This is the second of a three-part series about limiting beliefs: how to identify them, uncover their emotional power, and ultimately transform them into thoughts that “spark joy."
Click here to read the first part.
It's 11:45am on a rainy Parisian spring day. I walk into an empty restaurant where I have plans to meet a friend for lunch an hour later.
I tell the woman behind the counter that I’m early for lunch, but that I’d like to have a coffee and sit and work a bit before my friend arrives.
“There’s no one in the kitchen now,” she snips.
“That’s fine, I’m not ordering any food yet,” I say.
“How many will you be?” she asks.
She points to a table by the door and tells me that’s the only table for two that’s available.
It’s raining and chilly outside and I ask whether I can sit somewhere further inside.
She points to another table in the back, by the toilets.
I’m not feeling that location either. Especially since every single seat in the place is currently empty and it's just a casual, neighborhood place.
I spot a little table for two on the cushioned couch in the center of the restaurant and ask if I can sit there.
She rolls her eyes, let's out a huge exasperated sigh and nods “yes” reluctantly.
I walk calmly over to the table, take off my backpack and my bright red raincoat. As I start to sit down I hear the dull thud of old coffee being banged out of the portafilter and the hissing of steam on the espresso machine.
I turn around and say, “oh, I’d like an allongée” (an americano) not the regular short café that I assume she’s starting to make.
She lets out another enormous sigh, so loud this time that I can feel her distain wash over my body like the Polar vortex.
My throat seizes, my heart starts racing. I want to scream and run out of there.
In the 45 seconds that this entire scene unfolds a million thoughts have raced through my mind.
“I hate this woman!”
“I’m going to walk out of here.”
“I’m going to leave a bad review on Yelp.”
“I should contact the owner and complain.”
“This would never happen in America.”
“People are evil.”
The emotions that boiled up were a mix of hatred, anger, even guilt. ("How did I provoke this?")
And then I took a deep breath and thought about my last message to you about tracking self-sabotaging thoughts and feelings, which brought on a wave of new ones:
“She must be having a hard day.”
“This job clearly isn’t working out for her.”
“Interacting with humans is hard when you're miserable.”
“It’s not you Zeva, it’s her.”
“Write about this and you’ll feel better.”
I suddenly felt more calm, grounded, confident, and even grateful as I found the tools to transform this experience into something positive.
How did that all happen? If we slow down the process frame-by-frame, like in a comic book, this is how thoughts and emotions work together.
We experience something
Our beliefs and thoughts give meaning to that experience
We feel an emotion
We react to our feelings
We experience the consequences of our reactions
Ultimately our beliefs trigger emotions, which then trigger actions.
Most beliefs are based on stories that have developed into truths over a long time.
Sometimes those beliefs were born well before we were. They’ve been passed along like soft, hand-me-downs from one generation to another. They can go way, way back.
When my clients use expressions that are clearly not from their generation, I take it is a cue to start digging around to the root of the belief, and the emotions that swim in its wake.
Neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett sums this process up exceptionally well in her fascinating book How Emotions Are Made.
"Everything you feel is based on prediction from your knowledge and past experience. You are truly an architect of your experience. Believing is feeling."
As architects of our experience, we can rewire our mind to create new beliefs and emotions, and turn most situations around.
Just like my experience in the restaurant:
Change the belief
Alter the emotion
Cue up a new range of options
Chose the action that suits you best
So let’s explore the beliefs that you've jotted down since my last blogpost. If you’re in need of a few here are some that I’ve collected from some generous donors.
“I’m not good enough.”
“I’m not creative enough.”
“I’ll never find my path”
“I’m too old.”
Now, let me ask you, do any of those beliefs sound familiar to you?
What emotions do they trigger?
Are they useful emotions?
Are they emotions that lift you up and inspire?
Or do they make your blood boil?
And your heart sink?
Go back to your list of limiting beliefs (or start a new one), read them over and write down whatever emotions or sensations come up when you think of them.
And then ask yourself:
What is it like to live with this belief?
Who might I be and what might I be able to do if I let this belief go?
I'll see you soon with some tools on how to transform your limiting beliefs into ones that spark joy and get your moving ahead with meaning, at a comfortable table with the beverage of choice in your hands :)
PPS. Oh, and one more thing: I'm doing a vision board workshop on May 17th in Paris and have 4 spots left. Click here to snatch yours up. It's a fun and creative way to visualize your hidden goals while tackling any limiting beliefs and fears that are holding you back from going after them.