To make any meaningful change, you need to start believing new things about yourself.
This pattern became obvious to me as I looked back on my own growth from previous years.
In 2014, I never saw myself as a “business person”… until that one summer when I started my online business.
In 2015, I never saw myself as a “number’s person”… until I started taking a statistics class in college.
In 2016, I never saw myself as a “morning person”… until I started meditating.
You get the idea. Your beliefs influence your actions, and your actions support your beliefs.
Let’s explore the hidden power of beliefs today. They’re the single most important ingredient that drives your growth.
So, who do you believe you are?
That’s a serious question to explore. Dig deep. Be curious and honest with yourself.
Then ask yourself: is this belief useful to me? If the answer is no, it’s time to change the belief.
Luckily, changing your core beliefs doesn’t have to be as hard as you might think. It’s a matter of changing your mindset.
Fixed versus growth mindset
Every year, I revisit Carol Dweck’s book Mindset to remind myself that I must challenge my own beliefs.
First of all, you must understand that you are not a static being. A fixed mindset means that you believe you are born with certain attributes, talents, and intelligence… and that’s it.
You become anxious and unhappy because you always have to prove yourself to others. Failure at a task becomes internalised as a “I’m a total failure and I’m not good at this”.
As you can see, a fixed mindset is limiting and potentially dangerous.
When you believe in fixed traits, you resent effort and become vulnerable to adversity. You’re stuck in a either/or scenario. Either you are great at something or you’re not. I’ve been there myself, and let me tell you it’s exhausting.
Of course, the fixed mindset is false. Yes, you may have certain endowments and talents, but that doesn’t mean you can’t improve on them, or shouldn’t explore other areas of your life.
People with a fixed mindset tend to stick to their comfort zone since they know they can succeed there. Unfortunately, they never challenge themselves and rarely venture into the unknown.
When you step into a growth mindset, you understand that you can become more. It’s very liberating as you start thinking to yourself:
I am not great at this yet.
That one little word triggers a whole new set of beliefs about who you can be and what you can do.
Building identity-based habits
“I can do 100 push-ups in a row” or “I want to lose 20 pounds”.
James Clear argues, just like Dr. Dweck, that we must start to change the beliefs about who we think we are. He suggests working on identity-based habits instead.
The process is pretty straightforward:
1. Decide the type of person you want to be.
2. Prove it to yourself with small wins.
I really like this approach, especially the idea about the small wins. It lets you build up your confidence.
Let’s look at a few examples.
Grow your beliefs with small wins
Want to become a programmer?
Identity: Become the kind of person who is able to write code.
Want to become a better son or daughter?
Identity: Become the kind of person who stays in touch.
Small win: Decide to call your parents every Sunday morning.
Want to become more fit?
Identity: Become the kind of person who never misses a workout.
Small win: Do pushups Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
In my humble experience, proving the identity to yourself is far more important than the results. It’s also more fun.
Don’t get stuck in your beliefs
It’s so easy to get trapped believing you are a certain kind of person, who only does certain kinds of things. But of course that’s not true.
With a growth mindset, you can change who you are. The first step is to believe you can be somebody else. Second, you take action to re-affirm your new set of beliefs.
What new beliefs would you like to have about yourself?
Explore that question, and set yourself free.