The Science Behind Limiting Beliefs
Ten years ago I had very specific ideas about my life. I was something like twenty-one. Probably studying abroad in London, eating preservative packed foods, and hiding from my insecurities. I thought I’d never have kids, because, well…freedom. I thought I’d live abroad a few years, maybe forever. I thought I’d meet this amazingly hilarious British guy (I don’t know what I was thinking) who’d make me smile easily and often. I thought I’d have this super successful, long-term, creative job in advertising. Advertising? Sigh. Youth.
Today I don’t know if I’ll ever have kids or get married. I don’t know where I’ll be living in the next five years. I don’t know what my career will be for the long haul. Because now I know that life is full of possibilities that can only be revealed if I let go of my beliefs.
Now I’m going to get all science-y on you and show you how your beliefs are literally limiting the possibilities for your life.
Unless you’re a robot, you have this part of your brain called the reticular activating system (RAS). Your RAS is somewhere in the base of your brain, and its job is to filter information. Information overload is a phrase that’s become common, but it’s nothing compared to what you’d experience without your RAS. The brain can only process a certain amount of information so your RAS helps you filter information so you can make sense of the world around you.
Now the big question is: how does your RAS choose what to filter? Well, it filters information based on what you think is true, relevant, or important.
Here lies the danger (and power) in beliefs. When you have a belief about yourself, someone, or something in the world, your RAS filters out information that doesn’t support that belief.
So your brain literally doesn’t see things you don’t believe.
If you believe we’re living in a cynical world with greedy, evil people around, guess what your brain is going to show you? Robberies on the news, a mean lady yelling at her son on the street, someone flicking you off when you accidentally cut them off.
Our beliefs shape our worlds. If you think it’s really hard to make money, it’s going to be really hard to make money. If you believe there are no men out there for you, your brain is going to filter out the possibilities of a good partner. If you believe you’re just one of those people who has it tougher than most, your life is going to feel like a constant struggle. When we switch our perspective to one of abundance, positivity, and possibility we begin to see realities that didn’t previously exist to us before.
When I was in my twenties I was trying to figure this whole life thing out. I thought that meant seeking, deciding, and building up beliefs. I ended up involved in an organization whose merits I didn’t have the ability to question because I was attached to my belief around it. Relationships in my life started to feel estranged because I believed no one understood me.
When I challenged my beliefs my life began to change.
I decided to open up to the possibility that people in my life could understand me. Not only did I find myself understood, but I felt connected to people in a way I never had before. I let go of the idea of living somewhere in particular, doing some specific thing, and meeting a certain kind of person. I decided that I wanted my life to be an expression of possibility and, above all, love.
Life gives us this amazing opportunity to transform, and the possibility is in our presence every waking moment. There’s this old saying, something like, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” You’ve probably heard of it. You’ve probably said it. And you probably don’t realize the box it’s keeping you in.
The truth is that you’ll see it if you believe it.
So what do you want to see? Decide what world you want to live in and then paint it.