Do you feel stuck? Don’t know what you want to do with your life? Or maybe you’re having a hard time accomplishing your goals? It could be anything such as losing weight, running a race, finishing your degree, climbing the corporate ladder, or finding that perfect partner. Want to know how to get unstuck? (Trying harder is NOT the answer). Getting unstuck involves a simple strategy of asking yourself three simple questions that help you examine the beliefs that are behind your struggles.
Let me share a simple story of something that happened to me. It’s a story of how old, out-dated, and even innacurate beliefs from our past shape our future. And, how challenging those beliefs can help us to quickly and easily move forward.
“I Don’t Wear Pink”
A few years ago my good friend, Simone, sent me pink earrings for my birthday. I opened them and mumbled, “These are pretty, but I don’t wear pink.” The next gift was from my husband, John. It was a set of pink hat and gloves for running. I repeated, “These are pretty, but I don’t wear pink.”
My daughter inquisitively asked, “Why not? I think you’d look great in pink. Who told you that you didn’t look good in pink?” Hmmm. “Why don’t I wear pink?”, I thought. Then I remembered. “Mom told me when I was just a kid that pink clashes with my red hair.”
She responded, “So what? It’s not true.” So, I put on the earings, hat, and gloves and looked in the mirror. And, you know, I look great in pink.
Where Do You Feel Stuck?
This true story demonstrates how something said to me long ago turned into a belief that has stuck with me for decades. And, that’s why it’s important to challenge our beliefs every now and then. Especially when they get in the way of the things we want for ourselves.
But, in order to do this, we need to identify one thing that’s bugging you right now – where you feel stuck. Is there something you’re not accomplishing that you wish you could. Once you have this in mind, ask yourself the following three questions.
Question #1: Why or Why Not?
To try to identify the beliefs that are holding you back, ask yourself, “Why – or Why not?” (one will seem more appropriate than the other). Then, without filtering your responses, write down all the things that you say to yourself or perhaps to others to explain why you’re doing or not doing what you say you want to do.
Chris told me he would like to finish his college degree. He asked himself, “Why not?” His answers included, “I don’t have time. I’m not smart enough. At this pace, I’ll be old by the time it’s done – and what difference would it make?”
Each time she loses weight, Mari puts the weight back on – and then some. When she asked herself “Why?” she writes, “I don’t have any willpower. I have bad genes – everyone in my family is overweight. I just love to eat.”
Jacque started her own consulting business a few years back, but is struggling to make ends meet and is ready to give up and find a “real job.” When I asked her why it’s so hard she replied, “I’m good at what I do but it’s hard to market myself. I hate pushing myself onto others. Having your own business requires you to wear so many roles, that it’s hard to know everything I need to know.”
Question #2: Who Says?
Next, try to think of who used to say those things. Maybe it was a specific person. Maybe it’s not said outright, but something you feel from the media or your environment.
Chris told me she’s the first in her family to work on a college degree. And, while she often hears praise from family, she also senses a vibe that suggests that they don’t think she will be able to do it. There is also some teasing about her wanting to be better than the rest of them.
Mari remembers how, growing up, food represented solace and celebration. Whenever something good or bad happened, food was involved. And, the more she thought about her family, the more she realized that while most were overweight, they also had poor habits involving food and exercise. Was it the genes or the habits that caused her excess weight?
The more Jacque talked about her business, she recalled that her dad used to always make negative comments about sales people being slimy and slick. Is that how she looks at herself when she tries to market her services?
Question #3: Is It True?
The last of the three questions is, “Is it true?” It might be easy to agree with those out-dated beliefs. I’m sure, if you wanted to, you could find plenty of evidence to suggest that your fears are correct.
But instead, I want you to go out and look for evidence to suggest that those beliefs and excuses you have are wrong. Mari started talking with some of her leaner friends about their weight and found that many of them were not blessed with thin genes. And, after watching one of them in particular lose the weight and then keep it off for a year, she asked her what she was doing differently. It turned out that this friend started looking at food differently. She didn’t give up her favorites, but just learned some strategies to moderate their intake.
Chris went on a quest to find others who got their degrees in a more non-traditional fashion – long after high school. Some of them shared how their families, too, were both supportive and non-supportive. But, now they realized that it was only because they cared for their family members and feared that they would be disappointed if they didn’t meet their goals.
And, Jacque began to recognize that dad was not right. Sales and marketing doesn’t have to feel slick. That there are plenty of people who want and need her services. She joined a networking group where she developed both marketing skills and confidence to build up her business.
It’s Your Time
Did you ask yourself those three questions? Did you come up with any interesting answers? Realize that all our beliefs were formed from messages we heard from others. And those beliefs became our thoughts, which determine our actions today.
But, just as a glass half-filled with water is both “half full” and “half empty”, there are always at least two ways of looking at situations. You don’t need to trust those out-dated beliefs. Trust instead, in yourself.