As a coach, I must develop an understanding of the power and the nature of beliefs. These are not beliefs in the religious sense of the word but rather those that individuals have about themselves. So, what is a belief in the context?
The dictionary definition says a belief is, “A principle accepted as true or real without proof. An opinion, a conviction”.
The American personal development expert, Anthony Robbins, maintains the ‘the most important opinion a person will ever hold is the one that they hold about themselves.’
These beliefs are the thoughts and ideas that are no longer questioned. Because they have the power to create or destroy because every thought, expectation, and action is a direct result of such belief and because they shape the direction of our lives, they need serious examination.
So, how are these beliefs formulated, where do they come from and how do they become so well established?
Where do beliefs come from
Initially, they come from other people like parents, teachers, peer group, friends, family, the media and religion. In fact, from anyone who ever exerted, or still exerts any influence over us. They are formed in childhood and during adolescence.
Think back to your own childhood. How was your behaviour affected by what someone else said about you? Perhaps a cutting remark from a teacher or friend such as, “what a stupid answer!” made you think twice about raising your hand again in class, for fear of ridicule and humiliation.
Can you remember any strong beliefs that you formed about yourself or your situation? It is very likely that those beliefs still influence your behaviour today. If you received positive encouragements from your parents, teachers, and peers, you will have the foundation of good, healthy and positive self-beliefs.
If you were subjected to criticism, ridicule or blame, either real or perceived by you as such, then your belief pattern will be more negative and disempowering.
All children receive some negative messages. Behavioural scientists and child psychologists generally accept that children, under the age of five, receive ten more negative phrases from their parents for every positive one.
Some of these for the child’s own protection but the subconscious mind accepts all negative messages with equal value, whether they are for their own good or not. The impact of these early messages is so strong that child psychologists now recognise ‘verbal abuse’ as a significant issue and an identified syndrome when dealing with troubled children.
Very often there is a push from others to conform. For many, this is difficult to resist because of the very strong need to seek approval, to fit in and to be accepted. Thus initial self-image originated from your reaction to the attitudes that other people had towards you
Observe a baby. It reflects back the non-verbal signals it receives. It smiles when someone smiles at it and will probably cry if someone frowns at it. In this constant interaction of ‘receive and reflect back,’ a behaviour is learned and instilled in the mind.
If a schoolteacher, carer or parent makes a careless remark like, “ You are clumsy,” the child will have the seeds of clumsiness sown in their mind. Then, every time that the child drops something, the thought, “I am clumsy,” may spring to mind. The more they think of it, and gather evidence to support it, the more this is reinforced, the clumsier they will become. It may culminate in a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If that same teacher had said, “Well done, you really tried hard,” the child’s response would have been different. It’s likely that he or she would have gone on to seek further approval by trying out new things. They may have been encouraged to take risks and would view getting things wrong sometimes, as a natural part of the learning process.
How your beliefs are strengthened
Adolescence and puberty are times when most people become acutely aware of their self-image, and this is an age when many belief patterns are formed and which if left unchecked, may last a lifetime.
By adulthood, self-image is a collection of all the lifetime attitudes and opinions that have been received from others. And self-image creates the belief of who or what you are. Every human being has developed initial beliefs in a similar way.
Eric Berne, who wrote ‘The games people play’ in 1964, investigated the topic further. He suggested that, by the age of 4 or 5, the life script is written. By 7 it was polished and had the essential characters. By 12 years old it was further polished and was beginning to be lived out.
Coaches and their clients get to the chance to re-visit that script, to rewrite it and to do something different. That is the reason that clients seek a coach. They want help to make a change.
As a coach, you must have a clear understanding of your own belief systems before you are able to help clients come to terms with their own.