feel like a stretch goal depending on the topic. We all have areas where we feel we excel and others where we feel as effective as a fish flopping on a dock. Some people are confident at work, but feel hopeless when dating for example.
Even if you lost faith, you can find it again just like a set of house keys.
If you never had it then understand that faith in yourself can be cultivated.
One of my favorite quotes on the mind is from the sci-fi masterpiece, Dune, “Fear is the mindkiller.”
Most of our mental quandaries stem from fear: fear of the unknown, fear of people seeing us fail, fear of instability, etc. When adults let fear win, we often call it growing up. We tell ourselves that cynicism is a sign of intelligence. We use societal ills, climate change, and woe-as-me memes to justify the fear.
If your inner cynic is scoffing right now because this seems too woo woo, here is a bit an of non-fluffy reality- being a Debbie Downer makes you a pill to be around. And no, I am not talking about the clinically depressed, so hold back your indignation for the mentally ill. I am talking about the tendency of us too-cool-for-school millennials who have mistaken cynicism for intelligence and passive-aggressive self-sabotage as a power flex.
Sure, you can walk around with a stick up your butt, but won’t your life be more pleasant if you pulled it out? How does being a sad sack help the planet or yourself? The good news that you don’t have to be a miserable sod! I say with a cheeky winky face emoji. 😉
Most likely you are reading this from a computer in the US or the UK where by virtue of birth and citizen, you are already living better with more opportunities than 80% of the planet. I don’t say that to shame you or the dismiss any real institutional failings in the developed world, I am saying that you remind you that you have more than you know at your disposal. It’s just a matter of opening your eyes and seeing what you have in your corner.
Vision is a funny thing. We can have 20/20 vision and fail to see what is right in front of us. It doesn’t matter if it is a typo in an essay or an opportunity in our career. It’s like the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon in reverse. As people grow up, even in lands of plenty, we put blinders on our dreams.
We abdicate control.
We fall into cynicism.
We stop believing.
Cue a Journey power ballad.
Ownership over yourself is the greatest act of self-care, the most empowering act of resilience, and the most humbling part of analyzing your own demons. There is a cold comfort in surrendering to external limitations. You can always point the blame outward. It’s tougher to stare in the mirror at your own demons, the decisions that you made, the paths you took yourself… We all have to accept that we have caused a percentage of our own problems.
Some people might be triggered by that last sentence. I am not talking about victims of crimes or natural disasters, I am talking about the times where we have lost our temper, made the wrong choice, did the bad thing in the place with the people, etc. If you’re honest with yourself, you can think of at least a handful of times when you have shot yourself in the metaphorical foot.
But what does this have to do with changing your life or belief?
The power to change your life is born from the ability to control your thoughts and gain a better awareness of your mind.
You are not your thoughts. You are not your feelings. You are not your perceptions.
Sounds philosophical, but it’s not.
Your brain is waterlogged gelatin rattling around in a funny-shaped bone dish, sending out electrical impulses and secreting chemicals in response to stimuli. Stop giving it so much power. Your feelings might be valid, but they don’t need to be humored all the time.
Depending on where you start, it can feel like a stretch to go from zero to confident. Here are some ways to clear the mental field so you can start cultivating self-belief:
1. Nip the negative self-talk in the head by noticing it, detaching from it, and confronting it. Example: ‘I suck at photoshop’ can be framed as ‘I am new to photoshop so mistakes are expected and I am still improving every day.’
If you are caught in a negative loop of insults and criticisms directed towards yourself, you don’t have much room in your brain for much else. It’s not just limiting for you on the inside, that mental environment shows up in your body language and in your vibe. That hate in your head can spew out at the wrong time and even cause you to act against your best interests. When you call yourself names, you are rewiring your own lack of belief and forging a prophecy for failure. It beats you down. You are beating yourself down even if the thought was planted externally.
The path to self believe starts with how you talk to yourself.
2. Write down your new beliefs.
Write down new beliefs about yourself just as how you learned to spell by practicing writing down words. It feels goofy at first so start with simple affirmations then move the goalposts as your mindset improves. This is important if you want to actually achieve something. If you don’t believe that something is possible then you’ll never achieve it. It doesn’t matter if that is finding a better job, a better partner, or building a better world.
There was a rule in the support groups that I helped facilitate that was pretty simple: assume best intentions. This is a nicer way of saying: quit taking everything personally. Most things in this world aren’t about you. It’s easy to take it that way because your perception puts you in the center. That is pure ego. Life is harder when you see insults everywhere.
4. New people, places, and things.
It’s a cliche in recovery that addicts need new people, places, and things to overcome their addiction. You don’t need to throw everything away, just be mindful of what gives you energy and what brings you down. Hate liking things might be a common hobby on social media but it is bad for you. Start curating what you expose yourself too. Some factors in your life might be permanent but not everything. Never forget that you can take yourself out of the firing range.
This isn’t an easy process and can take some time so be gentle but firm with yourself.
You can reprogram your brain. From the Buddha to the personal development gurus to the latest in psychology techniques, there is more evidence and guidance than ever on reprogramming yourself. You can create new pathways for your thoughts that promote grit, positivity, and yes, even luck!
It all starts within.