Psychology research has determined that about 70% of our thoughts are negative and redundant. That is a sobering statistic! Back in 1952 a book was written by Norman Vincent Peale called the Power of Positive Thinking. Peale taught that positive thoughts can help you achieve positive results in your life. Indeed, being optimistic is a very helpful skill that can enhance your ability to achieve great things. But if thinking positively was all there was to it, why couldn’t we just learn that skill and be off to the races?
You probably have had the experience where you thought positively about a particular goal, you visualized what you wanted, tried to make it happen and yet your desired result did not manifest. How come? What is getting in our way?
There is a missing key that is critical to understand and it has to do with our beliefs at the subconscious level. While we may want a particular outcome, if deep down we think we can’t achieve it, or believe we are not deserving of it, or any other self-limiting belief along those lines, then chances are we will fall short of our desired destination. This is why so many people get disappointed with their efforts in trying to make positive thinking, or affirmations, or the “law of attraction” work in their lives.
Key Principle: If you have deeply held beliefs that are in conflict with your goals and aspirations then you will have trouble achieving the positive results that you want.
A Look into the Subconscious Mind
Dr. Bruce Lipton is a former Stanford Medical School Researcher and Cellular Biologist. In his New York Times best-selling book, The Biology of Belief, Dr. Lipton revealed an important part that was left out of the Positive Thought Movement and it is this: Our thoughts come from our mind, but there are two parts of the mind that work together and they are completely different from one another—there is our conscious mind and our subconscious mind. Our conscious mind is our thinking mind which is connected to our identity and personality, whereas the subconscious mind is the storage tank for our memories and is equivalent to a tape player that simply records experiences and plays them back.
Now, here is where it gets interesting. Scientific research has discovered that the subconscious mind as an information processor (like a computer) is a million times more powerful than the conscious mind. The conscious mind processes about 14-40 bits of information per second whereas the subconscious mind processes about 4 million bits of information per second.
Lipton points out that on a day-by-day basis the subconscious mind runs about 95-99% of our biology and heavily influences our conscious mind. So while we may be striving to have all these wonderfully positive thoughts within the conscious mind, the subconscious mind is largely running the show. This process in the mind helps explain why New Year’s resolutions or positive affirmations don’t often work. In many cases it is not because we aren’t trying or that we are weak-willed or incompetent—it is simply that we are using the wrong part of the brain to make the change.
Think of it this way—picture the mind like an iceberg with the conscious part sitting above the water while the subconscious part lies below the surface and is about 90% of the mass of the iceberg. So if you try to focus on where you want to go and say some positive affirmations without releasing your self-limiting beliefs, you will likely be sabotaged in your efforts. It’s like trying to drive your car while your other foot is still on the break. Yet, most of us don’t know why things aren’t working out as we had hoped and so we get frustrated, beat ourselves up, or blame other people. While you can try to maintain positive thoughts and have a good idea of where you would like to go, if the subconscious is playing more powerful negative tapes they will likely override your conscious positive thoughts, making it harder to reach your intended destination.
Uncovering Self-Limiting Beliefs
An essential first step toward changing our self-limiting beliefs is to become aware of the results we are experiencing in life. What you are currently creating and receiving will tell you a lot about your beliefs. For example, let’s say you have a pattern of defeat in your life. It seems every time you try to work towards a goal something gets in the way and you are unsuccessful. “Why try?” may be a belief that settled into your subconscious as a result of several discouraging experiences. So next time you set your sights on a desired outcome there is a voice deep inside that says, “I don’t want to get my hopes up. Things usually don’t work out for me. I probably will be disappointed again. Why even try?” This is an example of a self-limiting belief and a self-fulfilling prophecy. Can you see what I’m describing here is about more than just thinking positively? You can think positively, set your sights on your target, and be bound and determined, but if deep down you don’t believe it will happen, then that deeply held belief will often dictate the final outcome.
A helpful next step towards discovering if we have programs working against us is to test whether our beliefs (programs) match up with our desires and intended goals. A great way to do this is to simply ask ourselves revealing questions like, “Do I really believe that I can achieve this?” and then listen to what you hear back and give it a number on a 1-10 scale with 10 being a heartfelt YES. This question can help you see the self-doubts that you may be wrestling with. You can also ask, “Do I feel like I am deserving of this?” This question can help bring to the surface self-worth issues that may be holding you back.
(Excerpt from the book Thriving in Turbulent Times)
John's passion is in helping people get unstuck so they can experience their true potential. Before starting his own practice he spent 16 years coaching, consulting, and presenting to Fortune 500 companies, teams, and individuals on how to breakthrough their barriers and magnify their talents.