Do you find yourself dealing with the same issue over and over again? Stuck in an unhealthy habit or negative pattern of thinking is like being trapped in mental quicksand. The more you fight the more stuck you feel. Your willpower wanes, you lose your white-knuckled grip, and go back to your old ways. Why? Limiting beliefs.
Limiting beliefs are unhealthy thoughts that negatively affect your life, and they have incubated over time.
Our childhood experiences established the foundation for our worldview. Our parents, teachers, coaches, and culture sent us messages about our body, our value, and our place in this world. We internalized and deposited every word, action, and feeling into our subconscious. Thoughts of love and admiration created positive thoughts and wonderful memories. Whereas, cruel words and deeds like abuse, neglect, and rejection created negative thoughts and unhealthy memories. Children bury confusing, scary, or unhappy feelings. But emotions repressed, ignored, or denied will manifest somewhere. Researchers believe that between 75%-98% of mental, physical, and behavioral issues come from our thought life.
These negative thoughts become deeply entrenched into our subconscious and are strengthened with emotional energy. So, we move through adolescence navigating puberty and pimples and enter adulthood. Our character, temperament, and personality have developed into our own unique Mental Makeup—creating our identity: the internal picture of who we believe we are. It is from our identity that we make choices, and choices repeated over time create our habits … good or bad.
We can change unhealthy habits, but why is it so hard? According to biologist Bruce Lipton, “The subconscious mind is fundamentally habitual; it will play the same behavioral responses to life’s signals over and over again, much to our chagrin.” Bryan Tracy says, "Our subconscious mind works to keep us in our comfort (familiarity) zone and causes us to feel emotionally and physically uncomfortable when we try something new.” So, to grow, we must challenge decades of subconscious thinking and embrace the discomfort.
Let’s say your challenge is losing weight. Nothing says uncomfortable like putting on your yoga pants and embarking on your weight loss plan … again. It’s easy to blame the struggle on your cruddy gene pool or poor upbringing. You believe you are trapped in your circumstances, but you’re really trapped in your head.
Because our mind controls our behavior, and not the other way around, our desire to change is sabotaged when we focus on changing our behavior instead of changing our thinking. More importantly, changing our inner image. When we lose the weight in our soul, we will lose the weight off our body.
As a health and fitness coach, my heart aches for people who are in a constant battle with their bodies, but no one gets fit sitting on the couch binge watching Netflix and inhaling bags of Sour Cream and Cheddar Ruffles. You must lace up your sneakers and head to the gym. But that’s only part of the training regimen. Lasting transformation comes from the inside out. Be the kind of person who A.I.M.S.:
Awareness is the first key. When we fail to “think about what we’re thinking about” we are a target. That dirty devil reminds us about who’s done us wrong, our mind wanders into enemy territory, and we find ourselves shriveled up into a snot-ball.
He also hides in the busyness of our life. Our distractions are the perfect cover to bombard our minds. We feel irritated, frustrated, and defeated. These negative emotions signal unhealthy thoughts, and left unchecked they will grow and create a problematic way of life. What do we do?
Listen to the dialogue in your head, and interactively engage with your thoughts. The enemy of your soul wants you to focus on the negative so God's perfectly designed plan for your life goes unfulfilled. Scripture says to “take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.”
I suggest following Dr. Shannon Irvine (drshannonirvine.com) at Epic Success. She is a neuropsychologist who teaches people how to identify and get rid of limiting beliefs. Her website is loaded with neuro hacks and other programs to help you "harness the power of your mind to think, act, and grow your way to success."
The second key is to imagine your "ideal" life. The power of imagination built the Eiffel Tower, discovered penicillin, and made the first pepperoni pizza. Our life is a reflection of our thoughts. Instead of thinking about your problems use your imagination to design your ideal life.
Imagination creates the possibility and persistent visualization makes it a reality. We think in images based on the words we see and hear. A single thought has an insignificant impact on our life, but a stream of thoughts builds vision on the inside of us. How we see the future is only limited by our thinking.
God tells us to walk by faith and not sight. We operate by another kind of sight, even when our eyes are closed. When we see it in our mind’s eye, we will seize it.
What do you want? Create a Vision or Imagination board. Keep the pictures of your “ideal” life in front of you. Dream big!
The third key is meditation. If you know how to worry you know how to meditate. It's the same concept and means to chew on something … to think about a lot. The concept of meditation can invoke the image of a slight man with a shaved head, his eyes closed, adrift on a sea of tranquility. Eastern meditation seeks to detach from the world to reach enlightenment. The emphasis is on losing personhood and individuality and becoming one with the Universe.
Biblical meditation, however, focusses on disconnecting from the negative influences of the world and connecting with God. We don’t empty our mind; we fill it with the Holy Spirit. Meditation is a training process that brings our thoughts, words, and actions into alignment with His Word. Meditation brings our imagination into focus, sorts out the clutter to clarify our purpose, and helps carve out a plan.
Dr. Caroline Leaf suggests spending five to sixteen minutes a day of focused meditation, which shifts our frontal brain states, that are more likely to engage the world. Research also shows that intense deep-thinking activity increases the chances of a happier outlook on life.
The practice of meditation trains us to be mindful. Those who meditate on the Word of God will reap the rewards the Bible promises:
But delight is in the law of the Lord: and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth for his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. Psalm 1:2-3
Meditation is an intimate act of getting to know God, and it produces tremendous benefits. Meditation requires concentration on the Scripture. Expect God to reveal innovative ideas, plans, and promises.
Find a quiet place. I like ambiance, so I dim the lights, play instrumental music, and plug in my portable water fountain. Find a Scripture that speaks to your circumstance and listen, chew, and digest God's promises.
4. Say it
Finally, the power of our words cannot be understated:
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
Life is released when our words agree with God’s Word. Death comes when we speak words of fear, discord, and anger.
The quality of our life revolves around our mind-mouth loop. We either have a positive or a negative rhythm of thinking and speaking. You cannot have a negative mind and a positive mouth. Scripture says:
… For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Luke 6:45
Words that line up with God’s Word heal, elevate, and deliver. His words are so powerful they can break the chains in our mind. God’s perfectly timed words can set the captive free. Freedom is yours!
Don't leave a legacy of faulty thinking. Be the kind of person who breaks the bondage of negative thinking and takes control of their life. Unlock the keys to changed thinking, and you will change your life. Be the kind of person who A.I.M.S., shoots, and scores.
Crystal Van Kempen-McClanahan, is one- half of the podcast Soul Gym Sisters, and co-author of Mind Moxie: How to Help You Master What's Mastering You. She spent years as an educator, a softball/volleyball coach, and school leader. She has a doctorate in Educational Leadership and received the John Maxwell Leadership Award in Education. Because leadership is "influence," Crystal is passionate about helping people increase their "influential capacity" by leading their life, loving their life, and lavishing it on others. Check out her YouTube channel and online course "5 Steps to Go From Flabby to Fit Without Stepping Foot in the Gym."