[This post is part of a series on “Mental models and beliefs: an exercise to identify yours.” If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]
After reading a lot of this series, you probably found some beliefs you’d like to try. You might wonder “how do I change my beliefs?”
If you haven’t intentionally changed your beliefs before and you don’t get how beliefs work, you might not realize how easily you can change or how easily you can learn that skill.
Today’s model will show how you store and change beliefs.
A model for the mechanics of how you change your beliefs: Your self-talk voices your beliefs.
Your mental chatter is the voice in your head that runs nearly every waking moment. It runs on and on. It communicates in English. A different part of your mind observes it. It often takes cues from your environment but can jump on its own to whatever topic. It often evaluates and judges.
Comparing mental chatter with how people answer “What are you thinking?” helps illuminate it. You might say “I’m thinking about what to eat,” but your mental chatter goes more like
I’m hungry… I wonder what I’ll eat… is it 12:30 yet?… oh no it’s only noon, it’s too early to eat now… but I’m hungry… man, I’ve been eating too much lately… if I make it another half hour I’ll be good… I’m so bad at controlling my diet… I better work out after work today… that’ll be good, I’ll work out… then I can eat early… what time is it now?…
… it goes on and on.
Like breathing, you can consciously control mental chatter but if you don’t it will run on its own. Learning to control and manage your mental chatter is one of the most fundamental elements to improving your life. And awareness of your mental chatter is the foundation to managing it. Amazingly, people tend not to notice their mental chatter despite its presence nearly every waking moment of their lives, like a fish in water.
The voice inside your head running all the time has many roles, but one of them is to voice your beliefs. Whether you believe “No pain no gain,” or not, because you’ve heard it before, you express it, often uncritically, as if you believe it.
Learn to listen to and manage your self-talk.
The more you can and the better you get at it, the more you can manage and control your beliefs.
Also, the following exercise builds up your understanding of and ability to manage your self talk.
- Carry a notebook or a few sheets of paper for a week or two
- A few times each day write your exact thoughts — not the general
- Note the following
- What prompts each instance
- What emotions relate to it
- How the instances relate to each other, what categories they fit in
Each time you write will probably take a few minutes. The whole exercise will take about an hour over a week or two.
At first writing your thoughts will feel like drinking from a fire hose. You can’t write fast enough to keep up with your thoughts. Writing changes your thoughts, so you have to figure out how to write what you were thinking. Part of the reason to do the exercise over a week is to get past initial distractions to observe your mind at work.
To get more out of the exercise, write up what you’ve observed when you finish, especially trends in what you noted in step 3. To get yet more, do it with others and compare results.
When I use this belief
I use this belief when I want to change a belief. It’s one of my main standard steps.
What this belief replaces
This belief replaces not knowing how to clarify how your mind and body construct beliefs with showing a major contribution.
Where this belief leads
This belief leads to more freedom and flexibility in beliefs.
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
- Step by step instructions
- Video examples of me and Marshall Goldsmith
- An excerpt from my book