(Original post 7/21, updated 12/23)
Today we look at a tool you can use to challenge your beliefs – especially those you want to change. What are the things you would like to believe about yourself? What are the results you want? Who do you want to be no matter the circumstance you face? How do you want to show up – in your practice, in your relationships, in the world?
The ladder of inference (photo below) helps assess our beliefs. If I were to draw it myself, I’d make a couple of modifications. First, for beliefs, I’d add "our identity and the story we tell ourselves." And I’d add 2 rungs between beliefs and actions – "thoughts/pattern of thoughts" then step up to "feelings/emotion." But we are actually going to be working on the other end of the ladder today, so the point is mute.
User Biogeographist, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Common
Beliefs/Identity/The story we tell ourselves - those are thoughts we’ve just thought time and again that have become ingrained. Some of our beliefs and identities are core values that we hold deeply; others are actually assumptions that hold us. To begin the teasing out process, we need to recognize that the ladder often collapses between observations and beliefs.
We just make observations and reinforce our beliefs. We are oblivious that we are selecting data, adding meaning to the data, which leads to assumptions and conclusions that create our beliefs. We have observed over time and now have beliefs such as … “Sacrifice of family time is just part of the job.” “I could never do that on my own.” “I’m not leadership material.” “I don’t have the patience for ___.” “I’m not good under pressure.” “I’m just an insecure person.” “I’m a black cloud.” “I just got lucky – I’m not really as smart as everyone thinks.” “I’m not important enough to ask for ____.”
By telescoping the ladder back out and climbing up one rung at a time, we can start to unravel the beliefs that may be limiting, erroneous, or that we just want to change. Stop and get out something to write on. First, note the observations, selected data, the assigned meaning of the data, the assumptions and conclusions you draw. Now start to challenge yourself at each rung until you poke some holes in your belief. Look for data that was missed and not included? Is there evidence pointing in the opposite direction that was dismissed? Look for 5 other ways to interpret the data, other than the meaning you automatically assign to it. What assumptions are you making? Challenge the validity of the assumption. What are other possibilities? How could your conclusion be different? How and why might someone else see it differently? If you are a spiritual person, how might God see it?
Once you poke a couple of holes in the basis for the belief, then you’re more open to embracing a new belief – begin to build those new neuropathways - visualizing the new future version of yourself living transformed. Have some mantras you can say. (My current favorite: “I’m right where I’m supposed to be.”) Practice thinking new thoughts on purpose. Practice ladder thoughts. (Learn more about those). It’ll take patience, persistence, and understanding that it will feel hard. But then, one day, you’ll exit the cocoon with wings.
Have a joy-filled week! Tonya
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