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Beliefs - The Power to Create or Destroy

by David Shephard(more info)

listed in nlp, originally published in issue 205 - April 2013

Beliefs are the rules that we lead our life by. They are the concepts that we hold true about ourselves, other people and the World in general. They determine what we can and can’t do. Held within the unconscious mind they also filter our reality and therefore shape our perceptions of the world around us.

It has been estimated that we receive in excess of 2,000,000 bits of information every second through our five senses. To be able to handle this huge amount of information flowing into our nervous system our unconscious mind must filter it. It does this in three fundamental ways.

Firstly, it deletes information from our conscious awareness. Everyone has experienced their car keys disappearing from the face of the planet only to be informed by a friend or loved one that they were in front of their eyes all along. When working correctly this filter protects us from overwhelm. However it could also cause us to miss the evidence that something is possible.

Secondly, our unconscious mind distorts the information coming in. We have all had the experience of the sound of the central heating cooling down at night being transformed into the sound of a burglar down stairs. It’s so real our heart beats faster with the fear. This filter gives us the ability to be creative, though it may also distort our perception of the world to fit our limiting beliefs.

Finally, the unconscious mind generalises the information detecting patterns. For instance when you approach a particular door for the first time you have general rules for the way that doors work. You don’t have to work it out from first principles each time you approach a new door. This filter enables us to learn and it is also the fundamental way we form beliefs. We have an experience, more than likely not a good one, and we create a broad generalisation about ourselves, the people around us or about the way the world works.

All of this takes place in the unconscious mind before we become consciously aware of it. In essence we have no mechanism for directly experiencing what is actually happening outside of our nervous system. For instance, each of our eyes is the equivalent of a one-megapixel camera. So we literally peer out into our world through two one-megapixel cameras. However, that is not our experience. We experience a significantly richer density of pixels. This is created within the nervous system, it is not what we are physically ‘seeing’. Effectively we create our own personal version of reality. We have shared labels for the things we experience but do you actually know that the colour we label as red is actually the same colour that I am seeing?

One of the fundamental ways that our unconscious mind filters our reality is through our beliefs. Through the experiences that we have, moment-by-moment, we either consciously or unconsciously decide what is true for us. The psychologist Morris Massey postulated that the vast majority of our beliefs were created during our first 10 years of life. With the first seven years having the biggest impact. Hence the saying, “Give me the boy for his first 10 years and I’ll show you the man.”

Think of the World during your first 10 years and consider the kinds of beliefs you may have decided to create and still, more than likely, operate from today. If I hadn’t revisited my beliefs and made appropriate changes to them I personally would be attempting to navigate my way through the world today with beliefs that were 40 years out of date! I would never dream of taking a drive in my car with a road atlas that was 40 years out of date. Yet that is what the majority of people are doing and wonder why they don’t find their life’s journey as fruitful and easy as they wish it were.

The well used phrase, “I’ll believe it when I see it” is actually the wrong way around. It should read, “You’ll see it when you believe it”.

Changing our beliefs can have a massive impact on the reality we experience and therefore the results we create in our lives.

Henry Ford once said, “Whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re absolutely right!”  This was his response when his engineers told him that building a V8 engine was impossible. It’s a very simple statement, yet it’s impact is profound.  Consider the effect that your beliefs have on your life.  Do your beliefs accelerate you towards your goals or do they put the brakes on?  Do they enable you to do more or less?

The Belief Cycle

The Belief Cycle

Here’s how beliefs work. Lets say you have a belief that you can’t be successful in running your own business.  If that were true, how much of your business potential do you think you would tap into?  Not very much!  Therefore the action that you take toward  being successful in your business would be rather half hearted.  What sort of results would you get from half hearted action? Disappointing, and that’s what you believed in the first place so you have more evidence that your belief is true.  It becomes a vicious circle, a downward spiral, a self-fulfilling prophecy. We decide that something is true and then we create the evidence in our experience to justify and support that decision.

What would happen if you held the belief that you could easily be successful in business.  You would now tap into your full potential as a business person, the action you take would be focused and positive and therefore the results you created would be excellent, giving you more evidence that you can easily be successful in business.  Yet again a vicious circle, but this time its an upward spiral, one that takes you to more and more business success!

Its not only our business life that is effected by our beliefs, its all areas of our life - health and fitness, relationships, family life, personal development, everything.

How do we know if we have disempowering beliefs?  Well, if there is an area of your life in which you are not achieving your goals it is worth investigating your beliefs.  One of the best ways of doing this is to play a game.  Think of a situation in your life that isn’t working the way you want it to.  Pretend that you are in a strange world where whatever happens to someone, they in some way, shape or form created it for themselves.  Imagine that you meet someone in a bar or on a train and you start talking to them.  They begin to tell you about their life and to your surprise they have exactly the same situation in their life as you do in yours.  Ask yourself,  “If we are a result of our beliefs, what would this person have to believe to have created this situation for themselves?”  Write down any answers that you get and keep going until you can’t think of anything else.  It’s important that you write down everything no matter how silly or ludicrous it may seem, they’re your beliefs.

Another technique would be to think of all the reasons or excuses you give yourself or others every time you don’t achieve what you want. Excuses are just limiting beliefs you have decided to create as a result of your earlier experiences in life.

Think of each of the beliefs in turn and ask yourself the following questions:

  • “Does this belief empower me?”
  • “Does this belief enable me to be more or less?”
  • “Does this belief enable me to do more or less?”
  • “Does this belief enable me to have more or less?”
  • “Does this belief give me more choice or less?”

Put a cross next to the beliefs that don’t empower you, prevent you from being, doing or having what you truly want or limit your choices.  Since we were not born with our beliefs we must have learnt them, so we can always learn something new.

You could think of each of these beliefs as being like a table top with supporting legs. The legs on the table are created from your reference experiences. Each leg is evidence that you have that the belief is true. To change the belief we must start by knocking the legs out from under it. Here’s a simple and powerful technique using questions. I call them belief buster questions.

Firstly we need to create leverage for your unconscious mind to want to change the belief. Consider these three questions:

  • What has this belief cost me in the past?
  • What is this belief costing me right now?
  • What will this belief cost me in the future if I don’t change it?

Once you feel the desire to change the belief fully consider the following questions:

  • How would I know if this belief was false?
  • For whom in the world is this belief not true?
  • When in the past was this belief not true for me?
  • In what ways do I know that this belief isn’t true?
  • In what way could the opposite of this belief actually be true?
  • What will happen if I continue to believe this?
  • How is it possible that I could have believed that?
  • What was the purpose of having that belief?

Now think about the old belief you had, do you notice that it’s changed?  Are the legs on the table wobbly? Now we need to install a new belief in place of the old belief. So, fully consider the following questions:

  • What do I want to believe instead?
  • How do I know this is true?
  • Who else do I know that knows it’s true?
  • How many times in the past have I experienced this being true?
  • What will be the consequences of me believing this?
  • What will I gain in the future with this new belief?

Make it a habit to stay focused on what you want, work on your beliefs and take responsibility for what you create in your life.  In that way you have the power to create it the way you want it.  And remember:

“ If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always learn what you already know!”


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About David Shephard

David Shephard is one of the world’s leading figures in personal development and a specialist in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), Hypnosis and Timeline Therapy. 

He is Chairman and Head of research and Training at London-based company The Performance Partnership (  ) and has trained thousands of people on how to achieve their goals and dreams using the powerful combination of NLP, Hypnosis and Timeline Therapy. He has therapeutically worked with hundreds of people to completely remove anything from a phobia in 20 minutes to recover from PTSD (Posttraumatic stress disorder) in less than 3 days. Whilst many thousands of people are qualified to be called trainers of NLP, only 50 globally have ever attained the title of ‘Master Trainer’. This involved over 2,000 hours of study and practice. Since then, David has trained for over 12,000 hours and is considered a global expert.  David has certified over 1,000 people globally who train businesses and individuals in NLP.  He is the trainer’s trainer.

In addition to running a successful NLP training business with trainings taking place 130 days every year, David splits his professional life with three other projects. The first is working with the charity, ‘The Warrior Programme’.  Over a three-day period, David works with groups of twenty ex-service people to alleviate their PTSD, anxiety and other emotional disorders. Over the three years of being involved in the programme, David has achieved consistent, staggering results, which are currently in the process of a University peer-review study.  The second is working therapeutically with clients. The third is eight free days of group NLP training a year which David pays for himself to a cost of many thousands of pounds.

Originally from Mansfield, David still retains his Northern charm. He is 50, lives in London in his riverside home in Richmond. He plays the guitar, is an avid watch and car collector and his dream is still to play a gig like Elvis! David may be contacted on

Tel: 020 8992 9523;

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