Bella is in her early sixties and looking for a different position at her workplace. A new job description came up a few days ago and she felt confident every qualification perfectly described her own abilities and experiences. Except for the last one: “Must be social media savvy.”
Worried, Bella went into the supervisor’s office and asked about the social media qualification. “How much time will this portion take up? I can do everything else, but maybe that part could be assigned to Admin?” Irritated, the supervisor looked at her and replied, “The new-hire for this position will be handling all the social media.”
As Bella and I talked about her awkward conversation with the supervisor, I asked why she was so afraid to learn the skills needed to get the new job. She said, “I’m in my 60’s and I know they’re going to hire someone younger who is more savvy.”
My friend’s self-talk is negative. She has self-limiting beliefs about her ability to learn something new because of her age.
The older we get the more we worry about looking silly, so our ideas tend to be conservative. But, if we don’t continually exercise our brain, it loses it’s ability to be agile and flexible (click to tweet). That makes it harder to strengthen our mind so that it knows how to deal with changes, obstacles, and adversity.
Bella needs to learn how to interrupt unconscious self-talk that is negative and generates fear, anxiety, and doubt. When we choose to let a negative thought have control, it leads to another phenomenon—helplessness. This is when you’ve decided that nothing you do affects what happens to you.
When we control our thoughts and our beliefs about ourselves, and make them positive ones, we’re gaining personal control. If helplessness can be learned, then it can be unlearned.
Every change we make in our lifestyle is perceived as a traumatic or stressful event by our brain. When we’re stressed, the emotional limbic brain system becomes more active. We not only engage with our thinking cerebral brain less, we engage with the brain’s language circuits even less. So when we’re stressed, our expressions change as well as the tone of our voice—even our speech patterns change.
We can interrupt our brain’s perception of changes in our lifestyle as being a threat if we are mentally tough. Mental toughness is the opposite of helplessness; it’s the ability to change the way we look at things by our own power.
There are many things in life that are beyond our control—our physical traits, race, the drought in Wyoming, our weedy gene pool . . . But we do have control over so much in our life. We can either take control or cede it to others.
When it comes to positive and negative feelings, the brain responds like an on-off switch: you cannot focus on both at the same time. We develop habits in the way we think, but habits of thinking are not etched in stone. Researchers like Martin Seligman have found that we can choose the way we think.
We can change self-limiting beliefs we have about ourselves. Here are some ways:
- Say things slowly so you can interrupt a negative thought before it’s verbalized (click to tweet).
- Observe the negative thought without reaction or judgment. Think of this as an exercise in meditation.
- Consciously reframe the negative thought by shaping it into a positive one that has a solution-based direction.
- Generate a minimum of 3-5 positive thoughts in response to every negative one you have. It takes almost twice as many positive thoughts to counter every negative one (click to tweet).
- Think before speaking. Be fully present. Why do you tend to speak spontaneously or say whatever is on your mind? You may be tired, have poor communication skills, impatient, ego-centric, or self-absorbed.
- Learn how to speak better. We are biased to think we are effective communicators, even when we’re not. Record yourself in a conversation and then play it back. Or ask a trusted friend to give you honest feedback.
- Learn empathetic listening by studying your own verbal inflections, read facial expressions, and interpret body language.
Be bold with your life, don’t play it safe (click to tweet). The way we think about our life controls it. Our thoughts are not merely reactions to events; they change what comes after. Like Bella, what you believe to be true about yourself becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
How have self-limiting beliefs interfered with your plans for your life?
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