People Teach Us How to Find Career and Personal Success in the 21st
Century (Insight Books)
1: BELIEVE IN A POSITIVE FUTURE
When I look into the future, what do I see?
Beliefs are the bedrock upon which all experience is built. Your success
depends on the beliefs you hold. What you believe determines how you go
about things, whether you seek out one type of situation or another, and
what you are or are not willing to try. Beliefs which in the past wouldn't
have held you back, nowadays will.
For example, you may believe that "you can't teach an old dog new
tricks." As long as our world was relatively stable, you didn't have
to learn many "new tricks" once you were an adult and functioning
comfortably in society. For generations, if you were a typesetter for
example, you could work for a newspaper your whole life without altering
how you did your typesetting hardly at all. Your belief that "you
can't teach an old dog new tricks" didn't affect your success. But
with the explosion of change in every area, it's no longer possible to
be successful without being willing to learn new skills. Beliefs which
mattered little before now take on critical importance.
So, for example, given your belief that "you can't teach an old dog
new tricks," you believe you're too old, at all of 54 years of age,
to learn how to work with computers - even though you're well aware of
the growing importance of computers in virtually all businesses. So you
don't seek out people-friendly computer courses or schools, you don't
try to find a support group for the computer-challenged, you walk right
past the "Computers for Dummies" section of your local bookstore,
in short, you don't even try to find out if there is a way for you to
learn computers. As far as you're concerned, it won't work, so why bother.
Meanwhile, you are closing yourself off from umpteen opportunities for
your advancement and future success. You are enslaved by your limiting
Winners hold beliefs which free them to seek maximum benefit from their
world. Let's say, for example, you have a 62 year old brother, who believes
"you're never too old to learn." Truly a Winner's belief. Your
brother, guided by his belief, has somehow managed to find himself a subsidized
program for "seniors learning computers" at the local high school.
It's not costing him a dime to learn as much as he wants to about computers,
he's managed to buy a rebuilt computer from the company that supplies
the school for a ridiculously small sum, and to boot - has a new social
set composed of like-minded seniors. They're considering designing their
own Web page as soon as they can figure out which one of the local servers
will give them the best deal. Just as your belief ("old dog")
enslaves you, your brother's ("Never too old") has set him free
to pursue a new and potentially profitable arena. Your brother's belief
is typical of a Winner. It is open, expansive and encourages personal
All of your beliefs, your beliefs about yourself, your abilities, your
potential, your "place" in the world, and so forth, affect how
you live your life. In fact, beliefs are so powerful that they can even
affect whether you live or die. Dr. Bernie Siegel, the well-known surgeon
who works primarily with cancer patients, discusses how critical beliefs
are to one's survival. One of his patients, Edith, a frail woman who weighs
only 85 pounds, told Dr. Siegel she didn't need him or his "Exceptional
Cancer Patients," a group Dr. Siegel started to help patients deal
with emotional and psychological issues underlying their cancer. Edith
said, "I don't need you and your group. My mother always told me
when I was a youngster, 'You're scrawny, but whatever happens, you'll
always get over it. You'll live to be ninety-three, and then they'll have
to run you over with a steamroller.'" Edith, Dr. Siegel reports,
"has survived a heart attack, a bleeding duodenal ulcer. the death
of her husband, and breast cancer invading the chest wall. She is now
alive more than half a dozen years after her surgery. Every time something
happens, she hears her mother's words." Edith believes her mother's
words. By all rights, Edith shouldn't be alive, given what she has gone
through! Yet, because of the power of belief, what Edith holds as truth
directly impacts even something as basic as her health. "If we all
programmed our children this way," Dr. Siegel goes on to say, "we'd
be creating survivors." (1)
Your beliefs about the Future will determine how you live your Future.
The good news is, that if you find that you have beliefs which limit your
ability to create the Future you want for yourself, you can change them.
One of the major focuses of Dr. Siegel's Exceptional Cancer Patients Group
is the changing of patients' beliefs, so he can help them become "survivors."
By changing your beliefs, you take the first step towards changing the
way you live your life. No matter how difficult or wonderful your past
has been, no matter what your life is like now - good, bad or indifferent,
by changing your beliefs about the Future, your Future life can be better.
That's how important beliefs are. The bad news is, you can't change your
beliefs unless you know what they are. Even though our beliefs run our
lives, most of us have little if any conscious awareness of what those
beliefs are. Because the Future is something few of us look at until it
is upon us, our beliefs about the Future tend to be even more unconscious.
So the first thing to look at in creating a successful Future for yourself
is "What are my beliefs about the Future?"
DISCOVER YOUR BELIEFS ABOUT THE FUTURE
In going about discovering your beliefs about the Future, start by looking
for your "core beliefs." These are beliefs that make broad sweeping
statements about life. Core beliefs have the greatest impact on your life
because one core belief will generate a whole host of secondary beliefs.
For example, "Man is inherently good" is a core belief. If you
believe that "Man is inherently good," then you will hold a
number of secondary beliefs consistent with your core belief, such as
"People are generally trustworthy," or "When you give people
the benefit of the doubt, they'll usually rise to the occasion."
If you have a core belief stating that "Man is inherently evil,"
your secondary beliefs will be quite different, for example: "If
you give people an inch, they'll take a mile," or "People will
take advantage of you every chance they get." These secondary beliefs
are what determine how you see life and how you live it on a day to day
If you hold a core belief that "The Future is a wonderful realm of
immense opportunity" your secondary beliefs will be positive and
attract the kinds of experience that support your vision of a joyous and
success filled Future. "The Future is wide open, it is whatever you
make of it," for example, is a typical Winner's core belief. It is
a core belief which stresses the enormity of possibilities available in
the future, and the degree to which an individual is in charge of his
or her own future. From this belief, Winners will generate secondary beliefs
such as; "Where there's a will, there's a way," "Every
cloud has a silver lining," "As one door shuts another one opens."
These secondary beliefs determine how Winners evaluate their experiences
and what they are willing to do or not do. Winners' beliefs imply a Future
full of positive possibilities, and support Winners' ability to go into
the Unknown with confidence and hope.
Your core beliefs about the Future directly impact how you will or will
not go forward successfully into the Unknown. Unfortunately, many of us
do not have such positive core beliefs. Most people's core beliefs about
the Future tend to fall into 1 of the following 4 categories, all of which
will potentially hamper your ability to create a successful Future for
- The Future is a great big yawning pit of nothingness.
- The Future is a terrifying and fearful place.
- The Future is all rosy and wonderful.
- The Future is controlled by forces outside yourself.
The easiest way to find out what your core beliefs are about the Future
is to ask yourself:
"When I look out there, in the Future, what do I see?"
This was the first question I asked of four individuals - Paul, May, Kathy
and Jim - whose lives had been disrupted for various reasons, and who
suddenly had to create new Futures for themselves, Futures totally different
from what their lives had been up to now. Each of them was facing the
Unknown. Each of them came to me to help them through this unexpected
and often frightening life-change.
- Paul, a middle manager for the past 30 years with a small company
specializing in business supplies and office copiers, had been squeezed
out of his job when his company merged with a larger company. He felt
lost, a fish out of water, confounded by the lack of available jobs
and worried that his age (mid fifties) meant he would stay jobless.
- May, a 32 year old single Mom, had survived her cancer despite all
predictions to the contrary. Although this was great news, May was overwhelmed
by the debts she'd incurred and the total change of lifestyle required
if she was to continue to survive.
- Kathy had been successful all her life, yet now at 50 found that as
much as she wanted to keep working as a hair stylist in television and
movies, the "biz" no longer wanted her. Wanting with all her
heart to deny the reality of what was happening to her up-to-now-safe
world, Kathy nonetheless had eventually to come to grips with the question:
"What am I going to do for the rest of my days? Am I now just a
throw-away person forever stuck on the sidelines of life?"
- Jim, 44 years old and proud owner of his own rig, lived by the phrase
"Once a trucker, always a trucker" - until his ailing back
made it clear that something was going to have to change. Jim had no
idea where to start creating a different life for himself; as far as
he was concerned, life was something that just fell in your lap and
you deal with it.
Paul, May, Kathy and Jim's names, of course, have been changed, as well
as other details to protect their confidentiality. However, Paul, May,
Kathy and Jim's stories are very similar to many other people's stories,
and can help us a great deal by serving as examples through each of
the eight steps of becoming a Winner.
Paul, May, Kathy and Jim each had different core beliefs about the Future,
which in turn impacted their vision of what was and wasn't possible for
Paul's vision was of an empty Future, one which held no hope.
The Future is a great big yawning pit of nothingness
When Paul came to see me, he was profoundly depressed. At 57 years of
age, Paul was out in the marketplace, beating the pavement, and he couldn't
seem to find a job. "There are just too many middle managers out
there," Paul told me, angrily. He was morose about the direction
his life would take from here on. In addition, Paul felt betrayed and
abandoned. He couldn't believe that the company where he had spent his
entire working life would boot him out just like that, regardless of his
years of service.
Recruited straight out of business college, Paul had started as a junior
assistant, rising steadily until he achieved his middle management position,
where he expected to stay until he retired at age 65. A typical career-path
in his line of work. Paul loved his job, and he was good at it. Becoming
a "casualty of the merger" was something he never expected.
When I asked Paul, "When you look out there, in the Future, what
do you see?" he replied despondently: "Nothing. A great big
nothing. Up until a year ago, I knew what life was about, I knew what
my future held: keep my nose to the grindstone, tow the line, work steadily
until retirement and then enjoy the rest. But since I got laid off, I
don't see a future. No one's hiring middle managers, my retirement fund
is just enough to cover the basics, and that's if I do everybody a favor
and die by the time I'm 70. What's to enjoy? Frankly, I don't see anything
when I try to see ahead. Just a great big empty hole."
I nodded. I was only too familiar with this story, having heard similar
tales from so many others. To see the Future as a great big pit of yawning
emptiness is tragic. Paul cannot conceive of a positive Future for himself,
his beliefs preclude that. Seeing nothing, only emptiness, in the Future
gives Paul nothing with which to guide him to success. The very living
of life becomes a burden.
"It makes doing everything so hard," Paul said, getting up from
his chair, pacing restlesly as he continued. "You have no idea. It's
all I can do to get up in the morning - if you can call it morning. Some
days I don't make it out of bed until 10:00, 11:00 - me! Who always used
to rise with the birds and made fun of anybody who was still in bed at
7:00 am. Well I'm eating my words now. My wife complains that I drag around
all day, and she's right. I shuffle to the kitchen, shuffle to the living
room, shuffle back to the bedroom, I feel 102 years old, and I'm only
57! Oh, I do all the "right" things - I comb the paper for ads,
send in resumes, I even worked with a headhunter for a while. Doesn't
matter, nothing works - and nobody cares. They should cart me off to the
glue factory. There's nothing left for me to live for, nothing."
Paul sat heavily back down in his chair, his energy spent.
Paul's depression is profound because he has lost all hope, and it is
the loss of hope, more than any other single aspect, that keeps us from
moving forward into the Future. We need something in that vast darkness
of the Unknown, something to light our way into the Future, and that "something"
Hope is the ability, among all possible outcomes, to see glimmers of positive
possibility. If you don't see the glimmer of a positive possibility ahead,
you won't move forward. It just won't happen. Winners' beliefs are hopeful
beliefs, beliefs which affirm the continually renewed opportunities for
happiness, growth, transformation, meaning, abundance and success life
offers. Winners are capable of holding such beliefs in the face of the
most horrific appearing Futures.
Viktor Frankl, for example, well-known psychologist and survivor of the
German concentration camps, realized that the individuals who did the
best in the face of the unspeakable horror of the camps, were those who
were constantly reaching out for a meaning to fulfill, for something which
would allow them to transcend themselves. (2) Seeking for meaning is only
possible if you first have a belief that meaning exists, that there is
a reason to reach out, and that reason is called "hope.". Hope
is very much what keeps human beings alive and seeking a better Future,
for themselves as well as for succeeding generations.
The Future becomes empty, as it has for Paul, when you cease to believe
there are any positive possibilities "out there." He cannot
even begin to create a successful future for himself with such a belief
as his foundation.
Unlike Paul's, May's vision was of well-filled Future. The only problem
was, May's Future was full of fear.
The Future is a terrifying and fearful place
When May first started coming to see me, she was suffering from anxiety
and panic attacks. May had been diagnosed with breast cancer two years
earlier. Despite the mastectomy, her cancer had metastasized, and May
wasn't expected to survive. Lo and behold, after more surgery, chemotherapy,
radiation, rigorous changes in diet and lifestyle, and all sorts of alternative
health modalities, May did survive and her cancer is in remission. Her
doctor not only pronounced her well, but more than likely able to live
a long and healthy life.
"Which is great," May said, "And I'm tremendously grateful,
but what am I supposed to do now?!" As please as she was with her
astonishing recovery, May was in a state of complete panic. A 32 year
old single mom, May was raising her 11 year old son on her own. Her ex-husband
was unfortunately a "dead-beat dad," and neither she nor her
son, Thomas, had seen hide nor hair of his Dad for over 5 years. "I'm
it," May said. She was the only means of support for herself and
her son, who she loved dearly.
May had done financially well as a pattern maker, but she couldn't go
back to pattern-making because of the demanding hours and constant pressure
characteristic of the garment industry. "My doctor says I just wouldn't
survive it, but what else can I do?" May asked, "I have to work,
or we won't eat!" May had spent all her savings, insurance, and what
little pension she had accumulated on medical bills. She'd taken out loans
wherever she could. May still owed lots of money and had barely enough
to live on for a couple of months. She couldn't get disability anymore
because she was no longer really disabled. May was desperate. She knew
she had to do something, but had no idea what.
When I asked May, "When you look out there, in the Future, what do
you see?" "What do I see?" May replied, "Starvation!
Me and Thomas, ending up homeless somewhere. Horrible images." May
stopped a moment, trying to keep her already rapidly beating heart from
speeding up on her. "Take your time," I said, "Breathe.
It will help." "I'm OK," Mary replied, "I just get
so upset every time I think about the Future. I'm scared to death. I mean,
I wasn't expected to survive, I've spent my life's savings - and I'm here!
I'm alive. And it looks like I'm going to live, knock on wood, for a long
time. I mean, let's face it, I'm only 32. Which is great, except I don't
know what I'm gonna do. I can't go back to work as a pattern maker, I
don't have any other skills, the best I can probably do is a burger-flipping
job, but that'll hardly pay the rent and besides, they'll probably say
I'm overqualified." May shook her head, her brow furrowed and creased
with worry as she continued. "I'm at my wit's end. I can go on welfare
for a while, but then that'll stop, I'm not really disabled, so I can't
get disability. No matter where I turn, the Future looks awful! I'm worried
sick all the time, and then I get these panic attacks. The Future? I'm
It is awful when all you see in the Future is a collection of life-threatening,
terrifying possibilities. No wonder anxiety kicks in at that point. Anxiety,
which usually starts with worry, can eventually progress to full-blown
panic attacks, such as May's, agoraphobia, where you're too scared to
even leave your home, or a variety of other debilitating responses. When
you believe that the only possibilities in the Future are frightening
ones, it is very difficult to build towards a positive Future. You have
no basis from which to do so. Your beliefs freeze you in place, limiting
your ability to see beyond the negatives to a possible positive. A fearful
Future is no better than an empty one.
If, for example, you believe that the Future is a nightmarish place, where
crime, terrorism and random violence abound, your beliefs will lead you
to closing your doors, restricting your ventures into the Unknown or the
New, for fear of your life. "But Dr. Noelle," you say, "There
are already lots of criminals, terrorists and violence in our world. I
can't make myself believe that tomorrow I'll wake up, and presto! no more
violence. It's just not going to happen." I agree. It would be foolhardy
to believe such a thing, and that's not how Winners operate. A Winner,
fully aware that there are criminals, terrorists and violent people in
our world, will hold beliefs that despite such people there is plenty
of room for goodness and joy in the Future, and therefore will remain
open to a positive Unknown.
There is a world of difference between acknowledging the existence of
violence in the world, and holding the belief that the world is a dangerous
and violent place. Acknowledging the existence of violence in the world
can lead to many positive acts, which in turn can lead to many successes;
leading a Neighborhood watch, becoming a police officer, becoming a spiritual
healer, being a teacher to disadvantaged youngsters, being a prison counselor,
to name but a very few possibilities. Holding the belief that the world
is a dangerous and violent place just makes people want to hole themselves
up somewhere safe and try to last it out as best they can. You will not
venture out into the Unknown if your beliefs make it too fearful to do
so. Holing yourself up is the opposite of moving forward into the Future.
But what about those who see a rosy Future? Wouldn't it seem that believing
in a rosy Future would guarantee safe and successful passage into the
Unknown? Well, it depends what that "rose" is based on, as Kathy
soon found out.
The Future is all rosy and wonderful.
"When you look out there into the Future," I asked Kathy, "what
do you see?" Kathy, a bright vivacious 50 year old, was grappling
with an uncertain sense of identity and self-esteem. When she came to
see me, she hadn't been hired at her chosen profession, hairstylist to
performers on television shows and movie sets, for quite a while. Given
her age, Kathy felt a true change of life coming on, not just hormonally,
but in every way. As much as she didn't want to think about it, and often
denied it, Kathy had an underlying fear that her age made her a "has-been"
in the TV and movie business and that she would soon have to create a
totally different life for herself. Given her level of denial, I wasn't
surprised by her answer:
"Oh, I never think about things like that," Kathy laughed, "the
Future? Everything always turns out just fine, it always does. I'll get
hired on a film, something will turn up, and everything will be fine."
I point out, as gently as I can, that Kathy hasn't been hired on a film,
a series, or even had a "day call" for over 18 months, and that
despite a wonderful resume she is regularly being passed over for hair
stylists who have far less experience but are 20 years her junior."
"Oh, that's a phase, just a phase, you'll see!" she explains,
"Nothing to worry about."
As tempting as it is to say that Kathy's beliefs about the Future are
those of a Winner, they aren't. First of all, her "rose" is
based on denial, not reality. You can no more build a positive Future
for yourself by believing that the Future is full of only positive possibilities
than you can by believing that the Future is loaded with only the ghastly
negatives. Winners are uncommonly good at seeing both the positive and
negative possibilities in there Futures and then making choices which
are clearly focused on the positive, thus firmly supporting their likelihood
of success. Believing, for example, that "every cloud has a silver
lining" acknowledges that there are clouds and that there is a benefit
to be derived from every mishap. Believing that "Life is a grand
adventure" expresses a willingness to see the whole of life, ups
and downs, as an experience worth living. Winners are realists in their
ability to acknowledge all aspects of life, and they are optimists in
their choice of beliefs to guide and direct them.
Secondly, Kathy's assumption that everything will turn out fine because
it always has, is fallacious. The last thing we can expect the Future
to be is whatever was true in the past. The very thing that makes our
individual and collective Futures so different than the futures of previous
generations, is the far greater proportion of "Unknown" that
lies before us. Our grandparents could look ahead into their Future and
be quite confident that what they foresaw, based on past experience, was
what would come to pass. Your parents thought that they could do the same.
And until fairly recently, they could. But as of the 1990's and from here
on in, your past is no longer a reliable predictor of your Future. "Oh,
that's terrific," you say sarcastically, "So if I've had a good
track record in the past, that means I won't in the future?" you
ask. No, that's not what it means. It means that your track record in
the past, in and of itself, is irrelevant to your success in the Future.
You may have fantastic success in the Future, indeed, this book is dedicated
to helping you achieve such success, but it won't be because you've been
successful (or not been successful!) in your past.
Resting your Future on the belief that "things will turn out fine
because they always have in the past" is foolhardy at best and likely
to lead to disaster. This is not to say that the belief "Things will
turn out fine" is problematic, it's resting that belief on past history
which is the problem. Winners often believe that "Things will turn
out fine," such a belief is frequently what sustains them through
long periods of challenge and difficulty. However, their belief is based
on seeing the positive possibilities which lie within the Future, not
within their past.
If seeing the Future through the rose-colored glasses of denial won't
help you create the Future you ardently desire, nor will giving that Future
away to someone or something other than yourself. Jim's vision of the
Future was virtually non-existent, since he didn't see himself as having
much if anything to do with the creation of that Future.
The Future is controlled by forces outside yourself.
At 44 years of age, Jim had been a long-distance truck driver for over
20 years, proud of having bought his own rig before he was 30. Trucking
had served Jim well over the years, but it was time to quit. When he began
his sessions with me, Jim had been having back problems and various stress-related
ailments for over 2 years. Jim would say to me "I've got to get out
of trucking, Doc, it's going to be the death of me." The problem
was, Jim couldn't retire as he didn't have any savings. "I never
really thought about it," he told me, "I thought I'd be trucking
all my life, like most truckers." He didn't belong to a Union, so
he has no pension plan, and what little he can claim from workman's compensation
doesn't even "feed the dog," according to Jim. "So I guess
I'll just keep on trucking," Jim says, "There isn't much else
for me to do."
"Well, maybe, maybe not," I say. "Let me start by asking
you, Jim, when you look out there, in the Future, what do you see?"
I ask. "I dunno" says Jim, "What do I see - umm, I guess
I'll be doing pretty much what I'm doing, unless something comes along
and I get to do something different." "Get to do something different?"
I ask, not understanding. "Yeah, you know if the economy changes
and maybe someone offers me a good job, you know. The Future is just what
happens to you tomorrow, and you know, whatever happens is whatever is
going to happen. Why sweat it?"
Why, indeed? Because if you don't direct your Future, if you don't actively
take charge of it, "whatever happens" is indeed what you will
get. When you believe that the Future is just "what happens to you
tomorrow" you're no longer in charge of your life. You can't create
the Future you desire unless you're willing to be in charge of it. Believing,
as Jim does, that the Future happens to you, rather than the Future being
something you create, is very disempowering. It limits your ability to
be proactive, to seek out and thus actualize your chosen Future. With
this type of belief as the foundation to your Future, you will only see
those possibilities that others open up to you - and that is a very limiting
set of possibles, indeed. Your Future - your future happiness, success
- then becomes dependent on the whim of others. That's a chancy road to
personal success, at best.
Your Future is going to be created by someone or something. When we're
young, by default it's our parents or other caretaker. At 10 years old,
you don't get to make decisions such as "I'm not going to school
next year," or "I'm moving to Omaha to make a better life for
myself." Kids don't have much choice in such matters. But by the
time you're grown, it's you - or whoever/whatever you're allowing to do
the job for you. Winners are adamant in their belief that they are in
charge of their Futures, regardless of how dependent they may be on others.
Winners firmly believe that it is up to them to run their own show, even
if they need a great deal of help and support to do that.
CHALLENGE YOUR BELIEFS
Once you know what your beliefs are about the Future, then you can start
taking charge of the success in your Future by deliberately looking at
those beliefs. In other words, challenge your beliefs.
How do you do that? First of all, by understanding the nature of a belief.
A belief is not a fact.
A belief is a statement about something. A belief is a conclusion we reach
about how life works, based on what we've observed, or what we've been
told about how life works - by parents, primarily, as well as by schools,
churches, friends and society at large. A belief is not a fact. Yet belief
is what we act upon, and more often than not, what we assume is fact.
If you believe that all dogs are dangerous, you're not likely to have
one as a pet. If you believe people are basically dishonest, you'll count
your change very carefully and eye any stranger with great wariness. If
you believe that you have to be very intelligent to be a chiropractor,
and you believe you are of limited intelligence, you won't try to get
into chiropractic school, even if that's your heart's desire. The possibility
that a number of fine chiropractors are of average intelligence, or that
you are intelligent enough to make it into chiropractic school never occurs
to you. You don't even try. Your actions are dictated by your belief.
Beliefs come in all shapes and sizes. Thomas Rollerson's "Dalmatian
Dreams" was born out of a single belief: that every human being,
regardless of age, deserved to realize one final wish. Frustrated
when his lover, dying of AIDs, was told he was too old to have his
final wish fulfilled, Rollerson, then twenty-nine years old, created
"Dalmatian Dreams," the only national wish-granting foundation
for adults. As of 1998, the foundation had, in its short four-year
existence, granted some 700 final wishes to terminally ill people.
It is utterly amazing what Winners can accomplish when fueled by
positive belief. (3)
You use your beliefs as you would an instruction manual, your personal
"How to go about living life." What you believe is what will
determine what you are and are not willing to do. "Fact" has
little to do with it. Most "facts," as scientists have long
ago discovered, are variable and change as we are better able to measure,
explore, observe and discover. The world was flat, until we discovered
it was round. Man can't fly, until the Wright brothers did. Women can't
bear children after menopause, until medical science found a way for women
to do so. There was no life on Mars, until scientists found traces of
the elements which are the basis for life. For a very long time, it was
believed that it was impossible to run a 4 minute mile. Now athletes do
it all the time. There are very few "facts" which do not change.
Rather than assume that something you believe is fact, question it. You
will radically alter your concept of what is possible for you in the Future
with that one simple change.
Knowing how beliefs work will allow you to choose beliefs that work for
you. If the first thing to understand about beliefs is that they aren't
the same thing as facts, the second life-altering realization about beliefs
is that beliefs attract experience.
Beliefs attract experience
What does that mean? That what you believe directly impacts the experiences
you will have in life. The experiences you have in life are a result of
the information you receive in any given situation, and how you respond
to that information. For example, you're walking along, you see a big
burly man waving his fists and muttering to himself. Based on this information,
which you receive as evidence of an angry and therefore potentially dangerous
man, you respond to the situation by crossing over to the other side of
the street to avoid a confrontation. Another individual might receive
the same information as evidence of a slightly mentally disturbed man,
caught up in his own private turmoil and unlikely to harm anyone, and
respond to the situation by feeling compassionate towards the man and
just walking on by.
How you received that information and how you responded to it was determined
by your beliefs. Beliefs determine what you will be open to, what you
will pay attention to, what you will pick up among all the stimuli bombarding
you at any given moment in the environment. This happens through a process
known as "selective perception." You couldn't possibly pay attention
to everything going on around you all day long, so you "selectively
perceive" what is relevant to you, what is of interest to you. The
beliefs you hold directly influence the kinds of information and stimuli
you will pay attention to.
We all have a sort of radar, a scanning system which helps us select and
weed out what we will pay attention to. Your beliefs behave much like
radar, which lets in certain information that crosses its screen, and
rejects other information as being unworthy of attention. If, for example,
you have a belief that "The world is out to get me," your "radar"
will scan the environment for "proof" that that is the case.
You will interpret the various events of your day in a way that upholds
and supports the belief "The world is out to get me." For example,
when a car cuts in front of you on the freeway, you will ascribe it to
"They are out to get me." Another individual, who believes "I'm
a lucky person," looks for "proof" which substantiates
a "lucky" belief, and will interpret the same event as "Wow,
was I lucky that car didn't hit me." Your beliefs directly influence
how you experience your world.
Lani Guinier, forty-eight years old, believes that power comes
from moving on, from choosing to move forward even when life hits
you upside the head. Such a belief empowers winners like Guinier
to succeed where others might fail. In 1993, Guinier, who was teaching
law at the University of Pennsylvania, was nominated by President
Clinton to be in charge of the Justice Department's civil rights
division. A heated battle ensued over her nomination, spurred by
some of her academic writings. Guinier was not allowed to answer
the criticism, and soon thereafter Clinton abruptly withdrew her
nomination. Despite enduring humiliation and public embarrassment,
Guinier chose to move forward, and in July of 1998 became the first
black woman ever named to a tenured professorship at Harvard Law
School. Her belief in the possibility of a positive Future is what
enabled her to move forward and create that Future for herself.
Beliefs are enormously powerful. How you experience your world dictates
much of how you respond to that world. If your beliefs about the Future
are limiting and constricting, you will respond to your Future accordingly.
By challenging your beliefs, you will see whether you are setting yourself
up for a successful Future, one full of joy and abundance, or a miserable
Future, one filled with despair and scarcity. From there you can choose
beliefs which work for you in your pursuit of Future success rather than
As I helped Paul challenge his beliefs, he came to see how much he had
confused belief with fact, which both depressed him and stunted his ability
to create the Future he wanted. Our starting point was examining Paul's
conviction that "there is nothing out there."
I asked Paul to look a little deeper and see what possibilities other
than complete emptiness might be "out there" in the Future for
him. "OK, so I'm looking. And what I see is - there's nothing out
there for me. That's really all I see," Paul said, despairing. "That's
a belief. Paul," I said gently, "It is not a fact. It is a statement
about something, and that statement may be true or false - or anything
in between." "Semantics!" Paul cried out, "I'm in
hell here and you're playing semantics with me!" "No, I'm not,
Paul," I reply, "If I'm playing anything at all, it's the truth
game." "What do you mean?" Paul asks.
"You believe that there is nothing out there for you," I reply.
"But the truth is that there is an infinity of "things"
out there for you," I said. "Like what?" Paul asks. "Like
finding some kind of work that totally enthralls you," I replied,
"Work that fulfills you in ways your previous work never did, like
finding whole new areas of interest, ways of contributing to society while
doing good for yourself that you've never thought of." "OK,"
Paul said slowly, "All right, that might be out there, but for me?
I don't have any marketable skills, apparently, and I don't know where
I'd even begin to look for 'new areas of interest'." "I can
appreciate that, Paul," I said, "But you see, it isn't your
Future that is bleak. It's your beliefs that are making it seem bleak.
Your beliefs are limiting your view of what is out there. And beliefs
can be changed." "I don't get it" Paul said.
"OK," I say, continuing, "You concede that you might be
able to conceive of positive possibilities in the Future - but you don't
have any marketable skills with which to make those happen, right?"
"Right," said Paul. "That's a belief, Paul, that's not
a fact," I continue, "The fact is, you don't know if you have
marketable skills. You believe that you don't. You may fear that you don't.
But in truth, you don't know. The same with 'areas of interest.' As it
stands right now, you don't see any that attract you. You may fear that
there aren't any. But the only true statement is - you don't right this
minute see any other interesting 'areas of interest.' That doesn't mean
they don't exist."
"So what do I do now?" asked Paul, somewhat sarcastically, "Just
say to myself 'I believe I have marketable skills' and that's it, my Future
is now magical?" "No," I replied, smiling, "What you
do now, is open yourself to the possibility that you don't have all the
answers, that there may be many as yet unknown joyous possibilities in
your Future, and be willing to start with that belief as your foundation,
rather than clang the door shut on future happiness by choosing to believe
there's none out there. The truth is, there's none out there that you
can see right this minute. That doesn't mean it isn't out there."
The Future is the Unknown.
The Unknown is just that - unknown joys, woes,
successes, highs and lows. Unfortunately our tendency is to think of the
Unknown in terms of the negatives. Quite frankly if babies thought of
the Unknown as solely filled with negatives, they'd never leave the bassinet!
We fear the Unknown greatly, yet at one time everything is Unknown. Your
next breath is unknown, until you've breathed it and then it is known.
Being willing for the Unknown to be at least as full of positives as it
might be of negatives, as Winners are, is simply a more realistic view
of life, and a far more empowering belief with which to go into the Future.
Once you open that door for yourself, positive Futures become possible.
Sometimes, however, it is difficult to see how a positive Future could
possibly exist. May's fears were so overwhelming, she had difficulty seeing
past them to a better life.
When I introduced May to the concept of positive and negative possibles
equally available in the Future, she sighed and said, "It sounds
real good to me intellectually, Dr. Noelle, but I just don't buy it."
"Why not?" I asked. "Because when I look out there, it's
pretty dismal," May replied, unhappy with this whole conversation.
"When you say 'dismal', May, what do you mean?" I asked. "I
mean dismal, as in scary. I'm afraid I won't get a job, and if I do, I'm
afraid it won't pay nearly enough to take care of us. I'm afraid we'll
have to live in some awful cramped place, just eking out enough to live
day to day, and that life will be reduced to outrunning the cockroaches.
Not a pretty sight," May concluded.
"So basically, fear is running your Future," I said. May shook
her head. "I hate to admit it," she said ruefully, "But
in a word - yes." "And you could be right about every single
one of your fears," I said. May looked shocked. "Oh please don't
say that, Dr. Noelle, I'm terrified as it is," May pleaded. "You
could also be completely wrong," I continued. "It is possible,
after all that you could get a job. It is possible that you could get
a job which would pay more than your last job. It is possible that you
could get a job which would enable you to easily afford a comfortable
home for you and your son. The problem is that by letting your fearful
beliefs run the show, you're not even allowing in the possibility of a
bright and hope-filled Future, which means you are highly unlikely to
attract positive experiences into your life."
No matter how grim your present seems, no matter how despairing your Future
appears to you, be willing to accept the belief that the Future holds
positive possibilities. Fear isn't the only human reality. As difficult
as it may be sometimes to believe that you'll ever get to a satisfying
and happy Future, it is critical to allow the possibility that such a
Future exists. Once you've admitted the possible existence of a positive
Future, no matter how impossible the way there looks, you open the door
to the possibility of manifesting success for yourself.
Lithuania's current President, seventy-one year old Valdas Adamkus,
was forced to flee his homeland when the Soviet Union seized it
after World War II. Adamkus emigrated to the United States and lived
here 50 years, all the while dreaming of the day his homeland would
be free and he could return. Little did Adamkus know he would return
as its President! Yet his profound belief that one day, his country
would be free is what led Adamkus to take the steps that would make
him President. Adamkus began by joining the Lithuanian independence
movement. Then, during his 30 years with the Environmental Protection
Agency, Adamkus visited his homeland as often as possible on environmental
projects, addressing fellow Lithuanians over the Voice of America
radio broadcasts. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the impossible
became possible, and not only could Adamkus return, but his frequent
visits to his homeland were judged sufficient to establish residency.
Adamkus's work with the independence movement and Voice of America
made him well-known in his country so he could successfully run
President. All this, starting with Adamkus's simple belief--contrary
to all evidence at the time--that one day Lithuania would be free.
He then built on that belief by taking concrete steps that led to
its realization. (5)
The wonderful thing about possibilities is they can be turned
into probabilities, and from there into actuality. If, however, you remain
unwilling to even conceive of a positive Future, then indeed, you are
in all likelihood condemning yourself to a negative Future. Don't do that
to yourself. Be willing to believe in the possibility of a bright Future
as your first step to getting there.
The reverse is also true. Being a "cock-eyed optimist" will
not serve you. Seeing the Future as only full of bright promises is setting
yourself up for a giant fall. If you don't allow for negative possibilities,
then you have no protection, no way of dealing with such possibilities
should they manifest. Then you're suddenly at the mercy of these negative
events: having never considered that yes, you might lose your job, yes,
your spouse might up and run away with the local beautician (of either
sex), yes, your skills might be totally worthless in today's job market,
you have no way of dealing with these events when they occur.
Kathy's denial of any negative possibilities in the Future became clear
as we examined her beliefs.
"Are you telling me I'm in trouble?" Kathy said, aghast. "Are
you telling me I'm headed for some awful Future I know nothing about?"
"No," I said, "I'm telling you you're headed for a Future
you know nothing about. And that if you want it to be a wonderful Future,
then you have to be willing to entertain the possibility that your Future
could hold negative situations, and therefore it is necessary to create
your Future actively, purposefully, rather than leaving it up to "everything
always turns out." Leaving "luck" or "chance"
or "fate" in charge of your Future is what is scary.
Too often, we choose the belief "Everything always turns out just
fine" because we're terrified of looking at what the Future might
actually hold. Kathy was scared that if she really looked into the Unknown
ahead, all she'd find was loneliness, unhappiness and poverty. Her belief
in a "rosy" Future had no real basis, it was just her way of
pushing away the monsters. I spent some time with Kathy helping her look
into what she feared would be a miserable Future. As she did so to her
great surprise, Kathy found that she saw much hope and genuine brightness
in the Unknown as well as pockets of potential misery and unhappiness.
With the two possibilities in mind, Kathy was able to return to her original
belief, "Everything always turns out just fine," but from a
very different perspective.
"I can see the way things might turn out badly," Kathy said,
"and I can choose to believe that even if there are bumps in the
road, things still do turn out just fine." Her belief was no longer
based on denial. Pretending that the Future will be great by closing your
eyes to reality isn't the same as having a grounded belief that the Future
holds lots of possibilities for success. Winners aren't afraid of looking
at negative possibilities. They know that a realistic assessment of possible
dangers and pitfalls is how you avoid those. Kathy's belief was now capable
of guiding her to success.
You can't get to a positive Future with beliefs that deny positive or
negative possibilities, nor can you get to a positive Future with beliefs
that deny your power, the part you play in creating your Future. In challenging
Jim's beliefs, the first thing that came to light was Jim's profound conviction
that he played no part in creating his Future.
I started by asking Jim directly if he believed he was in charge of his
Future. "In charge of my Future?" Jim asked, shaking his head.
"I don't know where you get such ideas, Doc," he said. "The
Future is one big political-economic-social mess - and ain't nothing you
or me can do about it." "So what you're telling me, Jim, is
that no matter what you do, you have no impact. You aren't running the
show. Someone or something outside of you is responsible for how your
life goes," I commented in return. "Well, maybe not how my whole
life goes every minute of every day," Jim replied, "but certainly
for the Future." "What's the difference?" I asked, curious.
"What's the difference between how your life goes every day and your
Future?" "Well," Jim said slowly, "The Future is out
there somewhere - I can't see it, taste it, smell it or touch it. My day
to day is in front of my nose, thank you very much." "But the
breath you breathe now was in your Future just a minute ago," I said,
"so how is that different today than next year?" "Well,
I'm talking about the big things, you know like getting a decent job outside
of trucking, making something of my life, things like that." Jim
continued, "I have no impact on the big things. Whoever has the money
or the guns has the power, and that's who runs the show. They'll decide
if I get a job or whatever. It's that simple. It's out of my hands."
"So you see your personal Future as something you have very little
control over," I said. "You're darn right I do. No matter how
hard I try nor how hard I work I'll never end up on top," Jim stated
With that belief in place, I dreaded to think what Jim's Future would
look like. One thing was for sure, he'd never end up on top. His selective
perception, his "radar" would never pick up the opportunities
for him to get ahead regardless of his efforts, no matter how present
those opportunities might be. He would be systematically guided away from
such possibilities by his own belief. The thought appalled me. I continued
working with Jim.
"Have you ever known anyone to end up on top?" I asked, challenging
Jim's belief which he was taking for fact. "What do you mean?"
he asked, warily. "Well, did you ever know a trucker, for example,
who started out as a trucker and ended up owning a trucking company?"
I asked. Jim thought briefly, "Sure, my first boss," he said.
"But what does that have to do with me?" "Did your first
boss come to own that trucking company because somebody gave it to him?"
I asked, ignoring Jim's question for the moment. "No," Jim said
slowly, "But the bank gave him the loan he needed." "Did
he have any particular leverage with the Bank? I mean did his wife work
there or his Dad own the bank or anything?" Jim laughed. "Not
exactly," he replied. " My boss's Dad was a migrant farmer and
his wife worked with him, doing his books and such." "So he
put his trucking company together pretty much on his own," I said.
"Yeah, I guess so," Jim said, eyeing me strangely. "What
are you getting at?" he asked.
"Well, Jim," I replied, "If one person can do something,
anybody can do it. You say your Future is out of your hands, that no matter
how hard you work or how hard you try, you'll never come out on top. But
here's your old boss, someone you know well, who did come out on top,
and who didn't get there by having all the money or guns to do it with.
Anything he did, you can do. Your statement 'Whoever has the money or
the guns has the power, and that's who runs the show' is just a belief.
It isn't fact. If it were fact, your boss couldn't have owned his own
company. It would never have happened." "So what you're saying
is because he did what he wanted to do for himself, I can accomplish what
I want for me," Jim said. "In a nutshell?" I said, "Yes."
Observing how other people have done things which are contrary to whatever
belief it is that you hold is a compelling way to challenge your beliefs.
It also demonstrates clearly how a belief is something you choose to accept,
not a fact.
The belief that the Future is controlled by others takes away your power.
It is a defeatist attitude towards the Future. When you believe you are
not in charge of your life, you lose the ability to create an abundant
and successful life for yourself. All doors look closed to you, and thus,
they are. Challenge such disabling beliefs and take back your power. In
the process you will also claim your rightful success in the Future.
HOW TO DEVELOP BELIEFS
THAT WORK FOR YOU
"So how do I do this? What's the solution?" you ask. "I'm
not sure what my beliefs are about the Future. What if they're awful?
Surely you're not just going to leave me here with a bunch of imprisoning
beliefs?" No, not if I can help it! Start, as I did with Paul, May,
Kathy and Jim, by asking yourself the following questions, as you begin
your first Personal Success Log.
Answer the questions in the Log to the best of your ability. Think of
the Personal Success Logs at the end of each chapter as an opportunity
to get to know yourself better. This knowledge will then give you the
key elements to creating a successful Future for yourself. You may find
that your answers to these questions change over time. That's great! Come
back to your Personal Success Logs as often as you like, to help you grow
and change in the direction of continual success.
PERSONAL SUCCESS LOG #1: YOUR BELIEFS
Step # 1: What are my beliefs about the Future?
Most of us go through life without ever asking ourselves what those beliefs
are, and thus are powerless to work with them. Ask yourself, what do I
believe lies "out there" in the Future? Do I see the Future
as a void, a big empty pit of nothingness? What kind of nothing? Be descriptive
Do you believe the Future is scary, full of hazards and dangers? And if
so, what are those hazards and dangers? Be specific. Is it that the economy
will just get worse and worse? That crime will be increasingly rampant?
That getting a decent education will be impossible for all but the very
wealthy and thus not for your children? What specifically are your fearful
beliefs about the Future?
Do you believe that "luck" or "fate" determines your
Future? That as long as you work hard and keep your nose to the grindstone
you'll be fine? Do you believe that if you just "follow the rules"
you'll be OK? These are disempowering beliefs, because they don't take
into account that if you're working hard at something that's going out
of date, you won't be successful. If you're following the rules, what
happens to you when the rules change?
Do you believe someone or something else is in charge of your success?
Is it the economy, or the politicians, or your crummy family that never
gave you anything in life which stands in your way? Do you believe that
the unpredictability of the world stands in the way of your success?
An easy way to discover your beliefs about the future is to write a stream
of consciousness starting with the words "I believe the Future is
... " and then writing anything and everything that comes to mind.
Don't censor yourself, just keep writing. When ever you get "stuck,"
repeat your beginning prompt, "I believe the Future is ... "
until you've written about 2 pages worth. More is fine, just try to get
at least 2 pages written. Then go back, and pinpoint what your different
beliefs are. You may surprise yourself! Make a list of your beliefs, without
judging or censoring them as "Oh that's a terrible belief."
Just make your list. It will become the basis of your power.
Step #2: Transform your disempowering beliefs into empowering beliefs
Now it's time to transform your disempowering beliefs into empowering
beliefs. Beliefs aren't set in cement. Beliefs are simply habits, ways
you are used to thinking about things. You can change your beliefs, just
like you can change your habits, any time you want.
First, sort out your empowering beliefs about the Future from your disempowering
beliefs. Empowering beliefs are those which support your growth into a
positive Future. Disempowering beliefs are those which either limit your
growth, or support a negative view of the Future. An empowering belief,
for example, is one which says "Money is the root of much good."
Such a belief supports your desire for abundance in a positive Future.
"Money is the root of all evil," is a disempowering belief.
It limits your monetary growth if you wish to be a good person, and thus
supports a negative view of the Future (you'll be poor). The empowering
belief that "The Future is wide open, full of opportunities"
clearly supports growth (opportunities) in a positive Future. The belief
that "The Future is dark, scary and full of pitfalls" is a constricting
one. It both limits your growth - people tend to advance very cautiously
in dark scary places full of pitfalls, and fosters the perception that
the Future holds only negative experiences.
Take the list you created in Step #1 and pull out the disempowering beliefs.
Write those down separately. Then next to each disempowering belief, write
out what might be the empowering belief you could replace it with. For
example, replace "The economy is only going to get worse" with
"No matter what the economy does, some people always make money,
and I intend to be one of them." Replace "I'll never get anywhere,
I have no marketable skills" with "I have all the marketable
skills I need to get wherever I want to, I just don't know what those
are yet - and what I don't have, I can acquire." Then make a list
out of all your empowering beliefs, put it up on your bathroom mirror
(or the fridge!) so you can see your list frequently, and read your list
several times every morning and every night, until your new empowering
beliefs as much a part of you as your old disempowering beliefs were.
Habits are formed out of repetition. Use repetition to form new habits
- new beliefs - which serve you well. You will start to perceive your
world differently, and as you do so, you will experience your world differently.
Eventually, you will begin to act differently, in line with your new beliefs.
Let the Unknown of the Future work for you rather than against you. Accept
the belief that there are at least as many positive possibilities in the
Unknown as there are negative ones, and choose, as Winners do, to hold
those beliefs which open you to those positive possibilities.
Once you've opened yourself to positive possibilities about the Future,
you're ready to open yourself to positive possibilities about yourself.
For if you are to create a new Future, there is first the creation of
a new you.
(1) Bernie S. Siegel, M.D., Love, Medicine & Miracles: Lessons Learned
about Self-Healing from a Surgeon's Experience with Exceptional Patients,
Harper & Row, New York, 1986, p. 87.
(2) Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning, Pocket Books, New York, 1959,
(3) Alex Tresniowski, Ron Arias, "Wishful Thinkier," People
Magazine, July 6, 1998, pp. 117-118.
(4) Christina Cheakalos, Elizabeth McNeil, "Talking Back," People
Magazine, July 13, 1998, PP. 115-117.
(5) Anne-Marie O'Neill, Craig Mellow, Barbara Sandler, "Prodigal
President," People Magazine, June 29, 1998, PP. 129-132.
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