Episode 17: Beliefs, on purpose
You are listening to the Life Reconstructed podcast with me, Teresa Amaral Beshwate, grief expert, best-selling author and widow. I’m so glad you’re here because in this and every episode, I shine a light on the widowed way forward.
Hello and welcome to episode 17. In this episode, I explain how beliefs drive action, for better or worse, and how to create a belief plan so that you can practice true and useful thoughts, on purpose.
One reason widowed people can stay stuck spiraling in suffering is that our brains are made for efficiency. When it comes to our thoughts, efficiency equals redundancy.
Our brains offer us the same thoughts, day in and day out. We tend to believe that everything we think is true, so most thoughts go unexamined.
Thoughts we think over and over again become beliefs. In the spirit of efficiency, our brains file our beliefs in the subconscious. It is inefficient, after all, to consciously rethink things that we already believe to be true.
For example, I bet you brushed your teeth today. Why? Because you believe it’s good for you. Did you think though that belief today? Probably not. You probably didn’t think, I am now going to brush my teeth so that I have good gum health and don’t get cavities. No, you already believe that, so there was no need to think it through. You just brushed your teeth.
See how your belief drove the action of brushing your teeth, without giving it any thought at all? And in the case of brushing your teeth, it’s great.
But beliefs drive actions, for better or worse. What actions are you taking that you’d rather not be? Those actions are driven by beliefs, too.
Let’s do a quick recap. In the previous episodes so far, we’ve learned that:
• thoughts are simply sentences in our minds.
• all thoughts are 100% optional.
• our thoughts are sometimes not true.
• our thoughts sometimes don’t serve us.
• we can all become better eavesdroppers on our thoughts
• and there are an infinite number of thoughts available to us, which is the best news because once we know that, we can become fierce editors of our own thoughts.
Thoughts we’ve thought often, become beliefs. Some serve us well, but unmonitored, unquestioned thoughts running on repeat, they also become beliefs.
I personally love the concept of a Belief Plan, and I hope you will create one for yourself.
A Belief Plan is a list of thoughts that are true for you and that serve you. It can also include thoughts that you want to believe but don’t quite fully believe yet. It does not include thoughts that you don’t believe at all. No unicorns, no rainbows, just truth.
You can download a free Belief Plan template at www.thesuddenwidowcoach.com/lrbook Scroll to the bottom and you’ll see the Belief Plan download.
I like a belief plan to include common thoughts that the brain likes to play on repeat – the ones that you’d like to replace. That’s in the first column.
Then, note the feeling that that thought creates. It’s probably not a feeling that you like to feel.
Next, write a thought that you want to think instead, on purpose.
And then note the feeling that that thought creates.
Finally, let’s add a belief rating to the new thought. On a scale of 1-10, where 10 equals very strong belief, what rating would you give this new thought?
An example of a common thought is, “I should have been able to save him.” The feeling it creates is regret. A new thought might be, “I did the best I could given what I knew at the time.” The feeling that thought creates might be peace. And the belief rating might be an 8 out of 10.
Beliefs are thoughts that we think over and over again. We can stop believing untrue or unhelpful beliefs by creating a belief plan and practicing the true and useful beliefs instead.
Just as the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord’s Prayer are recitations of beliefs, this list of new thoughts you’ll make in your Belief Plan can become a recitation practice. I recommend that you recite it at least daily, or more often as needed. Pause after you say each thought so you can feel the feeling that the thought creates. Notice whether your belief rating gradually increases over time. Over time, modify your Belief Plan as needed.
Now, just because you’ve created a Belief Plan and have recited your new thoughts a few times does not mean that your brain won’t still offer you old thoughts. Over the years, your brain has built superhighways to your old, well-practiced thoughts. When we create new thoughts that serve us better, we are blazing a new trail. The more we think the new thoughts on purpose, the sooner we’ll have a dirt road, then a one-lane paved road, and so on. Eventually we will develop superhighways to the new thoughts that serve us (and the old, rarely traveled superhighway will waste away).
It’s not a problem that your brain offers you old thoughts. Acknowledge them as normal, and then direct your brain to think your new Belief Plan thoughts on purpose.
We humans have the unique ability to choose our thoughts. Be sure to exercise that right. The more you practice true and useful thoughts, on purpose, the more you’ll form new beliefs that ultimately create the life you want for yourself.
If this podcast has been helpful, please share it with a friend, and also subscribe, rate and review it. This way it can reach other widowed people and help them, too. There is much more to come, so stay tuned. And in the meantime, know that I believe in you and I’m here for you. Take care.
If you’ve found this podcast helpful, I invite you to join Life Reconstructed, my coaching program exclusively for widowed people. It will help you step forward toward a life you will love again. Simply go to thesuddenwidowcoach.com and click work with me.