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Way back in EPISODE 1 I talked about thinking errors that could be holding you back in business. If you haven’t listened to that episode, I encourage you to reach back into the archives. It’s a really fun one and it sheds a lot of light onto some of what we are going to be talking about today.
If you have listened to that episode, then you know that thinking errors are irrational thoughts that are reinforced over time. They are “unhealthy or unhelpful” versions of automatic thoughts. These are the thoughts that are just floating through our heads all day every day. And these thoughts are generally situations specific meaning that if someone cuts you off in traffic, you have automatic thoughts that are tied to that event which inform your feelings and your behavior related to that event.
If you get an influx of clients, you will have automatic thoughts related to that. If you have a series of weeks with no new business you will have automatic thoughts about that.
What’s interesting about these thoughts is that they are the OUTER layer --- the surface of what is going on much deeper down in our minds. I don’t mean literally deeper down, but I do mean metaphorically
If you picture in your mind a set of three concentric circles, Automatic Thoughts (of which thinking errors are a part) are in the outer ring.
One layer deeper down are thoughts researchers refer to as “Limiting Beliefs” John Acuff refers to them as “Secret Rules” in his book FINISH and the life coach “Brooke Castillo” refers to them as “stories”.
Limiting beliefs are conditional rules about ourselves and the world that keep us constrained to particular feelings/ behaviors and serve to reinforce the next layer in the ring on circles(core beliefs/ identity).
They might be if/then or Do/don’t or can/can’t or they might be predictions about how other people will act. For example, “If I work hard, then I am worthy of the money that I have”. “If I am thin, people will like me”. “I’m not a number’s person” “I don’t follow through with things”. “I’m really disorganized”.
These beliefs about ourselves and rules about how the world works make is difficult for us to change our behavior and change our circumstances.
If you are constantly telling yourself that you are “not a number’s person” then you will have a difficult time keeping up with your business and personal finances. Every time you sit down to make a budget or pay bills, you will tell yourself that what you are doing is too hard or too complicated. You will have a lot of thinking errors that come up and prevent you from starting to turn your financial situation around.
The good news is, that these limiting beliefs are just beliefs. They can be changed to promote new feelings and new behaviors that you are seeking.
Here are a couple of steps you can take to start turning things around.
Step 1: Identify the belief that is causing the problem.
If we continue with the financial example you might sit down to make a monthly budget and you say to yourself “This is really hard.” “I’ll never be able to do this.”
This is the outer layer of thoughts. These are just the initial “thinking errors” that appear. The first step is to dig deeper to identify the belief behind these thoughts. As yourself, why do I think that this is hard? Why don’t I think I will be able to do this? When you have answers to those questions, ask why again. Ask it again. Keep asking why until you come to something that feels like the core of the issue.
In this case, that might be “I’m not a numbers person”
Step 2: Understand where that belief comes from.
So you say to yourself “I’m not a numbers person”. Where did that start for you. Did you have a difficult time with numbers at school? Did a parent or teacher tell you that? Did you start to believe this after you failed a couple of times at doing math problems. Have you always had trouble with finances?
Step 3: It’s just a belief. It’s not the “truth” of something.
A key concept to understand in this step is the difference between growth and fixed mindset. Fixed mindset says that you have a fixed or limited capacity to do, be or learn. You are either good at math or bad. You are either organized or disorganized. You either love exercise or you hate it. This is very BLACK AND WHITE thinking (one of the thinking errors we talked about in episode one). This kind of thinking keeps you stuck.
The growth mindset says that you can do, be or learn anything. You can learn to become good at money, organized and a lover of exercise. You are capable of growth and change.
In this thirds step, you look at the beliefs that you have and recognize that they are likely part of the fixed mindset and they are keeping you stuck. Holding onto the belief that you are “bad at money or not good with numbers” keeps you stuck in that place.
Step 4: You will replace the limiting belief with a truth.
You can learn to manage money. You can learn to be more disciplined with finances. It’s ok to make mistakes. Little by little progress adds up to great gains. It doesn't’ have to be perfect to be impactful.
In this step, you ask yourself, what do I need to belief to see the results that I want. Remember the model starts with a trigger> you have a thought (that is supported by your beliefs)> that thought creates and emotion and those emotions lead to behavior.
If I want to behave like someone who is a financial mogul, what do I need to believe when I sit down to create a budget?
Step 5: PRACTICE
You put your new beliefs into practice by attempting to act if they were true. What would a person with this belief do? Then, when negative thoughts arise, you remind yourself of your new belief and you keep moving forward.
Let’s say that you’ve decided that your new belief is that you are financially competent. You believe that financially competent people set budgets. You set a budget and you follow it for half of the month. Your automatic thoughts may be “I’ve failed. See, I am bad with numbers”.
You stop, remind yourself that you are financially competent. You remind yourself that you are learning a new skill and that you can learn to manage money well. This leads you to try again.
You will likely need to do this process over and over again until you have solidified this new belief.
Ok, so to recap. Thinking errors arise from limiting beliefs that we have about ourselves and the world. We can learn to change these beliefs by identifying the belief, discovering its roots, recognizing that beliefs can be changed, replacing it with a more helpful belief and then practicing this new belief until we feel that it has become solid.