Your core beliefs make up your personal belief system. They are the network of your personal beliefs, which are those assumptions you hold to be true without question. The stories you tell yourself about who you are and about every area of life make up your personal belief system. A system works systematically, meaning it works with methodical accuracy to adhere to, abide by and prove the beliefs it's based on. And since it's a personal belief system, your core beliefs are subjectively personal to you. They are not objective facts even if you treat them as such. This also means, however, that since it is you who created your personal belief system, albeit without your conscious input, it is also you that can change it.
This article is the first in a four-part series on core beliefs. The focus of this article is on understanding core beliefs, the second article lists common beliefs in each area of life, the third is about identifying your limiting beliefs, and the fourth is on reprogramming your subconscious mind to change them. I suggest you read all four articles to maximise your success in changing your beliefs.
While there are several kinds of belief systems such as religious and political this article focuses on your personal beliefs, which may include aspects of broader belief systems but are nevertheless the personal core beliefs with which you navigate your life. Your core beliefs are an intricate network of positive, negative and neutral beliefs that empower, disempower or don't make much of a difference to your life respectively. Everyone has a combination of all three categories about themselves and about each area of their life, specifically other people, relationships, friendships, intelligence, money, career, physical appearance, life in general and so on.
Your positive core beliefs provide you with an overall positive outlook, positive expectations and natural confidence in the area they pertain to. In contrast, negative core beliefs are limiting in that they blind you to the positive while fostering unconscious negative expectations and an overall pessimistic and often anxious outlook in one or more areas of your life. You may have positive core beliefs in some areas and limiting core beliefs in others and they can also overlap, sometimes contradicting each other.
Your core beliefs are generally formed in one of two ways. The first is by your past experiences and your deductions about what happened at the time. What you deduced may or may not be valid and is based on your perception of the event, which itself is also influenced by other already existing core beliefs. The key here is that this first category of core beliefs are essentially made up by you—they are not objective facts. And while having positive core beliefs is usually beneficial to you, negative or limiting core beliefs can get you into trouble in life even if they are not valid. Mark Twain said it best: "It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so."
The second way core beliefs are formed is by accepting what others have told you to be true either directly or indirectly—more often than not your parents, teachers, community, religion, the media and so on. "For some of our most important beliefs, we have no evidence at all, except that people we love and trust hold these beliefs. Considering how little we know, the confidence we have in our beliefs is preposterous—and it is also essential." [Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Laureate—2002]. And we'll see why it is essential later in this article.
Each of your core beliefs started as a single thought in reaction to a certain event or to what you were told or heard. This thought was repeated often enough until it was accepted as truth by your subconscious mind. Some core beliefs didn't take many repetitions to be created because the initial thought made such a significant impression that it was immediately assumed to be true. Nevertheless, while your core beliefs are subjective assumptions, not objective facts, their power should not be underestimated. Since your beliefs are subconscious in nature, you may not even be aware of some and their influence may not be obvious at the conscious level but their negative impact on your circumstances and on the outcomes you wish to achieve most certainly is.
To change your personal belief system you must come to know its components—your core beliefs—and determine which ones serve you and which ones don't. By taking an internal audit, as if auditing the health of your company, you can determine where your life yields a 'profit' and where you are making a 'loss' and sometimes haemorrhaging 'life units'. Only then can you change the core beliefs that leave you at a loss, bolster those that profit you and input altogether new profitable beliefs into the personal belief system of your company—Life Inc. By doing so you change the way you conduct your life by changing its rules. And your core beliefs are your fundamental personal 'rules of life' because they are ruling it—running it and sometimes ruining it.
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Just to recap, your core beliefs consist of three broad categories: the positive (good), the negative (bad) and the neutral (indifferent) that empower, disempower or don't make much of a difference to your life respectively. Everyone has some positive, some negative and some neutral core beliefs about themselves and about each area of their life.
Positive core beliefs make a profit and can be bolstered to yield an even greater profit. Negative or limiting core beliefs, which are the obvious culprits for the losses, can be changed altogether or at least minimized at first so that the positive more than compensate for their diminished losses. And finally, those neutral beliefs that to date have not been contributing much to your 'bottom line', can be activated in the system with profit in mind.
When you account for both the 'profits' and the 'losses' what you are left with is a 'bottom line' for your life that is either in overall profit or overall loss to varying degrees. At this point, if you are feeling uncomfortable with the terms 'profit' and 'loss' you will probably find that something about your core money beliefs is triggering that discomfort. Nevertheless, let me just clarify that the term 'profit' is whatever takes you towards and adds to the best version of your life and 'loss' is whatever takes you away or detracts from it.
Looked at another way, your core beliefs are the internal map with which you have been traversing your reality's landscape since a very young age. By using your personal belief system as your map, imminent dangers are highlighted (even where there are none), what you can expect is anticipated well in advance (even if circumstances change) and the outcome you can expect is pretty much in the bag (even if you want a different one).
But even so, changing or challenging your personal belief system's map is perceived as a risk to your survival because it has been keeping you alive to date without too many negative surprises. And you care more about avoiding negative surprises than creating positive ones because it is the negative that are a threat, even if you'd prefer the positive. This is why your personal belief system is essential—without it, your map would be lost and you fear that you would too be lost.
This same internal map includes the signposts and available routes provided by your positive core beliefs but the two sets of core beliefs (the negative and the positive) are so intricately intertwined and delicately balanced that it's difficult to unravel them and separate the good from the bad. Put another way, your personal belief system operates as a single system, maintaining a consistent concept of who you are and what life is, hence changing any part of the system feels like your whole world view is going to be unravelled.
Your core beliefs are essentially your mind's underlying software—the subconscious programs that automatically run your life today with no need for your conscious participation. The subjective and impersonal nature of the subconscious mind means it does not distinguish between what is positive and negative and so does not distinguish between the programs that serve you and those that don't. Instead, your subconscious mind dutifully carries out any program it is 'installed' with and its more ingrained programs are run more often than the less ingrained.
The important factor here is that all this happens automatically, so most people are unaware of their core beliefs, be they positive, negative or neutral. And even when they are aware of them, they do not question their validity. Since what you believe is what you create in your life, your core beliefs are always proven. And when something is proven over and over again, you take it at face value, never questioning its validity. Why would you when you consistently see it all around you?
No single factor plays a more vital role than your personal belief system when you set out to consciously create your reality. This is because thought power underlies the conscious creation process, where 'thought' here refers to your mental actions of what you think, imagine, feel and so on. And since what you think is largely an automatic function of what you believe to be true, it stands to reason that your core beliefs are the single most important determining factor of your circumstances with your positive beliefs contributing to your success and your negative or limiting beliefs preventing it.
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It is important to understand that your core beliefs are the cause of your unwanted circumstances, while the circumstances themselves are the effect—not the other way around. Most people, however, have this causality the wrong way round, thinking that they believe something to be true because of outside circumstances, never quite realising that it's the core beliefs that are causing the circumstances and the circumstances are simply justifying and hence perpetuating the beliefs. This should come as very good news because it means instead of believing you are a victim of your circumstances, you can change your unwanted circumstances by changing your negative core beliefs that are causing them.
Recent discoveries about the plasticity of the mind confirm that you can actively program your mind at any age. Actively means with your conscious participation by using your capacity to reason, focus and use your imagination intentionally. Mental focus, therefore, is required to reprogram the subconscious mind and this focus can be achieved using a number of techniques including creative visualization, affirmations, autosuggestions, and more.
To change your personal belief system, you must become aware of the programs it is running on—in other words, your positive, your negative and your neutral core beliefs. You can then use the aforementioned mental techniques to reprogram the subconscious mind by reinforcing the positive, neutralizing or changing the negative into their positive equivalents and creating altogether new positive core beliefs out of the neutral.
This may sound difficult given how your core beliefs are a single system and changing them is perceived to be a threat to what you think you know it takes to navigate your world. However, you can overcome this perceived threat by using the higher faculties of your mind such as logic or reason to understand there's nothing to fear and everything to gain by changing your beliefs. You are upgrading the map you use to navigate life to establish better routes, not getting rid of it altogether.
The key to changing your personal belief system and its core beliefs is to use your capacity to reason to understand how the system was created in the first place, how and why it works the way it does and how you can change it. By using your reasoning adult mind, you can tell yourself that it is safe to change your personal belief system and its accompanying internal map. That you are not being threatened in any way, that it is okay to have been wrong about some of your beliefs to date, that you will still be who you are only a better version and that you don't have to keep repeating the same unwanted circumstances just because of a set of beliefs that you never chose to begin with.
It will take effort to change your personal belief system and you may encounter some internal resistance but with persistence and your capacity to reason, you will succeed in adopting the core beliefs you would have wanted to have had were you given the conscious choice at the time. Tell yourself that you now do have the choice. And when you give yourself that choice, take it! Assuming it's a choice you want to take, let's now identify the core beliefs in your personal belief system. And more specifically, you want to identify your limiting core beliefs because they are the ones that you want to change, and as you do you will enjoy positive changes in your life.
FURTHER READING: HOW TO IDENTIFY LIMITING BELIEFS
By Tania Kotsos — Published on 23 NOV 2020
READ THIS NEXT: THE DEFINITIVE LIST OF CORE BELIEFS
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