When there’s something important in your life you’d like to change, like being less anxious, having better communication in your marriage or coping with a stressful work situation, the process of figuring out where to begin can feel daunting. Sometimes difficult challenges feel like they can’t change; or the thought of achieving long-lasting change seems so overwhelming that you may not even try. Remember, it’s our attitudes and beliefs that power our behaviors and emotions. So whether you are making a major life change, merely working to accept a difficult part of your status quo or anything in between, the task is to hardwire the new attitudes and beliefs that will work for you.
Try this simple exercise for taking charge of your beliefs and attitudes, thereby preventing them from becoming stifling hang-ups:
Think about a situation you want to change. Next, see if you can recognize and write down the belief(s) or attitude(s) that go with it. For example, if you’re unhappy with your job, but feel stuck there, you may believe, “With this economy, I have no choice but to stay here and suffer,” or “I can’t stand going to work anymore.” Making a shift, means changing something within yourself. This means changing an attitude or belief and then the behavior that’s driving your self-defeating negative emotion. For this exercise (and usually in life), changing another person or circumstances outside of yourself is not an option. So instead, focus on your belief that —in this case—you are stuck.
Now ask yourself some questions:
Are any of the beliefs I have identified and written down completely true?
Does the attitude or belief serve any purpose that would make me want to keep that attitude or belief?
Am I open to adopting a new attitude(s) or belief(s) regarding this problem?
Assuming you answered “No” to the first two questions and “Yes” to the third, take a minute to write down how the attitudes and beliefs that underlie your problem might be affecting you. Note how things in your life would be different with a different attitude that you’ve actually chosen. For example, is it possible that you do have talents or skills that could be valuable to another employer? Some people are hired in every economy, and after all, you are only looking for one job. Also, until you do find something new, can a different attitude make this job more bearable?
Next, choose some healthy alternatives or affirmations to the problematic ones you have just identified. For example, you could choose the affirmation “I am really motivated to find a job where I can use my talents and be appreciated; and until I do, I’ll look for ways to make this job as fulfilling as possible”. Think of as many alternative attitudes and beliefs as you can that apply to your situation.
Now ask yourself these questions:
Are my new affirmations completely true for me?
Do my new affirmation(s) above remove or neutralize my problem (at least for now)?
Keep tweaking them until you can answer yes to both questions.
If you answered yes, think about how your issue or even your life could be different, once you’ve hardwired these new affirmations. And to hardwire them, of course, is simply to live by your new affirmations—unnatural as they may seem, at first— until they are a natural part of you. This generally takes about 30 days. Refer to them as often as necessary until they do become hardwired, and remember to take the necessary action steps (for example, begin your job search!). With this exercise, you can make a shift very quickly!
About the Author
Michael S. Broder, Ph.D. is a renowned psychologist, executive coach, bestselling author, popular seminar leader, and media personality. He is an acclaimed expert in cognitive behavioral therapy, specializing in high achievers and relationship issues.