I have a friend, let’s call her Ann, whose view of the world is that it is a very hard place to be, that life is difficult. Her conversations are full of phrases like, ‘life’s not meant to be easy’, ‘you just have to make do with what you have’ and ‘it’s a tough world’. Even when things are going really well, she is looking ahead to a time when it could all be taken away.
I have another friend, let’s call her Beattie, who’s view is the polar opposite. She believes that life is a miraculous adventure, she seizes every second, has total faith that her every need will be looked after. She has had her share of bad experiences and she gets through them by knowing that things will get better.
Who is right? Well they both are. Both are living in their own reality, created by their beliefs.
It’s one thing to live in a world created by your own beliefs. It is another to go around communicating limiting beliefs to other people in such a way that you restrict their view of what is possible for themselves or the world. Whenever I am with Ann and her children I can see her passing on her anxiety to her children. Her son, for example, wanted to audition for a role in the school play. She talked him out of it ‘because there was no way he would be taken on’ and she didn’t want him to be disappointed.
Beattie on the other hand encourages her children to take on bigger and bigger challenges. She does not pre-empt their failure, she spends time helping them gain the strength and confidence to pick themselves up again if things don’t go exactly to plan.
Ann’s approach is to communicate her view that there is a set world out there, with set requirements for success and if those requirements aren’t met then there is no point trying. There is no freedom in this for any of them. Beattie’s approach is to let her children create their own world through exploration and growing strength and confidence. This is all about freedom.
When I did my NLP trainers training we spent a long time in practising how not to impose our own beliefs on other people. I found it extremely difficult. How often do we say to someone to express our sympathy, ‘that must be difficult’ or ‘that must hurt’? We imagine another person’s inner world but we don’t know what it is and we don’t have the right to infiltrate it with negativity. If someone in a position of authority – parent, teacher, boss, trainer or therapist for example – communicates their limiting beliefs about you, it can take a lot of effort and mental strength to protect yourself.
I have seen many times the enormous difference between bosses who open up the world and those who close it down. When I was starting out in communications for example, the PA on our team, desperately wanted to move into account management. The director’s view was that ‘she did not have the intellect’ and would never amount to anything more than an administrative assistant. She moved to another company where she worked for an amazing boss who believed wholeheartedly in giving freedom by creating options and opportunity for people. Five years later she became Managing Director of the small firm.
The words of Kahlil Gibran, ‘You may give them your love but not your thoughts for they have their own thoughts’ refer to children but they can equally apply to anyone else.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.