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Change Work March 2014

Your beliefs rule your life

Many of us are feeling a bit weighed down these days.  Earning a living seems to get harder and the world is full of things we'd change if we could.

For instance, whether or not you believe that climate change is caused by human activity, it's increasingly clear that it's happening and we feel powerless to stop it.  The news is dominated by popular uprisings and cross-border disputes. Even if they're a long way away they're still disturbing to hear about and you're left wondering if solutions will ever be found.  Some economic indicators are improving but it doesn't really feel like things are getting better.

It's not surprising then if feelings of helplessness in the face of these big problems spill over into your own life.  If you're caught up on a treadmill of demands - work or family - there are many things there that you'd like to change but maybe feel unable to.  You know in principle that if there's something you don't know how to do, then you have to learn how to do it.  Driving a car, playing the guitar or writing a book - all require knowledge and practice.  So it's obvious that getting a better job, a better house or a better relationship might also require some learning - isn't it?

Well no.  It's true, but it isn't usually obvious.  What gets in the way here is how you perceive the choices.  Some things can seem so difficult for you that they're practically impossible - for you.  That means that you never even consider learning how to do those things - because they're impossible!

What makes things impossible?

Most of the things that anyone might aspire to do are entirely possible and have all been done many times before by others.  And yet we don't usually see it that way.  It comes down to what you believe: as Henry Ford said, "Whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually right."  What you think is much more important than how things really are.

The other side of this is what you do decide to do.  Obviously it will be one of those things, perhaps the only one, that you see as possible for you.  To someone else's eyes though, that choice may appear pointless and completely incomprehensible.

There's a presupposition* in NLP that "people always make the best choice".  The evidence though seems to disprove it - we see people doing stupid, self-destructive things all the time.  But think about it: why would you choose anything other than the best choice - as you see it?  And of course you don't do that; you choose the best option.  The trouble is that you only see a very small range of possibilities to choose from - or maybe only one.  So that's what you must do. If the more effective path looks impossible to you then it's not a real option and so can't be chosen.

(If there aren't any possible options then you will experience stress, and that reduces your capacity to face challenges still further.)

When you see someone doing something really stupid, ask yourself, "I wonder what the world must look like to them if doing what they did was their best choice." Suspending judgement until you've considered this question will give you enormous insight into that person's world and help you to deal with them much more effectively.  It will also help you to see how individual and internal your own world is.

If you're feeling stuck, can't see a way forward, not even sure of where you want to go, the problem isn't with where you are now.  The problem is with what you're editing out of the picture.  This is what limits all of us. Not what we can do - but what we believe we can never do.

* The Presuppositions of NLP are things that may not always be true, but we act as if they were because that's usually more resourceful.