Are your thoughts keeping you stuck? Time for some belief busting

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Time for another tool on the Martha Beck blog …

The other day, I was talking with my client Laura (not her real name) about her big, audacious business idea.  She had shared lots of background information on the project over email, and it was clear to me she was wildly informed about the idea and extremely competent to implement it.  Then she said:

"I want to talk to some other people who are doing similar projects, but I am not prepared enough to talk to them yet."

As soon as she said this, I heard a big "SCREECH!" sound in my mind which is an indication that some belief busting is in order.

How do beliefs get in our way?

If you read magazines or watch news shows, you should have no problem knowing what to do to improve your life.  Articles and stories abound about things like:

  • How to lose 10 pounds in 2 days while eating chips and salsa
  • 3 steps to turn your potato chip-loving kids into tofu enthusiasts
  • 7 ways to find the mate of your dreams
  • 8 ways to reduce your debt and have financial freedom
  • And my personal favorite that has been covered by Cosmopolitan Magazine at least 5,000 times in the last 40 years:  5 ways to make your man deliriously happy in bed!

The fact is, we know what to do and how to do it.  So why don’t we?

Because of unhealthy and unhelpful beliefs.

Using my earlier example, my client wants to get her business off the ground.  She knows that in order to do it in the most efficient way possible, she needs to learn from others who have already walked that road.  But her belief "I am not prepared enough to talk to other business owners" is getting in her way.

To help shake loose this unhelpful thought, I used the four questions from Byron Katie’s pioneering book called Loving What Is:  Four questions that can change your life

As Katie says in her book:

"The Work is simply four questions that, when applied to a specific problem, enable you to see what is troubling you in an entirely different light. It’s not the problem that causes our suffering; it’s our thinking about the problem. Contrary to popular belief, trying to let go of a painful thought never works; instead, once we have done The Work the thought lets go of us.  At that point, we can truly love what is, just as it is."

The Four Questions from "The Work."

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you absolutely know that it is true?
  3. How do you react when you think that thought?
  4. Who would you be without that thought?


           Turn it around.

Read the rest about how I used The Work with Laura here.

(and, yes, I am tricking you to go to her blog with my cliffhanger … a technique I have learned from people like Penelope Trunk and Bob Sutton who write for other blogs than their own.  🙂

3 Responses to “Are your thoughts keeping you stuck? Time for some belief busting”

  1. Thanks for the great post. Reminds me a bit of Martin Seligman’s work on Learned Optimism. He talks about “natural” optimists who look at challenges in three positive ways: temporary, isolated, and external (“This won’t last long,” “This doesn’t affect everything,” and “This isn’t me.”) This is as opposed to what we (that is, *I*) normally do – permanent, pervasive, and personal. Refs:

  2. CL says:

    What if the answer to the first and/or second question is “yes”… ?

    Specifically, I would like to go independent but feel constrained by special family health needs, and resulting lack of family support for any possible leaving of my day job.


    This is a good example of vetting out unhelpful beliefs from real concerns. If you have a serious concern about an issue such as money or health care, you will have to use your best planning and research skills to find a way around it. I am guessing that with the reality that “it is tough to find health coverage with pre-existing health conditions,” there may be a pesky belief that “I will never be able to leave my corporate job because of this.” The reality is, many people have found a workaround for this issue, so if you change your belief and tell yourself that you will find a solution, chances are, you will! The Work doesn’t magically take care of your problems, it just helps to release the feeling of stuck that comes from thoughts that surround your problem.

    Hope this helps!


  3. Honestly, Pamela, if you hadn’t “tricked” me I still would have wanted to read the entire article because the beginning was so good, especially the part about the “SCREECH!” As a certified facilitator of The Work, I’m so happy to see it applied in this practical way. I’d like to offer your readers my free report on using The Work on business issues; it’s available at