When we believe something to be true - whether it is true or not - we will behave as if it is true
A strong belief system can support positive action, and allow transformation within your life. When you believe something to be true, it is an incredible force that fuels your motivation. If your beliefs are negative, then those messages telling you that you’re not good enough, will have the opposite effect and leave you feeling stuck. An important step in the life coaching process is to build awareness of your belief systems. It is possible to choose the beliefs that will support you, and turn down the volume on the beliefs that hold you back.
We now know that the brain has the ability to adapt and change as a result of your experiences. This brain plasticity means not only can you learn things throughout your life, but you can improve your memory, focus and concentration too.
Every experience in your life will build knowledge within the brain, your childhood experiences are largely formed on an unconscious and emotional level. Once your sense of self is formed around the age of three, you start to understand how to get the responses you want from other people. Perhaps your four year old self cried when you weren’t given what you wanted. If the crying caused your parent to give in, this useful tool would have been stored away for the next time. This trial and error process would have driven an ever greater level of self-awareness, allowing the building of your toolkit. You will have realised simultaneously that if you experienced feelings you didn’t like, then you could start to close them off too.
This process of modification continues to form the basis for adult life, so it becomes your normal to suppress, modify and deny your feelings. In one way you become more sophisticated, however at the same time you are creating an entanglement of emotions and beliefs which affect your perception of reality.
With each passing day you will layer more onto these beliefs. As you layer, if you have weak foundations from childhood, bad experiences, a lack of positive re-enforcements, manipulative or absent parents, then you may develop fault lines. What about the school report that said you were lazy and distracted? These labels have a habit of sticking to your identity long after you have become hard working and focussed. Beliefs learnt during your childhood can be very powerful, and if the beliefs are negative, they can really hold you back from seeing and fulfilling your true potential. Your brain will aid the re-enforcing of your stereotypes. If you believe you are bad with money, your brain will start to point out the evidence to support your belief, drawing on memories and the world around you– because it thinks that’s what you want it to do. Thus we get into spirals of negative thinking.
Many of your beliefs are so integrated that you may have never taken an objective look at them. A quick glance isn’t always enough because on face value your beliefs may seem perfectly reasonable. Building a strong positive belief system starts with airing your beliefs which is done at a conscious level. This is a process facilitated through life coaching that brings value and enlightenment, using your neuroplasticity to it’s greatest advantage to alter your self-image. How we perceive ourselves directly affects our thoughts, and what we believe is possible for us. Using NLP tools, the subconscious mind can be re-set to align this new self-image to what you want to achieve. You will always act like the kind of person that you believe yourself to be, so it’s important to re-educate the brain of all your positive characteristics.
So in summary, Belief Systems are both a gateway and an obstacle to transformation. They are complex structures which are formed through personal experiences over many years. They can be addressed through building conscious awareness, and also by diminishing negative belief systems sitting in the unconscious using NLP. Once you have a positive belief system aligned to your own self-image, this acts as an incredible catapult to transformation.
It’s an attribute we desire, the characteristic we should be helping the next generation to build, the jewel in the crown to our personal growth – but WHAT IS RESILIENCE?
In the 2003/4 football season, Iain Dowie coined the word ‘bouncebackability’. His Crystal Palace team had risen from the depths of relegation in the December to winning promotion through the play-offs in May. In 2005 “bouncebackability” entered the Oxford English Dictionary.
Bouncebackability and resilience have a lot in common. Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. It’s a toughness and a grit. But bouncing back from adversity isn’t the whole story.
With two children at school, I hear about building resilience from them, it’s a word that’s in their vocabulary in a way that wasn’t for me at their age. The school ran a session with parents looking at how we can build resilience in children. Teachers actively use the word with children and give them examples of experiences in life which will help them to build it, usually in the context of their perceived failures.
Resilience is intertwined with failing. This is something we’re all slowly learning is a good thing, but it’s still a challenge for us because for the most part we don’t like to fail, even when we ‘fail fast’. Without failure, we can’t test our metal, yet often the ego gets in the way of fully embracing the opportunities it presents us with.
Herein lies the stepping stone to resilience – the acceptance of failure. Podcasts such as Elizabeth Day’s hugely successful ‘How to Fail’ are showing the positives of our perceived failings. Often we are set on our course in life, predetermined by what we feel success looks like – this could originate from culture, society, our education, and role models to name a few. However when we set our goals, we are imposing a rigidity based on what we know about the world, and what is open to us.
Jonny Wilkinson recently spoke on The High Performance Podcast “If there’s great disappointment, be curious about the disappointment, don’t be angry at the situation, be curious – it’s an inward journey. And if you point inwards, there’s no limit there. So a degree of pure curiosity, exploration, with the aim of finding new space which is new opportunity, which keeps passion alive”
Being curious, open, and having an elasticity to our view of success is a cornerstone of building resilience. What Jonny is describing here is and emotional fitness that enables us to cope with unpredictable circumstances that arise in life. In the same way that a runner may prepare their body for a variety of terrain, so we need to prepare our minds. And just like a running, it’s a practice, it needs daily attention.
There is a difference between being (unconsciously) resilient, and having a toolset that you consciously activate when you need to be resilient. In some areas of life we will develop resilience to experiences unconsciously: it could be the ability to train hard for a sport; to cope with our commute on an overcrowded public transport system; to juggle the children with the many other demands of life; to work in a mentally demanding role such as front line services. Conscious resilience comes into play when we are dealing with more irregular challenges, perhaps lockdown, a divorce, losing our job, or grief. In these cases we consciously draw on our toolkit of curiosity, gratitude, and a mindset of looking to and accepting what that new future may hold for us. Leaders are good a building resilience because they are often faced by obstacles that can overwhelm them, and so examining resilience is a good leadership lesson.
You can’t build equal levels of resilience to EVERYTHING, it’s OK not to be resilient to everything – you can walk away from people and circumstances that do not serve you. This in itself is a type of resilience, and part of your toolkit for dealing with the unpredictability of life.
I want to talk about PONDS 🐸 - metaphorically speaking.... Horses are my passion, but riding them is not something I have ever had a natural talent for. I struggle a lot working it all out to be honest - co-ordinating my brain and body in a timely manner to make sense to my horse, while trying to give the dressage judge a harmonious picture. However I am determined to improve, and to do this I need to be a smaller fish in a bigger pond. There are plenty of smaller ponds I could swim in, but I won’t grow there- there’s just no room!
Where do you want to be- what’s your passion? The brain loves a vision, it’s the first step to growth and transformation. Once you have the vision of where you want to be, you have to take steps to actually put yourself “out there”- and suffer the discomfort. Owch, and I am feeling the discomfort right now! I am pushing myself to compete at a higher level of dressage than I have been, to ride better, to think differently- to unlearn some bad and unconscious habits.
There’s no short cut available. Transformation and growth whether for a hobby, job or relationship can be confronting and uncomfortable- it feels weird at times. Trust in your vision and passion to get to where you want to be!
Picture credit @amygphotography_ from last Sunday, me with TJ riding in our bigger pond- not winning but growing.
In that moment in life, when the intangible gut instinct starts to whisper that you’re not in the right place or doing things in the right way, the feeling can be alarming. That clarity can grow slowly, or can be very sharp, an awakening so bracing that it takes your breath away. Once the feeling has attached itself to you, it’s hard to shake it off. Often we try and ignore it because it brings into focus just how paralysed we are by our fears. And when all is said and done, it’s fear that stops us being the best version of our selves – we aren’t good enough after all? So we try and disconnect from that dream we have, dismissing the ideas as foolish and unachievable. The dreams bubbles under us every day, reminding us that we’re not in the place we want to be. We feel despondent and insecure. On a day-to-day basis life doesn’t match up to our values and beliefs. We haven’t met our own expectations, and we feel the resentment that comes from that.
You’re face down IN THE ARENA, and your critics are all around: Shame, Scarcity, Comparison, delivered by a version of yourself that has stepped out of your own body and is looking back at you, telling you “you are not enough”. They stand by the Teacher who didn’t believe in you, the Friend who ghosted you, the people on a day to day basis who overlook you, the Partner who takes you for granted, the Parent who wanted you to be more – because they did so much to give you everything they never had. Even the horse that’s just bucked you off is staring down at you, looking surprised at your own incompetence falling out the saddle as if to say “So are you going to get back on then?”
Your body aches, your mind spins – wondering – “how did I get here?” and contemplating “Can I really get back up?” because we all know if we get back up, we may fall again, and could we really take more failure? Do we really want more bruises? It’s so much easier to stay small, to sit down here on the floor and look up at all of you, the critics who know better, the ones who do better, who shout louder.
And then you spot something in the corner of your eye, you hadn’t noticed it until now. Amongst the noise and confusion, you see your advocates and friends. You were so busy trying to prove yourself to your critics, worrying about the thoughts of those who don’t have a care for you, that you didn’t even notice them. Cheering you on, rooting for you, sharing you disappointment, willing you to stand. They walk over to you, while you adamantly sit dusty and bruised on the floor. One by one they approach, and slowly begin to help you up. One holds a hand while the other steadies you, another brushes the dirt of your clothes, one takes the reins of the horse.
“Are you ready to get back on?” they say
“But what if I fall” you reply
“We’ll lead you for a while”
And so, you get back in the saddle, and they walk beside you until you’re ready to ride alone.
You look up into the seats around the arena. The critics are still there, but they’re much further away now. They look at you in distain.
“I know you are there” you say “I know who you are, and I know what you think. You’re welcome to sit and watch, but I am going to get back up any way. Your feedback doesn’t matter to me now”
With that, their faces blur, and those of your supporters shine brighter.
I decided late last year that if I was going to make my future profession from any form of coaching, I really had to – and wanted to - show up with my commitment to Equality and Diversity. Realising that I needed to take a proactive approach to my own unconscious bias, I undertook 4 months part-time study to pass my Level 2 in Equality and Diversity.
The course helped me to poke, prod and unravel some of my own unconscious bias. Those tendencies we have as humans to be suspicious of people who are "not like us". Our brain has a tendency to stereotype, which can result in injustice, conflict and discrimination. Stereotyping is used by the brain for efficiency. If we can cluster people into groups, then we are not so overwhelmed by information. Our brain will use any information it finds to define these clusters, things like the negative portrayal on social media or in the media will compound any negative depiction of minority groups. And hence it is ‘unconscious’, because often we don’t even realise we are doing it.
It would be easy for me to feel comfortable with my efforts, the hours of study I invested looking deeply into this subject. To proudly display my certificate on the wall for my clients to see, like a beacon of my commitment to treating everyone who walks through my door just the same.
But no, this just isn’t enough. The events of this week have shown this. I have added ‘white privilege’ and ‘anti-racism’ to my vocabulary. I have realised I have so much deeper to dig, and that this is a time for me to listen and understand more from those who have suffered. So my commitment to my future clients is not that I have ‘ticked the box’ for Equality and Diversity, but that I am engaged in the long and faithful work of awakening, and am open to things being more complex than they once seemed. This is the work.