Years ago I was introduced to the radical idea that our beliefs create our reality, and the idea captivated me so much that I’ve become a lifelong student of understanding its true meaning and implications. Today I realize that our reality is created by far more than our beliefs, but beliefs  play a powerful role in the creative process.

Back in the day, as “Your beliefs create your reality” was becoming a hot topic in the spiritual growth and self-help world, the focus was primarily on finding and eliminating the beliefs that limit us. For many people it became a “search and destroy” mission as they vowed to rid themselves of every last belief that might be an obstacle to living the successful and fulfilling lives they wanted to live.

But after years of finding, analyzing and letting go of limiting beliefs, they still weren’t where they wanted to be. So they stepped up the search, sure that if they dug deeply enough they would get to the bottom and, after dismantling that final, crusty old belief, they would be free.

Instead they discovered there was no bottom.

There was apparently no limit to the limiting beliefs. And that’s because, in their myopic search for obstacles, they had lost sight of one of the most fundamental aspects of the creative process: what we focus on is what expands in our lives. If we’re focused on excavating limiting beliefs, we’re focused on limitation. We actually create, through our focus, new thoughts and experiences that limit us.

In other words, we remain stuck.

It turns out that our work isn’t to identify and destroy every belief that is limiting us. We need only recognize that our beliefs can limit us – or they can empower us. So our real job is to create empowering beliefs. That’s the direct route to where we want to go.

I’ll be honest: creating a new belief is really the same thing as creating a new experience. Through your persistently focused attention on what you want, you will begin to experience momentum toward creating it. And as that momentum increases, you gain confidence in your ability to keep going. You begin to believe that you can create whatever it is that you want, and the belief itself will help sustain positive momentum.

I want to share with you a simple yet powerful practice that can help you cultivate belief in yourself – or, as I like to think of it, it can help you learn how to love yourself forward, into a life you love.

Tell a New Story

Learning to tell the story of who you are and what you’re creating in a loving, supportive way shifts your self-identity from someone who can’t create what you want to someone who can. If you feel frustrated in some aspect of your life, your current story of who you are and what is possible for you to create likely isn’t a supportive one.

Let’s say you want to find or create work you really love, and this is the story you typically tell yourself about it:

“I can’t believe I’m still stuck in this job I hate after all this time. I have wasted years of my life! I just can’t seem to figure out what I want. There are a few things I’m interested in but I don’t want to make the mistake of choosing the wrong career again. I keep trying different jobs in this company but none of them seem to be a good fit. There must be something wrong with me. Other people have figured this out but I keep going around in circles. I might as well resign myself to staying here and think about my dreams when I retire.”

It isn’t difficult to see how this story – this string of conclusions, assumptions, fears and self-judgments, all of which can be considered beliefs – is keeping you trapped. You are disempowering yourself by continually focusing your energy and attention in ways that reinforce what you don’t want. And you can’t get what you want by focusing on what you don’t want.

It’s time to shift focus. It’s time to create a new story. Here are some elements to include in your new story:

  • What you want and why you want it
  • How good you’ll feel as this begins to manifest
  • All the resources, inner and outer, you already have available to support you
  • Different ways you might experience what you want
  • Beliefs you already hold that support your vision
  • Skills and talents you already have that will help you manifest what you want
  • Things you’ve observed that help you remember this is possible
  • Steps you’ve already taken, progress you’ve already made

Your new story might sound something like this:

The longer I stay in this job, the clearer I become about what kind of work I really want. I want more flexibility in my schedule, I want to work on creative teams, I want to feel appreciated and know that I’m making a difference. And I’d love to use more of my writing skills. I really appreciate that I’ve explored so many different jobs in this company, because each one has shown me more about what I do and do not like, and the skills I most enjoy using. I just realized something—I’m already in the process of creating work I love! I’ve been exploring and gaining clarity. Now I just need to keep moving forward. There are so many people who are doing work they love, clearly it’s possible! I’m going to call Fran and learn more about her transition from corporate work to being an entrepreneur. I really like what I read the other day about people creating lives they love: their desire is the creative force behind their success. And my desire is pretty powerful!”

I suggest actually writing this story in your journal or in a notebook, and revising and updating it often. Let the whole exercise be fun! Intend to lift yourself up, to advocate for yourself and your dreams, to remind yourself of your many talents and fine qualities. Read what you write and take the time to let it sink in. Feel the truth of it as deeply as you can.

The key to creating an effective new story is for it to be supportive yet believable to you right now. This isn’t about imagining something so outrageous that you end up considering it nothing more than a fairy tale.

Creating an empowering new story is not a visioning exercise. It is an exercise in shifting your present-moment awareness toward what you want in a way that invites you to dwell in it, rather than to dismiss it.

Remember, what you focus on is what you create. Creating and revising and repeating your new story helps you focus powerfully on what you want, so that you’re building inner credibility rather than inner resistance. It teaches you how to love yourself into a life you love.

Let it be your Valentine to you, the real You.

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