Updated: Nov 24, 2020
Exploring our own underlying assumptions and beliefs can unlock self-limiting patterns of action that limit our freedom to create the life we want.
Tomorrow marks Independence Day. S'more supplies purchased, organic nitrate-free turkey brats sit in the fridge, and the sparkler pack awaits my family for tomorrow's dusk. I'm ready. Yet, the combination of my birthday next month and lots of conversations with my husband about what do we want for our future has prompted me to be a bit more reflective. Please don't misunderstand, I am grateful for our country and the freedoms of the Constitution. But how independent can a married couple with two kids, a dog, a mortgage, and aging parents be anyway? Perhaps, the sparkler is nothing but a fun distraction to something else often unseen, yet powerful.
The Underlying Current in the River of Life
I teach the book Huck Finn, and one of the important conversations we have is actually about freedom. Even though Huck escapes his abusive father, Pap, and "civilized" society, he slowly gives back his freedom, in part to protect his friend, the runaway slave Jim; but really, this is due to the damaging underlying beliefs that he never even examines.
These invisible forces, like a river current, pull his life automatically in a direction, working against the other conscious choices he makes.
Huck believes he is stupid and that people like his know-it-all friend Tom Sawyer have all the answers. Huck believes he is no good because he wasn't "brought up right," though all examined evidence points to Huck possessing a practical and empathetic wisdom.
Likewise, unexamined beliefs and old patterns can sabotage our own efforts to achieve the goals we set in our own lives-- heck, even determine what goals we decide to set in our lives.
Jim, even though a freed slave all along, doesn't realize he is free. And because no one treats him as such, and Huck, Jim, and Tom stick to old patterns, Jim remains enslaved. Actually, everyone does. Enslavement to subconscious patterns of thinking prevent Huck from actually being a true friend to Jim--Huck's primary goal-- and cause Tom to nearly die in pursuit of his own naive, pointless, and selfish adventure.
Enslavement to subconscious patterns of thinking prevent Huck from actually being a true friend to Jim--Huck's primary goal-- and cause Tom to nearly die in pursuit of his own naive, pointless, and selfish adventure.
Examine and Recreate New Currents that Propel Us Forward
So this week I'm going to make a list of underlying beliefs that are at play in the important areas of my own life. (See Lifebook, for a full process of self-examination).
1. Health and Fitness
6. Love and Relationships
11.Quality of Life
For examples, in the area of Health and Fitness, my current limiting beliefs:
1. My fitness will decline in the next decade. That's just how it is when you get older.
2. Cooking from scratch is time consuming and difficult to maintain when I am busy.
3. A healthy snack after the kids go to bed is a fine way to treat myself after a long day.
In another category, Emotional, I also have other limiting beliefs:
1. I am just an emotional person, and so I feel emotions quickly and strongly. I can't help it if I yell.
2. I'm a type A person, and so I like things done now. I don't have patience, because I'm a "do-er."
Lastly, for example, in my Career these thoughts limit me:
1. In my career, I will have to give up the creative outlets of my youth to focus on teaching others.
2. In teaching, there are few ways to actually progress in the career. You have to go into administration if you want to grow.
"The unexamined life is not worth living." Aristotle
Once I have my current ones listed, I can decide if this river current of underlying beliefs are going to propel me in a direction that is helpful, or is this actually preventing my movement forward? Specifically, the next questions to ask is "What beliefs could I have that will serve my growth in this area?"
"What beliefs could I have that will serve my growth in this area?"
So let's try it, going back to the examples above. In the area of Health and Fitness:
Old limiting belief: 1. My fitness will decline in the next decade. That's just how it is when you get older.
Freeing new belief: 1. My body will continue to become stronger, more flexible, and in better aerobic shape as I care for it and challenge it more regularly.
Old limiting belief: 2. Cooking from scratch is time consuming and difficult to maintain when I am busy.
Freeing new belief: 2. When busy, a simple and fresh meal will energize me and help stabilize my mood.
Old limiting belief: 3. A healthy snack after the kids go to bed is a fine way to treat myself after a long day.
Freeing new belief: 3. After the kids go to bed, a comforting tea will help my digestion rest in a soothing way.
Finally, here are my other new empowering beliefs:
1. I can practice patience when I begin to feel emotionally charged. I have been given patience as one of the fruits of the spirit.
2. Sometimes the best way to do something is to do it at the appropriate time or pace.
1. My career benefits when I continue creative outlets that I enjoy and allow me to continue to grow.
2. I find invigorating and rewarding ways to grow in my teaching and coaching profession.
While independence may not be following a river, it is following a river if you want to. We can not remove ourselves from the impact the river current of belief has on our choices. Awareness and intentionally harnessing that power becomes the independence. The irony in Huck Finn, is that Huck, though physically independent again in the end of the novel, never realizes his mental constraints. He escapes society thinking that is the problem. He looks to the outside forces, rejects it, and wrongly claims it as "independence."Our Revolutionary fathers weren't truly "independent" either. They all were acting out of a sense of interrelationship, duty, and purpose. Many of them had wives, kids, dogs, homes, and aging parents too. They did, however, challenge their own underlying beliefs that being part of the stronger British colony was the only way forward.
To that process, tonight, I raise my sparkler and celebrate.
Resources: The Doctor's Farmacy Podcast interview with Jon and Missy Butcher of Lifebook.