Humans have the amazing ability to be aware of our own thoughts. This is called metacognition. When we can become aware of what we are thinking, we can see how our thoughts are creating the experience we are having in our lives. And we have the power to shift that experience.
Our minds work in stories so that we can understand what is happening and attempt to find meaning in our experiences. These stories about ourselves and the world around us are (of course) made up of our thoughts. When we don’t have all of the information, we often default to making up the rest of the story and then act as if the story were true. This can lead to all kinds of problems, including the need to go back and make up for how we acted based on the story that we created.
Our thoughts are related to our beliefs and our beliefs are shaped by both our life experiences and our environment. Many of our beliefs are formed in childhood as we are learning to interact with the world around us. Our environment teaches us what to believe about the world as well as what to believe about ourselves. And our beliefs then become the subconsious programming that drives our thoughts, emotions, and actions on a daily basis.
Because we are meaning-making creatures, we look for things in our lives to support our beliefs. And we find what we are looking for. If we believe that everyone is out to get us, we will interpret experiences and emotions throughout the day that support that belief. If we believe that everything always works out for us, we will find examples throughout the day that support that belief. Without even thinking about it, we move through a self-perpetuating cycle of looking for things to support what we believe, thus maintaining the belief.
The bad news is that as our beliefs were formed during the process of learning how to survive in the environment in which we developed, we may take on negative beliefs about ourselves.
Based on those beliefs about ourselves, we live our lives according to rules about how we should think, feel, and act. And those rules are not always helpful. (See the blog post from April referring to Brules.) The rules by which we are living our lives can be based on beliefs that no longer apply to us, were never our beliefs to begin with, or that keep us stuck in unhelpful or unhealthy patterns. And then, those rules inform our actions and our actions reinforce the beliefs we have about ourselves.
If we want to change our beliefs and create new patterns, we must lean into the practice of self-exploration and curiosity. So, we are back to this idea of metacognition. We must be willing to take a step back and observe what is going on in our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Self-awareness is always the first step. However, it can be difficult to see our own patterns when we are in the pattern, so asking others to reflect what they see can be enlightening. (But also, sometimes very difficult to hear.)
We may begin to see emotions that we have been avoiding, actions that do not align with our core values, and negative beliefs about ourselves that are preventing us from experiencing joy, purpose, and meaning in our lives.
So, we are directed back to questioning our own beliefs, being open to reflection or feedback from others, and the practicing new ways of being. And all of this takes dedication to our own well-being as evolution takes effort.
This week, I invite you to think about how you think about yourself. Get curious about how your beliefs about yourself shape how you show up in your life and what beliefs may need to change so that new patterns can be established.
As always, I will be practicing along with you and I would be happy to help in the process.
Chat again soon,