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examining your beliefs
by Jim Will, Ph.D.

Have you examined your beliefs lately? There was a belief for many years that the world was flat and if you sailed out too far, you would fall off the edge. Then someone, maybe an early Russian, or Leif Erickson, or even Columbus, came along and challenged that particular belief and opened the way to the new world. 

There was a belief for years that people couldn't fly. Although many people contributed to experiments in flight over the years, the Wright brothers got us off the ground, and now we've gone to the moon and orbited in space. I've had the pleasure of working with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for many years. Just look at the developments during the short period from the beginning of flight to now. How quickly we can accomplish things, once we get started!

There was a belief for years that women couldn't manage, run a business, or sell. They needed to stay home and in the kitchen. As long as we had that belief, humanity stifled over 50% of its brainpower, talent, and creative abilities.

We all carry around a number of beliefs, attitudes, and opinions that we've had for a long time. Sometimes these beliefs might carry over through several generations. There are probably also some that you've had for a shorter time, since the process of acquiring these is ongoing. You regularly reinforce them with your self-talk.

These beliefs might or might not be true, and they might or might not help you. The point is that people typically are not conscious of which are true, which are false or misleading, and which are helping or hurting them.

Obviously, if there's a possibility that some of your beliefs are hurting you, you want to know about it and get rid of them. But how do you do this? If you don't realize that you have a "blind spot," how can you get rid of it?

You've already taken the first step by becoming aware of the concept of self-talk and learning how self-talk can affect you. Identifying particular beliefs and their corresponding self-talk is mostly a matter of alertness and awareness of what you're saying to yourself.

Become fascinated with your self-talk for a while. Focus on examining your beliefs and your self-talk throughout your day. Now that you know how your self-talk can affect you, listen to your self-talk with an attitude of awareness. Before you act, stop and think about your self-talk about the action. Before you make a decision, think about what belief on which that decision is based. You might want to write down what you want to think about – what will help you – and keep it in front of you while you're listening to your self-talk. Remember, too, to watch not only for negative self-talk that applies to you, but also for negative self-talk that applies
to others. Negative self-talk can be your self-talk to yourself about other people, as well as your self-talk to yourself about you.

If you're warming up for a race and are saying to yourself, "Oh yes, I'm going to have a good clean run," and then that little voice says, "Come on, you know what happened to you the last time we competed," then you've identified some negative self-talk to which you need to attend. If you're thinking about your competition and you get a picture of yourself competing the run with the fastest time you've ever run, you've identified some positive self-talk that is helping you and that you need to preserve.