Anything is possible—but we reject certain alternatives without a second thought. We've convinced ourselves-or social conditioning has convinced us—that rejecting these options is necessary or proper.
Examples: An unemployed office worker might automatically reject a blue-collar job...a retiree might automatically decide he's too old to go on a backpacking trip in the mountains.
We need to dislodge our negative beliefs if we wish to weigh all of our options, overcome the power of "no'' and elevate our lives to a higher level. Here, the negative beliefs that are holding us back and what to do..
Negative belief: We're stuck with our habits. A habit is simply a shortcut imprinted on the brain. We cook our eggs the same way every morning or sit in front of the television every evening because we have done this so many times that we now do it without making a conscious choice.
A habit is just a choice that is ingrained for practical purposes, but the fact that our habits have become ingrained does not mean that we cannot pursue alternatives.
What keeps us trapped is the "spell of no." We voluntarily renounce the power to change, while at the same time blaming our bad habits as if they have an independent will. The spell that our habits hold over us is one that we have created and thus one that we can break.
What to do: Examine your unwanted habits objectively, as if they belonged to someone else. Ask yourself why you have chosen a bad habit. Search for a hidden benefit that it provides. Does this habit make you feel like a victim, a convenient way to avoid taking responsibility for your problems?
Spend six weeks doing what you want to do, rather than what your habit encourages you to. After six weeks, the new way of doing things will be imprinted on your brain in place of the old habit.
Negative belief: Our obsessions are not really obsessions. People tend to believe the term "obsessive" applies only to those with mental disorders. We certainly don't consider ourselves obsessive. In truth, many of us are obsessive—we simply chose to overlook our obsessions, because we believe that the things we obsess about are things that deserve this much time and energy.
Examples: Obsessions that people tend to view as positive include obsessions with health and safety...career or income...religion...their children's success...or a political or charitable cause.
There might be positive aspects to these obsessions, but having any obsession robs us of our ability to make objective choices-automatically saying yes to spending our time and resources on an obsession means automatically saying no to alternatives. This blunts our ability to evolve and get the most from our lives.
What to do: Stop taking pride in your consistency or single-mindedness even in pursuit of a good cause. Engage in activities that reduce your stress levels, such as meditation or hobbies. Relaxed minds are more open to new alternatives.
Negative belief: Our fears are valid because they seem valid to us. External threats aren't what make the world seem unsafe-it's the concerns and beliefs that we project onto every situation that create our fears. If we worry about crime, then everyone we pass on the street becomes a potential mugger. If we're afraid of heights, then even a small stepladder may seem too dangerous to climb.
Our fears deny us our most basic freedom, the freedom to feel safe in the world. They encourage us to reject possibilities that deserve our consideration by making them seem too risky. Some threats are real, but our fears don't help us identify these. Our fears deprive us of our ability to rationally evaluate dangers.
What to do: Don't try to fight your fears at times when you feel afraid that's when fears are most powerful. At these times, just remind yourself that fear is a passing emotion that soon will be released. Later, when you are calm, recall the fear for objective examination. With long-standing fears, remind yourself that the fact that you have worried about something for years does not mean that this thing is especially dangerous-it just means that your mind has had a lot of time to blow it out of proportion.
Show yourself compassion about your fears. Fear is not a sign of weakness. It can and does affect everyone.
Negative belief: People don't change. Most of us think this from time to time when those close to us chronically repeat mistakes or misbehavior. Yet paradoxically, most of us believe that we, personally, are capable of change and growth. We cannot have it both ways—if we are capable of change, then other people must be, too.
In fact, not only are people capable of change, we all change all the time. When we think, People don't change, we're just giving in to resignation and defeatism. Thinking in this way could dissuade us and those around us from attempting positive growth in the future.
What to do: View yourself as in a perpetual state of change. Search for options for anything in your life that seems fixed and unchangeable. Don't listen to naysayers when you attempt change-their warnings and criticisms are rooted in defeatism, not reality. Encourage attempts to change by others, particularly when these changes are new and fragile.
Example: If a seemingly stingy friend finally offers to pick up a small check, don't make a joke or belittle the effort. Choose to view this person as generous and offer a heartfelt thanks. Your positive reaction could reinforce your friend's attempt to change and encourage greater generosity in the future.
Negative belief: "Bad" thoughts are forbidden and dangerous. Many of us waste energy repressing thoughts that we wish we didn't have. These "bad" thoughts might be feelings of jealousy, rage, lust or a desire for vengeance. Trouble is, repressing thoughts doesn't make them go away-it allows them to grow.
Viewing some of our own thoughts as bad also encourages us to divide ourselves into a good side and a bad side, creating an inner struggle that we can never win.
The truth is, we all have thoughts that we wish we didn't have. That doesn't mean we're bad people, as long as we don't act on these thoughts.
What to do: Understand that it is not in our power to stop "bad thoughts. It is in our power to let these thoughts pass rather than repress them or act on them. Don't believe that the thoughts drifting through your mind define who you are-these thoughts are not you.
Never condemn anyone for his/her thoughts, including yourself. Give up the impossible goal of totally controlling your mind.
Change Your Attitude, Live Longer
Researchers who analyzed data that measured attitudes and perspectives of about 100,000 women (age 50 or older) found that those who were "cynically hostile"-highly mistrustful and resentful of others-were 16% more likely to die from any cause during the eight-year study period than those who were the least cynically hostile.
Theory: Negative attitudes may contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease and other health problems.
If you tend to be cynical and mistrustful: In addition to eating well and exercising, consider extending your social network...and, if necessary, talk with a therapist to help change your thinking