(By Morty Lefkoe)
For years I’ve thought that our lives—what we do, think, feel, and perceive—were the direct result of our beliefs and our conditionings. When I looked at the lives and beliefs of over 13,000 clients, I noticed a very close correlation.
In the past few weeks I’ve had reason to rethink that conclusion. I’ve identified a couple of steps between beliefs and how we live our lives, so I no longer think there is a direct connection.
In order to explain what the actual connection is, let me briefly remind you of my three posts last year on “occurring.” (See http://mortylefkoe.com/121509, http://mortylefkoe.com/12229, http://mortylefkoe.com/122909) Most people are not aware that the way reality shows up or occurs for them is not the same as what’s actually “out there” in the world.
For example, if something you’re about to do occurs to you as difficult, for you it really is difficult. For you, the difficulty is a fact. Actually, the project might require skills that you don’t have or perhaps you aren’t confident about your ability to do it successfully. But the project itself isn’t difficult. Difficult is in our minds. Only the requirements of the project are in the world.
So there is a profound difference between reality and how reality shows up for us, and most people usually never make that distinction.
Back to my new realization. It now seems to me that what determines our thoughts, feelings, behavior, etc. at any given moment is the way people and events (and even our internal thoughts) occur to us, moment by moment. And, for us, reality is this occurring—not how reality really is.
Are beliefs and conditionings involved at all? Yes, they are. The connection between our beliefs and conditionings and how things show up or occur for us is the meaning we are giving reality moment by moment.
Here’s how I think it works: We have beliefs and conditionings from earlier in life. When we interact with any situation, our existing beliefs and conditionings are the primary determinant of the meaning we give the situation. That meaning in turn determines how it occurs for us. And that occurring then determines how we react to the situation.
Here’s an illustration to make this real. Imagine you have several beliefs, including What makes me good enough or important is having people think well of me. The situation you encounter is: You’re with a group of friends, all of whom have the same opinion about something. You disagree. That’s reality. Given the beliefs you have, the meaning you might give this reality is: “It’s dangerous to disagree with my friends because that might result in them not liking me or thinking less of me.” Given that meaning, the situation probably will occur for you as uncomfortable and you will feel resistance to speak up about your disagreement. And given this way the situation showed up for you, you probably would not say anything.
Can you see that your beliefs would lead you to give reality the meaning you did? … And can you see that given that meaning, the situation would occur to you as it did? … And finally, can you see that your behavior probably would be consistent with how the situation occurred to you? …
When I mentioned this new way of looking at the relationship between our beliefs and the way we live our lives, one friend said to me last week: Why are you complicating the situation? If beliefs and conditionings cause the meaning, which causes the occurring, which determines how we life our lives, so what if there are a couple of elements between the beliefs and how we live our lives?
Here’s why this distinction can be very important. If our lives are the direct result of our beliefs and conditionings, then we could not change our lives until we found and eliminated them. But if our lives are the result of the meaning we give any given situation, then it might be possible to change that meaning, thereby changing how we will act and feel in any given situation, without eliminating the beliefs.
I think that it is possible to do that and I’m in the process of conducting an experiment with 20 people over a ten-week period to see what is required to change the meaning we automatically give to situations. So far it looks like it can be done. I personally have done it many times, even though it can be difficult to do it consistently.
Now in the long run you still would want to get rid of the relevant negative beliefs and conditionings because, if you don’t, the next time a similar situation comes up, you’ll probably form the same meaning, which you will then have to change. On the other hand, if you eliminate the negative beliefs, you’ll form a different, more positive meaning the next time, and you won’t have to change it.
At this point you probably are asking: So how do you change the meaning we automatically and unconsciously give events every minute? The same way we eliminate the meaning we gave the events that led to beliefs as a child. Give the events two or three different meanings so that you can make real that the meaning you gave the situation is not “the truth,” and then realize you never saw the meaning in reality. You only can see reality; meaning is always in our mind.
Also, it seems that some people are able to ignore or transcend how things show up for them. I’ve observed a few people who seem to be successful financially, in their careers, and in other aspects of their lives (such as dealing with eating/weight issues)—who still have a bunch of negative self-esteem beliefs. That wouldn’t make sense if our lives were consistent with our beliefs. But given what now appears to be true, as I’ve described above, these people either are changing the meaning of situations constantly or are transcending the way things show up for them.
People who do the latter seem to be able to say to themselves: “Yes, the world is occurring as difficult, or me as inadequate, etc., but so what? I don’t care about reality (how the world occurs to me), I’m going for it anyway.”
In looking at my own life I can see that I’ve done that from time to time. I have purposes or goals that I am so committed to that I can totally ignore how things occur for me. One example is I have decided to drastically cut down my consumption of sugar and have just a square or two of chocolate after dinner and none during the day. Most days after lunch I feel a desire for chocolate. I notice that feeling and ignore it, saying silently to myself: “I don’t care if I feel like eating chocolate, I’m not going to do it.” There is no struggle or effect and I don’t think about eating chocolate any more after I have that thought. It’s as if my commitment is so much greater than the way my desire for chocolate shows up for me after lunch that the desire for chocolate feels irrelevant.
I’ll have more to say about changing the meaning you have given a situation and transcending how the world occurs to us a few weeks after the Lefkoe Freedom Experiment is complete and I have the results from 20 experimenters. In the meantime, check it out yourself. See if you can notice that you generally are not aware of the difference between reality and how reality occurs or shows up for you. And then see if you can change that occurring by changing the meaning you had just given the situation in front of you.
PS: Morty Lefkoe is president and founder of The Lefkoe Institute. He is the creator of a series of psychological processes (The Lefkoe Method) that result in profound personal and organizational change, quickly and permanently. He has written a book about the Lefkoe Belief Process (LBP), Re-create Your Life: Transforming Yourself and Your World. The complete article can be found at his blog at: http://www.mortylefkoe.com/030910/