With the beginning of a new year comes the hope of a fresh start. We reflect on our goals, consider the changes we need to make, and we make our New Year’s resolutions because this is the time of year to make it happen!
And while we have great intentions, statistics say that only a small percentage of us (less than 10%!) will succeed.
For some of us, failure to maintain our resolutions happens with predictable regularity, year after year. We explain away our misfortune with a laundry list of standard excuses: our goals were unrealistic; we did not plan appropriately; we were not motivated enough; we got too busy. We make excuses and beat ourselves up. We promise ourselves that by the beginning of next year, we will be more prepared. Armed to the teeth with self-help books, charts, tools, experts, and renewed willpower.
These strategies may help us keep our unhealthy behaviours in check for a while, but sooner or later, we eventually revert back to our old habits. Introducing superficial changes – such as eating better food, doing more exercise, getting organized – simply does not do the trick in making sustainable changes in our lives.
Could it be that our success in breaking habits is compromised from the beginning by something inside of ourselves? Something so deeply hidden, we do not even remember it exists? Something playing out in our lives over and over again, like a broken record, under the radar of our awareness?
What if it is one of our core beliefs – the very essence of how we perceive ourselves – that is undermining our chances of success?
Here is an example using a common resolution I am too familiar with: losing weight. When I finally took a step back and examined my behaviour, I discovered that I tended to overeat or eat unhealthy foods when I felt lonely, sad, or unsupported. Further exploration of my emotions and associated thought patterns revealed that binging on foods was my natural way to avoid the unpleasant feeling of being unloved. Food was my ’safe’ yet unhealthy way to feel loved, when deep down, I firmly believed I was unlovable. Depriving myself of comforting food while dieting only made my feeling of being unloved worse, which eventually drove me back to unwanted – but gratifying – eating habits. To complete the vicious cycle, the belief I was unlovable made it virtually impossible for me to love myself in the first place. If I did not love myself, how could I feel I deserved a healthy body and put the necessary efforts into achieving one?
Core beliefs dictate how we perceive and speak about ourselves, how we interact with others, and how we get our needs met. Our core beliefs develop over time from our interpretation of the attitudes, comments, and expectations of others during our childhood and through our experience of life events. While some core beliefs can be healthy, it is the unhealthy ones that prevent us from achieving our deepest dreams. Because our beliefs quickly become part of our unconscious programming, we become blind to them or we see ’through’ them, like we see through glass, unaware of their influence on all aspects of our lives.
Embedded in our perception of ourselves and the outside world, limiting beliefs are thus difficult to recognize in ourselves. It may seem like a long and slow process in an age of ’quick fixes’, but speaking from my own experience, I can say that identifying unhelpful beliefs is worth the effort. Only when we consciously become aware of them can we heal and transform them into life-affirming beliefs that will nurture sustainable changes in our lives. Only when I became aware of the belief that I was unlovable could I do something about it and end the cycle of binging/dieting for good.
How can you do this?
A number of resources are available on the Internet to help you identify your core beliefs. In chapter three of his book The Spontaneous Healing of Belief, Gregg Braden proposes a good exercise to start identifying and reflecting on your subconscious beliefs. It is important to remember, however, that identifying a limiting belief is not enough. You must find its source in your past and heal it, develop a healthy belief to replace the unhealthy one, and put it into action by making conscious choices. Coaches, counselors, therapists, and practitioners like myself, trained in traditional and spiritual healing are valuable resources to assist you with this process.
What are your New Year’s resolutions? Will you let yourself get in the way of your own success?