“Understand: people will constantly attack you in life. One of their main weapons will be to instill in you doubts about yourself – your worth, your abilities, your potential. They will often disguise this as their objective opinion, but invariably it has a political purpose – they want to keep you down.”
― Robert Greene, The 50th Law
When I was little my dad used to play at rough-housing with me and my siblings. There was a game he called “King of the Mountain” and the object of the game was to knock off whoever tried to get to the top of the pillow mountain first. We loved this game because first we got to play with dad, always a great time, then we got to make a huge mess of all the pillows we could find in the house and then make a humungous mountain as tall as we could possibly reach. I have to say that to 3, 4, and 5-year-old eyes this was the tallest structure ever created. We then would clear away all manner of hurtful hard objects and proceed to strategize as to just how to climb this monumental structure without getting caught and tackled to the ground. There was a hysterical amount of tickling involved in this game designed specifically to weaken our little bodies enough that we couldn’t find the strength to climb anything at all, all while trying to prevent dad from reaching the top of the mountain and declare himself King.
One could argue that this was a life lesson in how to overcome impossible obstacles that life will inevitably throw at us; how to overcome those demons that are designed and determined to keep us down physically and mentally, philosophically and psychologically whether in words or deeds and life lessons in how to get creative in problem solving all while laughing out loud. Blah, blah, blah; we just thought it was so fun to spend undivided time with dad. But wait, now I’m curious…..
What keeps you feeling down? What mountains are in front of you that need to be climbed? What motivates you to climb those mountains?
There are many important questions that come along in our lifetime. Questions that create angst, change, upheaval, awareness, peace, etc. Of all the questions that I have come across as a life coach, the one question that seems to have the most impact is the one question that attacks the essence of who my client is at any given moment. This question seems to evolve and keeps evolving as we learn and grow and become. This question has the potential of becoming habit forming; a reminder to always check my sources and resources in order to keep fear at bay and inner strength at the ready.
The questions I ask myself on a daily basis are, for the most part, always in helpful surrender to aid in making me the best possible version of who I strive to become. Who I am today is in no way who I will be later in life and although who I was yesterday may carry over into who I am right this moment, my “yesterday” self always has the ability to be better tomorrow. What is this incredible question?
Who told you that?
This question falls under the auspices of false beliefs or limiting beliefs and carries a tremendous amount of weight inside our heads and hearts. Most of us allow that the things we choose to believe, whether we realize it as our choice or not, are the things that hold us back from a fulfilling, productive, purposeful life. For a lot of people, believing the limiting beliefs we cling to holds a lot of fear in preventing us from exploring all kinds of fearless possibilities.
This question has been a constant companion for me for many years. It takes on many faces such as, who told you that you are not worthy of a better life, a better job, or a better outcome? Who told you that you have to compromise on what means the most to you? Who told you that if you experience happiness of any kind you are only allowed that one-time experience and then doomed to misery thereafter? Who told you that the love you have in your life is all you are allotted in one lifetime? Who told you that brown and pink don’t go well together? Who told you that if your children are not successful in their own right that means that you are not a successful parent?
More importantly when did you start believing all of this?
For as long as we live there will be life moments that test our inner strength; that make life feel as if this one time experience is the most impossible mountain to climb. Questions like this one help to keep us grounded and present and focused on being and becoming our best selves. The fear factor here might be, “what if I can’t answer this question or what if I stay stuck in my limiting beliefs?” I suggest taking time to unpack the question step by slow moving step until you come to understand how you got here.
Family therapist, author, marathon runner and professor Cami Ostman teaches an incredible workshop on how to successfully put the “Who told you that” question to the test and how to successfully answer it and use the question and answer to your advantage. When we feel stuck in our fear of not being enough and believing that we are truly not enough Ms. Ostman says that “we are not aligning with our true nature; we are not aligning with our core selves.” She goes on to say, “Our true nature, our core selves, are calm, joyful and centered. Most of our limiting beliefs start in childhood based on what we perceived as a need to protect ourselves from feeling vulnerable or hurt or shameful or weak. Our true nature thrives on genuine support from others and uses 4 qualities to help us thrive.” Those 4 qualities are:
*Clarity of purpose: Who does it benefit to take the road less traveled? Who does it benefit to follow the leader?
“People who lack the clarity, courage, or determination to follow their own dreams will often find ways to discourage yours. Live your truth and don’t EVER stop!” ― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free
*Faith: Enjoy each step along the way and know that whatever choice you make; all will be okay.
*Commitment to ourselves and our purposes: What is one tiny step you can take each morning to bring you closer to where you want to be?
“If you had started doing anything two weeks ago, by today you would have been two weeks better at it.” ― John Mayer
*Sovereignty: The unshakable knowledge that we are the supreme rulers of our own minds and choices and decisions. Who has given you permission to question your own self- worth, in other words, who told you that and why are you believing it? When we truly believe that we are sovereign over our hearts, minds and bodies then we are free to come and go, to explore and choose wisely and be impactful in all we do.
According to Ms. Ostman, bringing forth your true nature is a practice of letting go of fear; letting go of limiting beliefs, letting go of those things that were told to you whether to protect you or to scare you to stand still. Ms. Ostman suggests respectfully thanking all the parts of us that tried to protect us from the fears that are holding us back, wishing those parts well and firmly telling those parts that it is now time to take the reins and face the fears and the adventure that awaits.
A great way to begin your journey of shedding those limiting beliefs, of shedding fear is to take these 4 qualities and start with the end in mind. Let’s play….
Kari always wanted to be an artist. Her talents have been recognized by the obvious people in her life, her art teachers, her friends, her classmates, etc. but for some reason Kari has not taken all of those accolades and turned it into the art studio/gallery that she has always imagined. Kari doesn’t believe within herself that her art work is good enough to sell or that strangers would want to buy what she is creating. She is beginning to feel like doing art of any kind is a waste of time and that she needs to start getting serious about her life and start to make a living. “It feels like there is just too much wasted time in art and I need to pay my bills and just get on with my life at this point.” Who told Kari that art is too much of wasted time? Who told Kari that being an artist isn’t a serious pursuit of making a life? Who told Kari that she isn’t good enough to make art her career? When did those limiting beliefs start to take deep roots in her heart and mind?
There are a few choices Kari can make: She can give up her art completely and get a “real” job, she can only do her artwork for her own pleasure and joy, she can give her artwork away to friends and colleagues as gifts so that at least her art will be “out there” even if it hangs in someone else’s house or office or she can imagine one last time what it would be like to have the art studio/gallery she always dreamed about.
Kari chooses to imagine one last time about her art studio. Kari chose the “as if” option and she lets her imagination run wild with the end in mind, “as if” she made her dream come true and opened her art studio and became the successful artist she always dreamed of becoming. Out loud Kari imagines it is opening night at her art studio and the walls are full of her artwork in every medium. There are lots of people at the opening tonight including people that came as guests of those that received an invitation and the biggest surprise of all is that the media are here tonight to interview Kari and get her story. Kari imagines the gorgeous outfit she is wearing and imagines that her parents are there and feel so proud of her for sticking with her dream and making it come true. Kari imagines the food and drinks being passed around, she imagines the pockets of conversation going on around her studio, she imagines the music playing in the background and how great everyone looks tonight because they came to this special event. At the end of the night Kari imagines her most sacred piece of art being sold to an art collector and Kari being commissioned to do work for businesses in and around her art studio.
The greatest take away for Kari in playing the “as if” game is that she just thought about even more ideas on how to make her studio/gallery a great success. By opening herself up to the possibilities and by letting herself feel the happiness in her core-self, by freeing her mind and heart from limiting beliefs, Kari has experienced more joy in these few minutes than in the past year of struggling to be “practical” about her future.
Call to Action
Find a friend, mentor, coach, or use your own reflection in the mirror and play the “as if” game with your dreams. No limiting beliefs allowed. Dress the part, play the music, set the scene and have at it. Notice everything, the way you look, the way you feel, the way your thoughts expand. Who told you that you can’t make this vision your reality?
One of Ms. Ostman’s most successful practices is to interview fear and listen to what comes up in that discussion. If you are interested in trying this interview with fear, please give me a call. You will be changed from this experience.
On a piece of paper make a list down one side of the paper of all the things that you believe today. On the other side of the paper make a list of how you came to have each belief; in other words, who told you that? On a new piece of paper make a list of all the new things you are now going to believe that will help move you toward the person you want to be. Keep in mind on this new list, that YOU are giving yourself permission to believe these new things, act on these new things, dream these new things and become these new things.
Write a good-bye letter to your old self letting go of the fearful things that you have told to yourself or have been told to you that you are currently believing; letting go of the limiting beliefs that are holding you back from becoming your true self. Before you end the good-bye to old self letter start to write about all the new things your new, free self will be experiencing from now on. What successful, happy, expansive experiences will you be adding to your new life? How much can you honestly feel inside of your core-self that you believe you honestly, courageously, and wholeheartedly will experience in all the amazing life moments that are destined to come to you?