Psychology 101 for Change Agents: Overcoming Negative Beliefs

Uncategorized May 05, 2021

We all know our body has an immune system--but what about your mind? 

In Session 8 of this Understanding and Evolving Your Psychology series we're going to be talking about your psychological immune system in the form of your beliefs.  Our beliefs can serve as the bedrock of our calling as change agents, but they can also get in our way.  

Why do your beliefs matter so much? Because they are connected to so many other aspects of your psychological system—and when you get focused on your beliefs you get leverage to better support your joy and your impact across all the areas of your life. 

In this video and the accompanying worksheet we’re going to work on identifying and overcoming your most consequential negative beliefs.  How much more joy and impact would you have in your life if you found a way to let go of some of the beliefs that have been holding you back?  It’s time to find out!


Mapping Your Most Important Beliefs

The worksheet begins by walking you through the exercise of  brainstorming all the things you can think of that you believe. Don’t worry about  whether these beliefs are good, bad or indifferent. Just focus in this first step on capturing as  much as you can of your operating belief system. It can be helpful to do this brainstorming by  categories:

--Beliefs about myself and my inner world: my capacities, patterns of thinking, feeling and acting, my strengths and weaknesses:

For example: Which of your personal qualities do you believe have been the greatest contributors to your success  in life? What do you believe other people see as your most attractive quality? Your least attractive quality?

--Beliefs about how the world works:

For example: What do you believe about what it takes to get ahead in life—are effort and hard work generally  rewarded? What do you believe about human nature—can you generally trust other people to do the right thing  and live up to their word?


-Beliefs about my vision for making the world a better place, and what it will take to achieve  success:


Now, looking through all the beliefs you’ve listed above, sort them into two categories: positive  and negative. Put a “+” next to any belief that makes it easier for you to experience the positive  feelings you want more of in your life. Put a “-“ next to any belief makes it easier for you to  experience more of the negative feelings that you want less of in your life.

Converting Your Most Important Negative Beliefs Into Testable Assumptions

Focusing on the negative beliefs you’ve identified in the brainstorming exercise, use the following  question prompts to fill in the chart  on the final page of the worksheet.

  1. How certain are you about the truth of each belief? How would you rate  it on a scale of -10 to +10, where -10 is  you are totally certain it’s untrue and +10 is you are totally and completely convinced it is true?
  2. It’s important to remember that you don’t accumulate these negative beliefs randomly—they are actually part of  your armor, your protective system for making sure you get your needs met.  Chances are they did an  excellent job protecting you  for at least some period of your life. So, how has this negative belief actually helped you  meet your fundamental needs? When has it kept you safe, helped you feel important, connected you to others  etc.? If you were going to take a moment to thank this belief for its loyal service, even as you get ready to retire  it, what would your thank you message say? 
  3. Now let’s get painfully clear about how this negative belief gotten in your way. How has it hindered you from  meeting your needs and serving you mission in a more positive, powerful way? What price are those you love paying when you cling to this belief? What is it costing those you seek to serve when you cling to this negative  belief? 
  4. Next, let’s take a step back and be as objective as possible, knowing that this is hard to do when it comes to  tinkering around with your protective shields. What are your top 3 pieces of confirming evidence for this negative  belief? Why do you believe that this is true? What specific experiences led you to form this belief in the first  place? How reasonable and universally applicable does this supporting evidence seem in the light of day?  Remember that some limiting or negative beliefs actually do have a certain degree of validity and are performing  an ongoing protective function—these beliefs may have a plausible grounding. Others are based on evidence  that we can clearly see is ludicrous when we take the trouble to look at it. So, for this particular belief, which  pieces of supporting evidence/experiences seem plausible? Which seem ridiculous?
  5. Continuing to think about this particular negative belief, what 3 experiences could you have that would most  dramatically DECREASE your certainty about this negative belief? What would you need to do or see? Who would you  need to hear from and what would they be telling you?
  6. What is the safest, gentlest, funnest way you can think of to start treating this negative belief like a testable assumption-- gathering evidence to test whether it is universally valid? Under what circumstances might you want to revise  this belief—for example, if I don’t wear a suit to meet with this client, it turns out they won’t actually fire me on  the spot...


Going Deeper

Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey's book Immunity to Change is a great resource for digging even deeper on your limiting beliefs, including the exercise of producing an immunity map.  For more on this check out the video and worksheets on creating your own immunity map in your members area.  And if you have already set up a free account to access to your member's area, you can sign up here.


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These are the same materials we use with the social entrepreneurs in our accelerator program and the funders we coach one on one.  The world has never been more in need of a new, greatest generation of change agents and that's why we're opening up free access to these materials to anyone who's ready to make use of them!