How Belief Can Change Your Life
Everyday life is impossible without holding your own set of beliefs. Just because belief exists silently doesn’t make it less powerful. Most people are guided by belief in the work they do, their religion, loyalty to their family, and all kinds of values they hold dear. But there’s a problem when your beliefs start to gain the upper hand and get into the driver’s seat. Much of the violent or crazy behavior in the world is associated with a deeply held belief (in tribalism, religious fundamentalism, and “us versus them” thinking) that is actually imprisoning the people who are trapped in their beliefs.
They have lost sight of two things. First, you are meant to be in control of your beliefs, not the other way around. Second, the switch that can create a new belief also creates a new reality at the same time. When enemies turn into allies, when frustration turns to fulfillment, when being a victim turns into being strong and self-sufficient, the switch has been pulled and reality shifts.
The most powerful beliefs are the ones I call core beliefs, because they tell you who you are. If someone deeply believes “I’m a winner” and someone else believes “I am unlovable,” the outcome of their core beliefs will be very different. It’s critical to hold positive core beliefs and to activate them in your daily life. The more you activate your core beliefs, the more dynamic and transformed your reality will be.
There are four core beliefs that make the most difference:
- Feeling safe and secure
- Feeling whole
In everyone’s heart there is a belief about all four of these things, and this belief isn’t always simple. Your entire life has shaped your core beliefs, while at the same time your core beliefs have shaped your entire life. Take the area of love. Here are some possible core beliefs that someone can hold about love, either positive or negative.
- I am not very lovable.
- Love is temporary and fleeting.
- Love can easily turn into hate.
- Falling in love is a delusion, a kind of romantic insanity.
- I deserve unconditional love and also want to give it.
- Love is eternal.
- Consciousness itself contains the power of love.
- Human love can connect with divine love and rise to its level.
As you can see, someone who holds the second set of beliefs will be happier and more fulfilled than someone who holds the first set. Given a choice, most people who read inspiring words about love have a “Wouldn’t that be nice?” response. In other words, their personal life has brought them mixed experiences of love, neither all positive nor all negative. But core beliefs aren’t simply a box of opinions you trot out and examine if you have the time. They are microchips, we might say, buried at some level of the mind, constantly sending out the message encoded into them.
These messages don’t change unless you bring self-awareness in to change them. Left to themselves, microchips mechanically perform the same task over and over. So a young girl who believes “I’m not very lovable” is likely to grow up being an adult woman who thinks the same thing because, in the intervening years, the microchip has been beeping away, sending out the same message. Eventually, the girl’s personal reality will conform to a negative belief, which in this case is about self-worth as well as love.
If you want your life to change at the deep level of core beliefs, awareness is your most powerful ally. Here’s a useful way to begin to change a core belief. Take one of the four areas: love, self-worth, feeling safe and secure, and feeling whole. Sit down with a piece of paper and make two headings, “My positive beliefs” and “My negative beliefs.” Now list all the beliefs you hold around this one topic such as love. Don’t restrict yourself. Write down any belief that comes to mind.
Now return to your lists at least two more times in the following week. Add to the negative and positive side as your mind continues to cogitate—you will find that deeper beliefs take more time to surface. Now that your lists are complete, sit back and assess them.
By each belief put a mark:
- S = strong belief
- W = weak belief
- U = uncertain or not quite sure belief
You are mapping out the territory of your core belief system, which is incredibly useful. Since this is your private communication with yourself, don’t be ashamed to put down a belief you think is wrong or unacceptable; this is your time to take charge of all your beliefs.
Now begin to foster change. Take one strong negative belief and one strong positive belief. As an example, the negative belief might be “I will only get love from a few people” and the positive belief “Love can heal.” Your task is to diminish the negative belief and reinforce the positive belief. This is a kind of brain training, where you lay down new pathways of thinking and feeling. So in the case of these two beliefs, what steps can you take?
“I will only get love from a few people”
To minimize this belief, you need to feel more secure about love outside your close-knit circle of family and friends. Tell yourself that this is possible. Just because only a few people love you now doesn’t mean that more won’t love you if you seek their love. Start where it feels safe, like working in a shelter or helping underprivileged kids—an activity where you can see an immediate response of appreciation and gratitude, which are expressions of love. In general, be with people who are loving—they exist all around you. They may intensely love their work, their mission, their vision of life, other people, or the beauty of nature. There are infinite ways for love to express itself, and when you become involved with them, you become part of this love.
“Love can heal”
To activate this belief and make it expand, there are two directions you can go in: healing yourself and healing others. They are connected, and it’s good to focus on both as you grow and evolve. But you can only give the love you feel, so most people will first focus on healing themselves. This project begins with self-care, expressing love for yourself by adopting lifestyle choices—in diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management—that enhance your sense of well-being. Everything you do to care for body and mind is a form of self-healing based on loving yourself. Next comes self-compassion, which means being kinder and more forgiving of yourself. Then comes self-purification, the process of clearing out toxic residues from the past, old wounds, bad memories, and outworn conditioning. Finally comes communion with your higher self, which has always been the source of healing and love at the same time.
I’ve looked at only two beliefs out of many, but the general process is the same for any belief, positive or negative, that you want to address. You consciously diminish negative input and consciously increase positive input. Setting up such a program ensures that your life will always be dynamic because nothing creates change and transformation like gaining control over your core beliefs. As they evolve, so do you, moving ahead on a never-ending journey that is based on your deepest belief in who you really are.
DEEPAK CHOPRA, MD, FAC.P, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation. TIME magazine has described Dr. Chopra as “One of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.”
Deepak Chopra is the co-founder of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, the founder of the Chopra Foundation, and co-founder of Jiyo.com and Chopra Global. He is board-certified in internal medicine, endocrinology, and metabolism. He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, and a clinical professor in the Family Medicine and Public Health Department at the University of California, San Diego. He hosts the health and wellbeing podcast Daily Breath with Deepak Chopra.
He is the author of more than 85 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His recent books include You Are the Universe, co-authored with Menas Kafatos, Ph.D.; Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine; and The Healing Self, co-authored with Rudolph Tanzi, Ph.D. His soon-to-released book, Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential, publishes October 1, 2019.