Simply put, everything we say or do is rooted in what we believe, about ourselves and the world around us. Therefore, in order to create lasting change, we must practice the skill of self-awareness and assess the effectiveness of our belief systems.
Where do our beliefs come from? While there isn’t a single answer to this question, I want to highlight one source which can have a devastating effect on the choices we make. I refer to it as OPO’s (Other People’s Opinions).
From the time you were a child, you’ve received, directly or indirectly, countless opinions of others. These opinions fall into two distinct categories: disempowering or empowering. Whether it was a friend in elementary school who mocked you for fumbling the ball at recess (disempowering) or a teacher who professed her complete confidence in your ability to pass a Math test (empowering), each of these opinions has the potential to shape your beliefs.
Here’s how it works. Imagine an OPO as a piece of computer software that can be downloaded into your mind. If it’s downloaded, it changes your operating system (beliefs). If you choose not to download it, your operating system remains the same. Herein lies the power of self-awareness.
Let me give you an example.
Joe is a fourth grade student whose self-confidence is fairly stable. One day on the playground he is in the midst of a highly competitive football game with his classmates. With a chance to win the game just as the bell rings, Joe lets a perfect pass slip through his hands. While some of his teammates immediately console him, he hears a voice in the distance say, “Joe, you never do anything right.” When he looks to see who uttered these words, he notices that it’s his friend Kyle, whom he was very close with. Joe walks back to the classroom, his head held low and his mind racing with negativity. Over the next several days, Joe refrains from playing football as his internal dialogue continues to replay the words, “You never do anything right.”
It’s clear that Joe downloaded the disempowering OPO software that his friend Kyle had offered him. Without proper self-awareness and the ability to choose whether or not he would accept these words as the truth, Joe’s belief system was altered and his self-confidence was diminished.
Just as you can uninstall computer software programs on your computer, so too can you uninstall disempowering beliefs that are the result of OPO’s. Let’s face it; each of us has programs that we’ve downloaded that aren’t serving us well. For me, I spent years holding on to the belief that “I’m not good enough” and it kept me safely in my comfort zone for many years. Only when I was able to uninstall this program and replace it with a more empowering belief did I start to realize more freedom and joy in my life.
Here are some real life examples of OPO’s that could have greatly altered various lives. However, because these individuals chose not the download the disempowering beliefs, the rest is history.
“Man will never reach the moon regardless of all future scientific advances.”
OPO of Dr. Lee De Forest, inventor of the audion tube and father of radio, on Feb. 25, 1967.
“We don’t like their sound. Groups of guitars are on the way out.”
OPO of Decca Records rejecting the Beatles in 1962.
“Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
OPO of Charles H. Duell, US Commisioner of Patents, in 1899.
“You lack imagination and have no original ideas.”
OPO of a newspaper editor informing Walt Disney that he was fired from the newspaper. Date unknown.
I invite you to consider the beliefs you’re holding onto that are a result of what someone else has told you. Remember, you’re beliefs influence your thinking. Your thinking influences your feelings. Your feelings influence your behavior.