Myrtle Young heard a crunching sound. Next, she turned around and her mouth gaped wide in a state of shock. She was a guest on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show and had been displaying her unusual potato chip collection. She had chips that looked like gym socks, pears, elephants and even famous people. Ed McMahon asked her to look at something for a moment, she turned around, then Johnny chomped on a chip.
Did he just eat one of her prized potato chips?
Could you imagine what went through her mind at that moment? A part of her collection built over 20 years, destroyed in an instant. Would Johnny really do such a thing? Here’s what happened. When Myrtle turned around to speak to Ed McMahon, Johnny picked up a chip from behind his desk and bit loudly. The audience saw this quick move and laughed with glee when they saw Myrtle’s shock.
She fell for the joke but Carson quickly showed her the bowl of chips behind his desk to her relief.
When we put off a dreaded task, we too often get a brief sense of relief. Of course, that relief doesn’t last because we know we’ll still feel the need to do that task later. Yet, we may keep putting it off. And this can go on for days, weeks or even years at a time.
So how can we change this pattern of avoidance and replace it with one of taking action on what we most want to do? To answer that question, I’ll first need to take you down the path of defining avoidance, then to uncovering it’s true cause and finally to how we reduce it.
First, we need to talk about what I mean by avoiding.
To me avoidance is putting off doing something that you actually say you want to do. It doesn’t count if it’s something you don’t care about. It has to be an action that you intend to do someday or believe is necessary. Taxes. Fitness. Healthy eating. Calling mom or dad. You say you want to … but then you find that you don’t.
When we avoid an action, we’re not really avoiding the action.
We are actually avoiding the feelings we have about that action. If we put off creating a business plan it might feel overwhelming or scary. If we avoid reading a book we think we ought to read, it could be that it bores us to tears. If we avoid doing a menial task at work, we may feel some resentment about that task.
So unwanted feelings come before we avoid a task. And we’re really avoiding our feelings about the task and not the task itself. But why do we have unwanted feelings about actions that we actually want done?
The answer is our beliefs.
For example, if we believe failure is bad, we’ll feel anxious about tasks in which we might fail. Then we may avoid the anxious feelings by avoiding the task. If we believe that a task is beneath us, we may feel resentment at being asked to do it. Then we avoid the resentment by putting that task off.
When Gabby got up from her computer after her writing time, how many words do you think she had on the open Word Document? If you guessed 100 or 10 or even 1 you would be wrong. She had zero words on the page. After an hour, nothing was done.
She had good books on writing. She knew the exercises that would develop her skills. But when she sat down to write, she would find other things to do. She’d go to Facebook. She’d answer emails. She’d remember that she was thirsty or had to use the bathroom. This would go on until it was time to go to bed. Why did she do this? Two of her beliefs were “I’m not good enough” and “I’m not a good writer.” This caused her to feel anxious about writing. And this anxiety steered her away from her task.
Are we stuck for good though? How do we change these feelings so we can take action?
Fortunately, you can eliminate unwanted beliefs that get in your way. There are three basic steps.
First, you identify the belief.
Then you find the source of the belief.
Finally, you make key distinctions that help you eliminate the belief.
The distinctions that free you from a belief include finding alternate ways to interpret the events that led to the belief. Realizing that the belief could not be seen and that the events have no inherent meaning.
When Gabby went through this process, she found that the source of her belief “I’m not good at writing” was all the feedback she got from her writing in high school. Her papers had tons of red marks. She came up with several ways to interpret those events:
I wasn’t a good writer then but that doesn’t mean I would never be;
I didn’t develop much as a writer because I got poor instruction about writing;
I had a hard time learning because I had some beliefs in the way already;
I hadn’t yet learned more effective writing strategies.
She then realized her belief was only one way of looking at the events. Later in the process, she realized her original interpretation was only in her mind and not out in the world. The belief was gone. She eliminated a few other beliefs in the same way. Afterward, she noticed that she felt open to what she might produce and she began to actually do her daily writing exercises.
But is it always this easy?
No, there’s a key obstacle that can make this journey far more difficult. It’s the assumption that you will fully agree with your limiting beliefs. This makes sense. Many of our beliefs are statements about which we don’t disagree. But when it comes to limiting beliefs, they are often in the background just outside of our awareness. And when we do become aware of them, we often have the feeling that we shouldn’t think that way.
So to know if you do have a belief, say it out loud and notice how it feels.
Does it feel totally empty like saying “I’m a table” or “I’m a chair?” Or does it produce some uncomfortable feelings or a sense of truth? If it does seem true on any level, then it is there.
But aren’t some tasks really scary? Can we really overcome any emotion that holds us back?
This is the question many people with a fear of public speaking have asked. In fact, we’ve had clients tell us “Isn’t it just normal to be afraid to speak in public?” Well, if by normal you mean many people have the fear, then yes it’s normal in that sense. A survey done by Gallup in the early 2000s showed that 47 percent of people said public speaking was the #1 thing they were afraid of.
But does that mean you can’t reduce the fear down to almost nothing?
In 2004, my husband Morty Lefkoe and Dr. Sechrest of the University of Arizona decided to answer that question. They found fearful public speakers who regularly spoke at Toastmasters and still had a lot of fear. They rated their fear at an intensity of 7 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10 in which 10 was extreme fear. Half of them got 3-4 sessions of the Lefkoe Method, half were put on a waitlist and kept speaking at Toastmasters.
By the end of the study, those who experienced TLM had their fear dropped to an average of 1.5. That’s almost no fear at all. The study was published in the journal Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy. You can access it here.
This study showed that we can reduce even powerful emotions by eliminating beliefs. You don’t have to just grin and bear it. You can change how you feel which makes it easier to change what you do.
So let’s sum up what we’ve covered so far:
When we avoid actions, we are often avoiding our feelings about those actions
Our feelings are caused by our beliefs
We can change those beliefs by identifying the belief, finding the events that led to the belief and then making distinctions that allow us to let it go
It’s easy to miss a belief because we know we should not believe it
You can get in touch with a belief by saying it out loud and noticing how it feels
You can eliminate even strong fears such as fear of public speaking as shown by research published in the journal Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy
If you watch the video of Myrtle Young’s appearance on Johnny Carson, you’ll notice how quickly her shock at hearing Carson crunch a chip turns to delight when he reveals that the chip in his mouth came from a bowl behind his desk. When you eliminate a belief, you also experience a pretty quick turnaround in how you feel. And then you are able to do things that seemed far too difficult before.
In January 2020, the Lefkoe Method Training 1 (LMT 1) will go on sale again. In the LMT1 you learn the 8 steps to eliminating limiting beliefs. By the end of the course, you can eliminate a belief in 20-30 minutes. If you’re a coach, therapist or in a profession that allows you to coach or counsel others (or even want to join such a profession), this training is ideal as you’ll be able to use it to help your clients make big changes in their lives. Some people do take it for self-help as well as it’s quite a powerful tool. If you want to take the training, you must be on the waiting list first. Here’s the link to join the waiting list:
While you are on the list, you will also get a few goodies about eliminating beliefs.
Note: Hearing how Gabby went through the belief process may not be enough detail to fully grasp it. So I suggest, visiting our free belief-elimination program. It guides you through every step of the process so you eliminate one of three common limiting beliefs. You can get it at www.recreateyourlife.com/free