Once you’ve read a number of self help books you’ve probably adopted the understanding that the world is quite subjective. The media, politicians, advertisers and pretty much any ruling entity convey to the world that there is an objective reality. A lot of people buy into this objective reality that is being fed to them, and consequently, their lives tend to be filled with fear, suffering and hardship. With an understanding of our subjective experience as humans being, the world in which we interact with typically takes the form of the beliefs we hold about it. Generally speaking, our experience in the world is a result of our beliefs about the external world, beliefs about ourselves and beliefs about other people. The vast majority of these beliefs we are not aware of. They are unconscious beliefs. A very wealthy person has certain beliefs about himself, the world and others that allows him to become very wealthy. The same goes for a happy person, a depressed person, a peaceful person, a spiritual person- you get my point. The world in which we live in is a direct result of the beliefs we have about that world, ourselves and others. Think of our beliefs as the glasses in which we view the world through. The lens of our glasses determine the world in which we perceive and therefore experience. If we see a bright, colorful, exciting world- that’s exactly what we’ll get. If we see a gloomy, dark and depressing world- that’s what we’ll get.
Our beliefs about the world and other people can be referred to as our ‘model of the world’ or ‘world view’. A person who thinks that humans are generally evil and always looking to take advantage of other humans will live in a world he believes to be challenging, and he will ultimately engage in fear driven behavior in order to protect himself. On the other hand, an individual who believes that money is easily accessible and that money-making opportunities are like buses will inevitably become very wealthy and find such opportunities to grow his wealth.
Our beliefs about ourselves is often times referred to as our ‘self image’ or our ‘identity’. Our identity is the bag which holds our individual beliefs about ourselves. If you believe yourself to be one of the fittest human beings on earth, you will likely have very specific rituals in which you are dedicated to that will enhance your physical condition. If you believe yourself to be a worthless slob, you will probably not be very sociable and could possible not take care of your hygiene.
In order to change one’s life they must change either their model of the world and their identity. However, changing these things seem to be quite difficult- because how many people do you know who have been effective at changing their life? The number is likely very small and possible zero. The reason for this is because those who have failed to make tangible changes in their life don’t understand the power of identity, beliefs and their model of the world. Understanding the implications of these factors is the first step towards creating change. Once these are understood, then the questions of “how do you change your identity? How do you change your model of the world? How do you change your beliefs?” can be asked.
One expedient means to shifting your beliefs (both your identity and your model of the world) is through questions. Our minds utilizes questions as the mechanism in which beliefs are transformed into action. In other words, questions are the active form of beliefs. The questions we ask ourselves- both consciously and unconsciously- demonstrates our beliefs (both our identity and our model of the world). You might be saying to yourself, “Well, I don’t ask myself questions”. Yea- you aren’t consciously asking questions, however at an unconscious level- questions are always being asked. That is how our mind processes the external stimuli and information it is receiving from the outside environment. Our brain is constantly asking these two questions:
1. “What does this mean?”
2. “What should I do?”.
However in addition to these two questions, our minds also likes to link another question to question 1 in the form of a presupposition. The question “what does this mean” is very vague- it is missing an important part of information. It is absent of a recipient. So our brain rather asks the question “what does this mean about ______? The blank space is for whatever is pertinent in the person’s life. The blank space is typically related to one of our 5 primary needs as a human being. For someone it might be related to their survival needs (food, shelter, protection against violence, etc). For others it might be about whether they will receive love or approval. For a third person, it may be about their level of competency or significance. But typically, our unconscious questions are centered on ensuring that at least one of our 5 basic needs are being met in that particular moment. For a quick review, here are the 5 basic needs that William Glasser outlined in what he called Choice Theory (formerly Control Theory):
We tend to live in a variety of questions- depending on the context. If Dave goes on a date with a girl, he may be unconsciously asking the question, “How can I have fun tonight?” (FUN). or “How can I get laid (Fun or Significance or love or it could be all three needs- depending on his belief system). Or he may be asking the question “How can I make sure I don’t embarrass myself?” (which is coming from survival or competence. The question that Dave asks himself going into the date will have a drastic impact on what likely occurs during his date. Our questions determine our reality. This scenario is an example of contextual questions. You will probably ask different questions in different contexts and situations. It is probably likely that you’ll ask different questions if you are going to a party or if you are going to church. The contextual questions you ask yourself (unconsciously) are important to become aware of and begin to ask them consciously. These contextual questions have the power (if asked with enough repetition and focus) to change your experience in any given context.
Contextual questions are powerful, however we as humans tend to live in 1 or 2 global questions that colors our entire experience in every context. One person’s global question might be, “What do I have to do to feel significant?”, while another person’s question might be “Who do I have to be for everyone to like me?”. Identifying your global question comes down to identifying the unconscious story you are living in. We are all operating out of some story that is related to our past. The typical structure of a person’s story is this:
A. Something bad or limiting occurred in their past
B. They devise some plan to make up for that past transgression in their life.
C. They pursue this goal or set of circumstances with the belief that once they get the goal or life circumstances they will finally “have made it” and be okay.
D. They never actually feel okay with themselves (even if they do get the thing they’ve been chasing)- because that feeling of being okay is an internal state that can’t be met by anything or anyone outside of them self.
E. They either select something else to chase or they give up and begin to feel hopeless or helpless about life (depending on whether they were able to reach their contrived goal/picture perfect life).
If you can identify the unconscious story you have been living in, you’ve made a huge step. Most people never gain the self awareness to be able to see past their narrow and tilted view of reality. Once you know your story, it is time to find out what unconscious global question you’ve been living in. It should be pretty easy once you understand the story you have been telling yourself. Unless you are poverty stricken and struggle meeting your basic survival needs, our global questions (and subsequent stories) tend to revolve around our need for love/connection and/or our need for competence/significance/power. Once you uncover the global question that has been directing your life, you now have the power to change the question consciously and begin to rehearse over and over. Awareness and then rehearsal of this new question is one approach to changing your beliefs- which take the form as your model of the world and your identity. Many people chase money, relationships, possessions, titles, prestige thinking that it is going to finally deliver on and make up for their greatest insecurity- when in reality all they are ever after is an internal feeling, an emotion or a perception- which can only be given to them from their own doing.