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Why we don’t TRY?

What we believe is just one perspective.

How many times have we avoided doing things, by saying it is too hard or complicated? How many times have we missed important opportunities, for the same reason? I would like to explore why we avoid doing certain things. This is not limited to a task at work, it may be also other important things like getting married or moving to a different town or starting your dream project.

For several years, I struggled with my behavioural pattern. I had big dreams, one of which is to start my own design company. However, the negative thought patterns would convince me that I can’t do it, I would usually give up without even trying. About 18 months ago, I was deeply frustrated about not making any progress. I decided that I had to do something about it, I started looking around to find a solution. Of many things that I came across, one theory which I’m about to share, made a lot of sense.

In 1957, an American psychologist named Dr. Albert Ellis, wrote about a cognitive model called ABC technique of irrational beliefs. This theory has evolved over time and currently its application may be slightly varied. According to this theory, there is a connection between an activating event (A), the belief system or cognition (B) and the consequential behaviour or a response to the event ( C).

In my quest to change my behaviour in such challenging situations, I was always focusing on my response — I tried to be more positive, tried to motivate myself to do and so on. However, this never lasted for long, my logical mind was more powerful, than all the motivational response I had. I never thought about the underlying belief system, which was generating all these negative thoughts. Through Dr. Ellis’s theory, I understood the role of my belief system in the whole process.

Our belief system is formed mostly from past experiences, stories heard and sometimes our imagination fills in. It also depends on our state of mind, understanding and maturity at that point in time, when a particular belief was formed. Some of these beliefs may date back to our formative years, when our understanding of the world was limited. Sometimes, we may be riding on an intelligence, which is outdated — where it does not necessarily hold good anymore. It doesn’t mean it is wrong, but chances are that things have changed overtime. It may be that a few years ago someone told you that she was not able to do something because it was hard and complicated — you may find yourself using the very same words now. Yes, sometimes it is not even YOUR beliefs, that your most critical decision depend on. There is a need to understand this and make effective changes to our lives.

It will be a tedious task to overhaul our entire belief system, in a short period of time. However, we can make progress, when we understand the role of beliefs in our lives. You can re-evaluate a particular belief, when you think you are into a negative thought pattern, with a particular event and your response to it.

Here is how I try to overcome this problem. Every time I catch myself saying that something is not possible,

  • I make note of such events.

  • I reflect on the activating event and how I behave or respond to it. Sometimes, this can be tricky as one event may trigger multiple responses — we should be aware of it.

  • I then try to figure out the underlying belief system. For instance, I want to move to a new town and I’m anxious about it. I write down about what makes me anxious — may be I heard from someone about their struggles when they moved or my imagination. Again, you may have to unravel your belief system, because there might be multiple layers to it.

  • The next step is, I challenge the beliefs that I identify. Ask questions like how and when did I start to believe this? Does it still hold good? Is this the only way forward?

  • Once I challenge the belief system enough, I make some leeway to replace it with a new belief — a more relevant one, that may help me achieve what I want.

  • Replacing a belief will need continued effort, may be setup a reminder everyday to reflect on it and write down the progress to keep track of it.

This can be a rigorous thought session or a brief reflection. Once you know the activating event and the consequence, you can reflect on the underlying belief causing it. If you want to change a behaviour or the way you respond to an event, it is worth reflecting on your beliefs. Try this and you will be surprised by how little changes can have an impact in your life.

I always wanted to write essays and stories, however, for a long time I believed I was not good at it. I replaced that belief to “I can write”, looks like its working quite well, as I write this. “It is okay to try and fail, it is not as bad as not trying”.

Credits: Photo by Tato Villanova from Pexels

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