The Happiness Advantage
The Happiness Project
These are all titles of books on my bookshelf because 1. I’m into positivity, 2. I’ve needed help to overcome negativity and 3. because happiness is trending these days. Currently there are over 40,000 books about happiness listed on Amazon. The fact that I only have four makes me feel a little less like a junkie.
Positivity is a brain thing. It’s about changing the way you habitually think.
When Isaiah says, God’s “thoughts are not your thoughts,” (Isaiah 55:8) he wasn’t kidding. More often than not, your thoughts are nowhere near God’s thoughts, because His thoughts are higher, superior, and absolutely beyond you. Me too. As the apostle Paul says, they are “true, …noble, …right, …pure, …lovely, …admirable, …excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). Although I’ve come a long way in my thinking, when compared to God’s list, I still have a ways to go.
The clients I coach tell me that they, too, would like their thoughts to be more like God’s. They want to be more positive and less negative. They want their faith to be bigger than their fear. They want to agree with God and believe that good things are possible. They just don’t know how.
DON’T FAKE IT ‘TIL YOU MAKE IT
Before you start thinking they might be passive or neglectful, it’s not like they haven’t tried to be more positive. One of my clients read an article that showed if she smiled, she would feel more happy, so she did that, but it didn’t last. Her friends were actually relieved when she let that go, because she was starting to get a little creepy.
Another client read the book, The Confidence Code, and learned that if she sat up straight or sprawled like a man, she would feel more confident. And she did, at least when she wasn’t flashing others.
Another tried positive affirmations, like Stuart Smalley, in SNL’s skit from the 1990s: I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me! Unfortunately, her affirmations had the opposite effect, making her feel worse about herself. Maybe you’ve tried that too, and doggone it, it didn’t work. The reason is your words didn’t match your actual feelings. If there is a gap between your affirmation and how you actually feel, then repeating positive statements, whatever they made be, serves only to remind you how far you are from it.
It turns out that the age-old advice to “fake it until you make it” has its limits and the downside is that most people don’t make it and are left to fake it, leading them into an inauthentic life.
So how do you do that and close the gap between your words or behavior and the beliefs you hold in your mind? How do you become more positive and hopeful, overcoming your negative beliefs, so your mind catches up with your words and actions?
You need two things: awareness and doubt.
1. CREATING AWARENESS
First, you must become aware of your negative beliefs by answer this question, 1. What is my limiting belief? Limiting beliefs are “deeply personal and unquestioned ideas about who you are and what you can expect from the world that are often fixed by the time you are four to five years old” (Beyond Victim Consciousness by Lynne Forrest).
Here are some examples:
I always make mistakes.
My relationships never work out.
I never get ahead.
I have to be perfect.
I can’t trust myself.
Nobody gets me.
I’m not important.
My value comes from what I do.
This last limiting belief, My value comes from what I do, is specific to your personality type.
Stabilizers instinctively believe the LIE that they are valuable when they are caring for others and keeping the peace. Connecters naturally believe the LIE that they are important when they are happy and making others happy. Improvers typically believe the LIE that they are worthwhile when they are perfect and the work they do is perfect. And Doers normally believe the LIE that they are useful when they are highly productive. Period. To learn more take the Mom Quiz or check out What’s Your Mom Type? Discovering God’s Design for You.
Let’s use I’m stupid as an example of a limiting belief.
Next, you consider why we’ve held this belief for so long and what we get out of it. The question is 2. What is the benefit I get from this belief? If I believe I’m stupid, then I don’t have to try very hard. I don’t have to subject myself to the disappointment of failure. I don’t have to risk new things. It may seem like limiting beliefs keep you safe, but really they keep you from living to your highest potential.
Then you take a hard look at the damage the limiting belief has done. The question is 3. What have the negative consequences been? Because I have believed I am stupid, I haven’t found a decent job or received promotions. I haven’t been trusted with greater responsibility. I am bored with my life.
Finally, you take a look at when this limiting belief may have first appeared on the scene by answering 4. When was this true? In first grade, I didn’t understand the math assignments. I often got low scores on my homework.
2. INTRODUCING DOUBT
This next question, 5. How is this false?, is where your thinking really starts to change by planting a seed of doubt. Questioning the belief allows you to step back and analyze it with your thinking brain and evaluate its legitimacy. Do not underestimate this step! The reason your limiting beliefs have hung around for so long is because subconsciously you remain certain they are true.
I’m stupid as a universal principle is false because I know how to speak Spanish. I figured out how to fix my computer. I read several books last year.
FIGHTING LIES WITH TRUTH
Finally, you need to ask 6. What is my empowering belief? to replace the lie with truth.
When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first (Matthew 12: 43-45).
Don’t leave your mind empty. Fill it with truth. And make it zippy. It does have to agree with scripture, but it doesn’t have to be a whole verse.
Create a statement that you can say repeatedly to yourself to create a new neural pathway that will replace the old limiting belief. I’m stupid could become I’m curious, or I’m capable, or I’m skilled. It could be I like to learn or I can learn. Take some time to consider what you really need to hear.
Then take 60 seconds and picture yourself living out the empowering belief. Your brain cannot distinguish between a vision in your mind from what happens in real life, so this exercise allows you to act as though the empowering belief were already true.
TIP: If your empowering belief feels a little “Stuart Smalley” then add this: While it may not have felt true in the past, I am open to believing that (insert empowering belief here). By acknowledging the past experience first, your brain doesn’t have to fight against a positive affirmation that does not yet feel true.
WASH, RINSE, REPEAT
Post your empowering belief everywhere. Put up Post-it notes stating your empowering belief on your kitchen cabinet, your bathroom mirror and the dashboard of your car. Make it your screen saver. Say it out loud every single day. It takes 21 days to create a new neural network but it takes three rounds (63 days) of daily practice to become your habit of thought.
Don’t wait. Correct your mind today. Happiness and positivity, “more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20) await.
What limiting belief do you need to overcome with an empowering belief?