What we believe doesn’t lie solely in facts but in what a person perceives as actual and possible. Our beliefs go far beyond just our perception of human possibility. It drives us to discover things that have never been done before. The idea that we can create a new reality that does not already exist birthed many innovations and fascinating technologies we have today.
Though we can’t physically fly, our belief that it is possible has driven and enabled mankind to create airplanes that move across the sky and rockets to explore space. It has helped us to land on the moon and send complex machines to be our eyes and ears to research across the galaxy.
The things we choose to believe form the basis of our existence and go on to define what is possible or not for us. These are what I call beneficial beliefs.
In my most recent blog post and solo podcast, I provided in-depth information on how your mind impacts your reality and five ways that you can create a healthier and more productive one. In this blog post, I want to enlighten the readers on how powerful our beliefs are and the steps to take to create the thoughts that lead to living your best life.
Let us start with the story of Sean Stephenson, a man who suffered from a severe congenital deformity but believed he could make a positive impact. He did this by intentionally breaking free from negative beliefs about himself.
How Sean Stephenson overcame self-limiting beliefs
Sean Stephenson was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, commonly known as “brittle bone disease.” Most of his bones were broken during his delivery due to this condition, and he was admitted to the intensive care unit at Chicago Children’s Hospital.
The doctors actually warned his parents that Sean may not even live to be one day old because of the severity of his condition. Fortunately, that did not happen, and not only did he survive the first 24 hours, but he went on to live to the age of 40.
He spent much of his youth in pain, experienced stunted growth — standing at the full height of only three feet — had to use a wheelchair because of the inability of his bones to support his body, and was weirdly stared at everywhere he went.
But the amazing thing about Sean Stephenson is that he never allowed his condition to define him, even though he suffered hundreds of fractures to his legs, ankle, arms, neck, collarbone, and nose. He rose above it to become an inspiration for millions worldwide.
He chose to believe in his ability to do certain things despite his deformities and became a therapist, self-help author, and motivational speaker. In 2001 he published his first book, titled How Youth Can Succeed!: Transforming Dreams into Reality for Young Adults, and in 2008, his second book, Get Off Your “But”: How to End Self-Sabotage and Stand Up for Yourself, with the forward provided by his mentor, top American life coach, Tony Robbins.
Stephenson received his bachelor’s degree in political science in 2001 from DePaul University and enrolled at American Pacific University in March 2004 to pursue a Doctor of Clinical Hypnotherapy degree. He ran a counseling practice out of Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois. He also worked as a motivational speaker, earning between $15,000 and $30,000 per presentation.
Stephenson married the love of his life, Mindie Kniss, in 2012. They were together for ten years.
He died on August 28, 2019, after a severe concussion, having lived a fulfilled life.
Sean Stephenson’s story is inspiring, proving that we all can rise above negative beliefs and accept ourselves for who we are no matter our situations.
Using Sean’s story as our backdrop, we will not dive more deeply into beliefs and answer the following questions:
- How do beliefs work?
- How powerful can a belief be?
- What steps can we take to ensure we acquire and maintain beneficial beliefs?
How Do Beliefs Work?
Anton Checkhov, a Russian playwright, said, “Man is what he believes.”
Beliefs stem from what we hear — and continue to hear from others. This starts in our childhood (and even before that!). The origins of beliefs include the environment we were raised in, events we are exposed to, what we learn in school, past experiences, trauma, visualization, etc. One of the most significant misconceptions people often maintain is that belief is a fixed, intellectual concept. This couldn’t be further from the truth! At the end of the day, what we believe is a choice. We have the power to choose what we believe, and our beliefs become our reality.
Take, for instance, the universal means of exchange called currency. What exactly is currency? It is but a piece of paper or metal with words and numbers inscribed. While the early forms of currency derived their value from the content of precious metal inside them, today’s fiat money and cryptocurrency are backed entirely by social agreement and belief in the issuer’s trustworthiness. We can only transact with them because we collectively believe in their perceived value.
My point here is that it is completely useless outside of our collective mindset and belief about currency. In like manner, the things we choose to believe become a reality and directly affect our actions in life.
Your thoughts are a trigger for self-perpetuating cycles. What you believe influences directly how you feel and how you behave. So, if you believe you cannot achieve something, you’ll act in alignment with that perceived inability and will end up unable to. Beliefs are essentially the key tenets in life that provide guidance and meaning.
How does the “Placebo Effect” influence what we believe?
A particular phenomenon that proves just how powerful our beliefs are is known as the Placebo Effect. A placebo is a drug, pill, or other treatment that looks to be but is not a medical intervention. Inert tablets (such as sugar pills), inert injections (such as saline), and other treatments are examples of common placebos. When an individual improves despite getting a placebo rather than active medical treatment, that is when the placebo effect occurs.
For example, if you’re given the same arthritis tablet frequently to ease stiff, aching joints, you may grow to link it with pain alleviation. If you are given a placebo that resembles your arthritis medication, you may still believe it provides pain relief because you have been conditioned to believe so.
It has been observed that under the right circumstances — which include a person’s belief in the efficacy of the drug — a placebo can be quite as effective as traditional treatments.
Seven steps you can take to alter what you believe
The biochemistry of our body derives from our awareness. In other words, a belief-reinforced awareness becomes our biochemistry. Every minuscule cell in our body is entirely and perfectly cognizant of our feelings, ideas, and beliefs.
The following are seven things you can actively do to change negative beliefs and imbibe new positive beliefs that will help you live your best life.
Self-awareness is a key factor in discovering areas in your life where you need to change and understanding exactly how to affect the needed transformations. The awareness that we are part of an ever-changing world that constantly interacts with one another gives us the key to unlocking the enormous power within us. It is our awareness of this astonishing truth that alters everything and what we believe.
When we experience this awareness, we can transform ourselves from passive onlookers to influential creators. Our beliefs provide the script to write or re-write the code of our reality. You can become self-aware by paying sincere and honest attention to the thoughts that run through your mind and your reactions to situations.
Challenge your current limiting beliefs.
Perceptual modifications are the pre-conditions for altering our beliefs and modifying our body’s biochemistry favorably. Our inherent fascination and willingness to discover and develop lead to renewed perceptions. When we intentionally allow ourselves to experience new perceptions by seeking new experiences or learning new skills, our bodies can also respond differently — this is the secret to growth.
Intentionally consider the kind of thoughts you have to see how accurate your beliefs are. When you do, you will be able to identify false beliefs. After identifying these false beliefs, engage in things that make you feel worthwhile: Venture outside of your comfort zone, force yourself to do something challenging, and prove that you are capable of great things.
Understand our environmental influences what we believe
When we subconsciously cling to deeply-rooted beliefs, our minds continuously look for evidence to validate and strengthen them. A person’s environment is the summation of the realities and associations around them. It plays a vital role in what you think and who you eventually become. You need to realize if you are in an unhealthy environment, that doesn’t provide you with empowering beliefs. If so, take appropriate steps to change your circumstances and associations.
By their very nature, our beliefs can be either empowering or restricting. Restricting or negative beliefs thwart us from fulfilling our true potential, hold us back, and advance harmful thoughts and emotions. On the other hand, empowering or positive beliefs enable us to act with resilience, have faith in ourselves, and conjure positive thoughts and feelings. No matter what you are told, ensure that it is only those things that help you to become better that you believe and hold on to.
Exchange self-pity for self–compassion
When we experience self-pity, it goes beyond healthy sadness. By feeling sorry for yourself, you magnify your adversity and experience a sense of helplessness or hopelessness. This creates an unhealthy cycle. On the other hand, self-compassion permits one to see the interconnected experiences of self and others without isolation and disconnection.
With self-compassion, you do not need to feel better than others to feel good about yourself. Self-compassion provides greater self-clarity because individual failings can be recognized with kindness and not resentment. Moreover, self-compassion isn’t conditional on what happens to us externally. It is available whenever you need it — especially when you fall flat on your face!
Learn to adapt to new situations
Change is all around us and is an inevitable constant in our lives. Sometimes we can control it, but the reality is that most of the time, we cannot. The circumstances of our lives change — and not always for the better. It is our ability to adapt to the changes that define us. When you fail to adapt, you become incapable of navigating your way through change and making the most of them impactful.
You must learn to adapt to whatever environment you’re in, believe in yourself, and focus on the impact you can make regardless of what your current condition, title, or stature is.
Make your choices intentionally
The humanitarian and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl stated, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”
Remember that we can make our own choices about what we believe and intentionally exercise that ability to choose healthy and empowering beliefs.
Love and accept yourself
Most importantly, make it a priority to love and accept yourself. Realize that the type of relationship you have with yourself will determine whether or not you will have positive beliefs that will help you become your best self.
Reminding yourself of what’s important — your partner, family, friends, beliefs, health, great music, creativity, and so on — can form a surprisingly potent buffer against whatever troubles may be ailing you.
For example, if you value and appreciate yourself, you will believe you are talented, competent, and deserving of love and success. However, if you don’t, you won’t be able to believe in yourself enough to recognize and seize opportunities.
So, in whatever situation you might be, make sure that you love and accept yourself first to believe in the best. I previously released a full episode on Self-acceptance, EP 133.
Realize the real prisons exist in the mind and what we believe
In his TED Talk, which he gave at Ironwood State Prison, California, Sean Stephenson explains that “the real prisons exist in the mind.” He was making this statement that it didn’t matter where you physically found yourself. What counts most is your belief about yourself and your situation. It is your beliefs that will ultimately determine your freedom. (For more on Sean Stephenson, check out my solo Passion Struck podcast episode 35 on the topic of never believing a prediction that doesn’t ignite you.)
Remind yourself not to allow any belief to restrict your potential. Just because you perceive something as real doesn’t make it accurate. You can train your brain to think differently and become free from those self-limiting beliefs with sufficient practice. This will help you be better equipped to reach your greatest potential and live your best life.
Now you comprehend why it is crucial to examine our beliefs, something that most people never do. It is also essential to pinpoint our restricting beliefs so that we can start replacing them with empowering ones. After all, we chose our paths. Why would you desire to live with constraining beliefs that hold you back, make you unhappy, and prevent you from exploiting your full potential?
Put all the points mentioned in this article into practical use, and as you do so, you will see yourself reaching new heights and achieving things you never thought possible!
- Are you having trouble prioritizing yourself? I discuss where you invest your love; you invest your life in Episode 104
- I explain why materialism is impacting your success and happiness in episode 96.
- Do you know the science of healthy habits? I explore this in-depth in Episode 108.
- Suppose you missed my interview with Jen Bricker-Bauer on Everything is Possible. Don’t panic! You can catch up by downloading it here.
- How do you strengthen your relationship with your best self? Explore episode 110.