Why did Morty Lefkoe create the belief process in 1986? Why not in 1985 or 1997? What happened then, that led him down the road to developing a new process for change?
Today’s article will answer these questions. It’s the first in a three-part series that examines the stories behind three of Morty’s ideas. In part 1 (this article), we discuss how he created the Lefkoe Belief Process, next time we’ll talk about how he created the Lefkoe Occurring Process and in part 3, you’ll discover how the idea of eliminating beliefs by video was born.
On January 2, 1986, my husband, Morty Lefkoe was on a flight from New York to California. While on the plane, he eliminated his first limiting belief.
Morty was a consultant and his business had been struggling for a year. Before that time he’d been doing fairly well. He’d had hundreds of articles published in industry magazines. He sometimes struggled to find business but it had never been this bad. I was scared. We had just moved into a 4,000 square foot house in Westport, Connecticut and I didn’t know what was going to happen. He’d lost motivation to pursue his typical consulting assignments and so the cash flow had virtually dried up.
A year earlier, Morty became disillusioned with ordinary consulting
He noticed that most of the firms that hired him agreed with his advice, paid him well, but when he followed up months later they hadn’t implemented it. He spoke with other one-person consultants too and they all had the same issue. When he spoke to people at larger firms such as McKinsey and Booze Allen they said that if they didn’t hold the client’s hand, the changes they suggested were almost never made.
This problem wasn’t restricted to corporations
People had the same problem. He noticed that people didn’t do what they knew to do. They ate unhealthy foods and didn’t exercise even though they knew this would help them live longer and stay healthy. They smoked even though they knew it was bad for them. Morty noticed that sometimes he did things that didn’t make sense too.
I noticed the same thing in myself. I often worried about what people think to the point that I would avoid wearing clothes which might be seen as too outrageous or that I might say the wrong thing. And when faced with learning something new, I often got frustrated and just gave up. I knew that mistakes and failures were learning opportunities but I still had a hard time experimenting and being creative with cooking and only followed recipes.
Morty eventually realized what kept people and organizations from changing
Their beliefs. But this knowledge did little to solve the problem. He was like a doctor that knew the name of the disease but didn’t know a cure. During this time he tried to market a very different type of consulting project that was more in alignment with his new ideas but he had no takers for his new services. After a year, the business was in pretty dire straits.
He knew he didn’t want to go back to his old-style of consulting but he also needed to keep paying the bills. So what could he do?
Fortunately, he got a chance to speak with a department store chain in California called Carter-Hawley-Hale (CHH). CHH was engaged with the state to create a program to 1,500 people who were on unemployment or welfare to work so the state could save millions of dollars while helping these parents get back on their feet. However, the people at CHH were concerned that these parents, many of whom had not worked for years, might not succeed on the job. So they wanted to add a few days to the start of the program to work on motivation.
Here’s what Morty said to convince the Human Resources people at CHH to meet with him, quoted from his book Re-Create Your Life:
You want to motivate these trainees. That’s easy. The difficulty is that motivation is a feeling that lasts only a day, a week, or a month, and then it’s gone. A more effective method would be to help the trainees discover and eliminate any beliefs that might get in the way of their success in the program.
They were intrigued so on January 2nd of that year, Morty got on the plane from New York to Los Angeles to meet with CHH. While Morty was on the flight, he got in touch with the pattern of struggle in his life. Here’s how he described it:
… I was on a plane from New York to Los Angeles with five hours on my hands, and I found myself thinking about my own life. I had been struggling for a long time to get companies to accept my programs. But in spite of making many presentations, I wasn’t getting clients. Here I was again, flying cross-country to try once more. I thought of the old Fred Astaire song from the movie Swing Time: “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.” That was my pattern, repeated day after day.
And at this moment he asks a question that would change both our lives
Well, I wondered, if my life was the result of my beliefs, what did I believe that could be responsible for the pattern I had just identified in my life?
I had always seen myself as someone who never gave up. No matter what, I’d keep going. In fact, that was the one trait most people who knew me always acknowledged. So what did I actually believe? Five hundred or so miles later I had found the answer: “I’m someone who overcomes obstacles.” That was the truth about me. In fact, it feels as if that’s who I really was.
Morty realized that if beliefs affect how you think and behave then it would only make sense that he’d create obstacles in his life. That might explain why he hadn’t found a more effective way to get his new ideas accepted. As he wrote:
I needed obstacles to prove that nothing could ever stop me. And I had been proving it all my life, especially during the past year or so.
Then Morty began to ask himself more questions and write down the answers.
Where did I get that idea from? Why did I think that? I thought and wrote for almost five hours. By the time I landed, I felt different, as if something profound had shifted in me, but I didn’t know what.
He met with CHH to present his ideas. They said they’d meet with one more consultant and get back to him in 10 days.
When he got home, he started to share with me what happened, then the phone rang CHH had decided to work with him. They liked his presentation so much they decided not to interview the other consultant. The dry spell had ended. He thought that maybe his belief really had changed. Maybe changing his belief changed how he presented his ideas which caused them to be accepted. At the time, I felt incredibly hopeful and excited.
He poured over his writing on the plane to find out how he did it
From these notes, he created the first version of the Lefkoe Belief Process. It went through many revisions over the years as we both worked with clients and he tested his ideas with organizations including every single one of the former Bell Companies (who had rejected his proposals the year before), Kondex, Duratrack, and others.
I was the first person Morty trained in how to eliminate beliefs. When I worked with my first clients, I had a page with the steps on them in my lap. Now, over 30 years later, the process burns bright within me and I am clear that spreading it is what I am here to do.
So what can we learn from Morty’s story?
First, sometimes it helps to notice a problem. Not from the standpoint of complaining but like a detective curious about what causes it.
Second, then diagnose it. Morty’s diagnosis was that beliefs were keeping people from changing.
Third, test ideas. You may have figured out the cause of a problem but do you know the solution yet? Maybe not. Don’t let that stop you. Allow yourself to think, reflect, and test ideas. After Morty’s plane ride, his belief changed but he wasn’t sure how. He spent quite a bit of time reviewing his notes to discover the steps. Other ideas came to him from actually working with clients and helping them solve real-world problems.
Don’t wait until your idea is perfect before you start testing it. Go with the imperfect version 1.0 today. Then keep improving. To this day, we are still learning things about our process. With whatever you choose to do in life, you can follow the same process of test-and-learn, always improving, always growing.
How parents and children can thrive during hard times
Some parents have noticed that their kids have become more difficult since lockdown. I hear reports of children not listening to their parents, getting angry more often, pushing the boundaries, and speaking to them in a way that they didn’t before. All of these behaviors alone would increase the challenge of parenting. But even worse, you don’t even get a break since there is no more school, babysitters, or nights out. And if you’re working from home too, these challenges are only multiplied.
As a result, being a parent has become more stressful.
Fortunately, there is a way to reduce this stress. You can get your kids to do more of what you want and less of what you don’t even during hard times.
Presenting: How parents and children can thrive in difficult times (online workshop)
We start off by learning how you can feel stronger despite everything that’s changed. Then we learn strategies to help your children feel stronger and do what you need them to do. The goal is to have them come out of this crisis feeling more capable and more optimistic about life. We don’t want them feeling afraid that they can’t cope. You’ll learn how to show them that they can thrive no matter what.
This program will be available near the end of May 2020. To be notified when you can register, join the waiting list.