Sep 302008

As I’ve said before, the process of changing beliefs involves finding your current beliefs, figuring out target beliefs and figuring our resistance and issues between the two to resolve them and transition to the target belief.

A reason to stick to the old belief may be the emotional energy attached to a memory, an event that happened in your past, negative consequences or self-image if you don’t hold that belief, etc. On the other hand, your perception of the new belief might be causing you to resist it. For example, someone who you had a negative experience with may have seemed to hold that belief, or you feel that people who hold that sort of belief have negative qualities.

Self-knowledge is an important solution, and journalling helps create it. A useful question to ask when trying to figure out why you might have resistance to a new belief/habit/idea is to figure out what it looks like to you. That is, if you, or someone else, were to hold that belief, how would it look like? If you are less visually inclinced, you might ask how it might sound or feel like. The following is an example of a major issue I’ve gained clarity on: value creation and making money. Below I have listed some of the important ephiphanies I had in the process of moving over a value creation model of making money, rather than my previous unconscious one. The most important one took me months to understand: Don’t focus solely on making money, focus on giving value. Focusing on getting and making money (at least without focusing on what I wanted it for) caused me to simply feel greedy and hollow, and probably lowered my consciousness.

How can I make money?

I spent a long time wrestling with my feelings about money and what is acceptable ways for me to get it. This is an important process for me because a lot of the ways I can use my skills to make more money than I do now felt like I was faking it, or made me feel like I shouldn’t be asking for money for various reasons. So, I’ve been rooting out a lot of beliefs. I’m not done but it’s an interesting journey.

The goal that is motivating this self-examination is creating multiple streams of income. Right now, that is this blog (I’ve made ~$16 so far, yay!) and another project or two that I’m trying to start once I work through these issues. There’s a number of issues that come up, and I’m going to talk about two today, value creation itself and “expertness”.

Value Creation

The target model is to believe that most times people get money by creating value for others. I discovered the real issue I was having in accepting this belief was what created value looks like. For example, when I used to think of creating value, I would think something unique or completely original (IE never before done), being at the top of the field (usually as a total expert) and something that only I could do (it would not value if someone else could do it). Pretty stringent conditions, no? So stringent that not only did they not account for how everyone made money, but also didn’t allow me to feel good about the money I could make from anything that wasn’t a traditional job.

I eventually realized that this was a broken model of monetary exchange and that a model would have to explain traditional jobs as well. I eventually realized the value is anything anyone wants, whether it’s unique or not, whether it’s the very best possible or not, you don’t have to be the only one, and you don’t have to know everything about a subject, that being an expert does not necessarily mean that you know everything.

Here’s something you might want to keep in mind: I believe I was committing the moralistic fallacy (what should be is what is). That is, because the way to create the most income is to be unique and original, to be the only one or very few (both reduce competition and if there’s demand then there’s a smaller supply and can charge more) and being the best (again, small supply of the people at top). However, those things are not necessary for making less than the most money. For some reason I had it in my head that either you were the best and made all the money, or you weren’t the best and you can’t make a lot of money. Some fields are built like that (the top 5% of movie stars get most of the money, everyone else is mostly getting by, if I’m not incorrect) while others are not (IT fields tend to have a more equal distribution of incomes). So, to create the greatest value and make the most money, you want to be unique, original, the best and be at the top, but you don’t have to be in all cases.

So, when you’re thinking about changing your target beliefs, you might want to ask yourself, what does not having my current belief mean to me? What does the target belief look like to me? For example, I had a misunderstanding of what “value creation” means so even though I felt that the new model was more accurate and potentially more empowering, I could not move to it. Now I like to think I have.


The bulk of my income potential rests on my knowledge and my ability to learn. So, when I think of creating value using my above stringent criteria, I would imagine that I just don’t have enough knowledge to ask for money for it, because, for some reason, I believed that you must know everything before you can ask money for it. I also felt that experts can’t make mistakes and are always or mostly right. Again, learning and having a ton of knowledge is a great way to you get you into a great competitive position, but it’s not necessary for making at least some money, and I don’t know why I felt that I did.

Essentially, there was a limiting belief somewhere which says that to ask for money, you have to be an expert and a professional. Then I tried to get a better idea of what an “expert” means to me and it usually means someone with a degree of professional training, usually some sort of certification and the knowledge to back it up.

One target belief I’ve found is an expert is just someone who knows more than a small part of a target audience, such as the person described here. I still feel that’s too broad a definition of the term expert and I feel incongruent for using it. If the situation comes up, I won’t say that I’m an expert, just a practitioner who wants to share his knowledge.

So, my target belief for having to be an expert is that I don’t have to be an expert to make money, and I don’t have to and shouldn’t present myself as an expert when I’m not. While being an expert helps in terms of income generation (and the more you can sell/give, the greater value you create), I don’t believe I’ll have trouble as long as I’m upfront about my status (studies show that actually improves your credibility).

What does this all mean? My limiting belief prevented me from marketing and feeling good about my work, especially on this site (ie it’s not good enough) even though there’s no one I’m asking money from or have to justify myself to. So, I’m feeling a lot better about doing more things to advertise this site and my services. Other than the normal sort of eustress and excitement one feels, I’m feeling pretty good about this site and other ventures. We’ll see where this leads to.

So, there you have it: two more examples. The way I think through things may not be the best or most effective but I wanted to share it with you anyway. Hope it helps. 🙂

Sep 282008

A central claim of many personal development works is that if you want to achieve a goal, think how people who already have that goal, believe what those people believe and take actions like people who already have that goal and you will achieve that goal. However, many times it’s not as easy to do as it is to say because you tend to have your own thoughts and beliefs about a given subject or goal that can prevent you from learning the new ones.

Actions, of course, repeated are habits. Find out what the sort of people who have achieved your goal make habits of doing and try to imitate them. There are, however, also habits of thought. Some people habitually think of negative things happening to them and it can just as hard or even harder to break that habit.

However, I would just like to focus on beliefs. Many times you can generate a list of “target” beliefs that people who’ve achieved your goal or are how you want to be hold. However, you are not an empty cup that is simply filled, you have your own beliefs, both about the subject at hand and about many other things besides. Your beliefs, knowledge and thought patterns interlace to form a sort of belief net that all new beliefs have to fit into. If you want to change your limiting beliefs, you may want to learn what your current beliefs about this subject are, what they all mean, what your target belief is and what sorts of resistance you can expect. Enough theorizing, let’s have an example:

My goal is to improve my grades. For that goal I’ve started a 30-day trial to study for 15 minutes every day (it’s going rather poorly) to try to take care of the actions required. I also got a bunch of books on improving my grades and read them, to get an idea of habits to adopt but also to absorb the mindset of having better grades. Then I got to work on my current beliefs and notions about schooling and grades.

I had a lot of false ideas about getting high grades in my head, which btw, is 95+%. I had (and I suppose I still do) have anxiety attached to the idea of getting really good grades, because then I’d feel pressured to keep my grades up to that level, a pressure I don’t want to feel externally. I also believed that to get good grades, I’d have to give up all my time to studying, while this is certainly not the case, last term I did quite well (avg of 80%+) spending very little time studying outside class. I also discovered that I was attaching my sense of identity to being right in class, as well as being smart (which was dependent on not making mistakes, partially, and my grades the other part). I also felt that I wasn’t working hard enough to get good grades, ignoring any sort of strategy, and instead just trying to get down at study 30 hours a week or whatever. I did not have a limiting belief that perfect grades or really high grades are impossible, I just believed that there’s a point of diminishing marginal returns, so that the effort required to go from 80% to 90% may be half what is required to gom from 90% to 95%, and I decided I’m just not willing to put in that much time, since I have no particular goals that require me to have a really high grade. I also discovered that I would often overload myself with all the things I wanted to do so that I would study “right” instead of just doing it.

The target beliefs that were guiding all the above were: I want to achieve good grades in a limited amount of time and effort, while balancing the rest of my life, feeling no stress and general happiness. There’s often resistance to the target beliefs, which in this case was skepticism whether the above was even possibly.

So, essentially, I figured out a lot of my current thinking about grades, figured out the target beliefs and goal and compared my current beliefs to them.

As an aside, my relationship with “intelligence” became very important, because sometimes I believed that intelligence is all you need to get good grades, and that my grades were a reflection of my intelligence and other times I believed it’s just doing the work (it’s a combination of the two). Since I was praised for my intelligence as a child (usually when I was right), I came to believe that intelligence cannot change, that if you’re smart enough, you’ll get really good grades, and I felt bad on some level that I’m not a genius like Will in Good Will Hunting. The other belief I was holding was that intelligence means being right, and that you either get a new concept or you don’t; there’s no in between, which prevented me from pushing through my confusion to learn something if I didn’t get it the first time around. I also came to see my intelligence as fixed (it can change) and that my results were solely based on my abilities, and not my effort. Here’s a quotation from the above New York Magazine that describes me perfectly in this regard:

Dweck discovered that those who think that innate intelligence is the key to success begin to discount the importance of effort. I am smart, the kids’ reasoning goes; I don’t need to put out effort. Expending effort becomes stigmatized—it’s public proof that you can’t cut it on your natural gifts.

It’s interesting to look back on my life and wonder if being told I was intelligent has affected things. One of the reasons I used to be so particular about spelling things correctly, forming proper sentences and making sure I’ve got my facts straight is because I wanted to convey the impression that I’m smart, and I had this belief that people who don’t do those things aren’t. I wonder if my interest in science was at all directed by the belief that I am intelligent and intelligent people are into science. I can see that belief causing some people to become dogmatic about science. I sometimes see this pattern in others as well, when they try to assert they’re right because, I believe, they don’t want to seem unintelligent.

A lot of this work was done over a long time, as a series of random epiphanies. You can also journal about it, on a computer or just on paper. Well, I hope this helps.

Main Points:

  • Achieving goals involves thinking, believing and acting in a way similar to how people who have achieved that goal or state of being.
  • Beliefs are an important part of goal achievement but often times the target beliefs cause conflicts or cognitive dissonance with your current goals and you have to work through them to get to the target goals.