David Lawrence Preston is a hypnotherapist and personal development trainer who has frequently appeared on radio and television. Over the last 20 years he has developed the Dynamic Living Programme, which draws on practical psychological techniques and the sum of all his considerable experience with clients. He is also the author of 365 Steps to Self-confidence.
We often become what we believe ourselves to be. If I believe I cannot do something, it makes me incapable of doing it. When I believe I can, I acquire the ability to do it even if I didn’t have it in the beginning.
Life coaches listen very carefully to their clients to get a clear understanding of their attitudes and beliefs. They know that empowering beliefs and a positive mental attitude are essential for success in any area of life. People who are generally optimistic, proactive and confident are considerably more likely to be successful at whatever they choose, and happier too.
Many cling to their beliefs long after they have ceased to make any rational sense. Well into the twentieth century there were still people arguing that the Earth is flat despite the irrefutable evidence to the contrary. The Flat Earth Society was only disbanded in the 1980s, 20 years after the Apollo moon landings had proved conclusively that our planet is a globe.
Beliefs affect us whether they are true or false. None of us deal with reality. We each deal with our own unique perceptions, our own understanding of truth, which may be deeply flawed.
If we believe we cannot do any better, we are in danger of underachieving simply because we don’t believe we can improve and progress. We are inescapably held back by our limiting beliefs about ourselves, whatever the reality. That’s why it’s so important to get our beliefs working for, not against, us. So if you are aware of an unsupportive belief, let it go, give it up.
Do not believe something just because wise men say so. Do not believe something just because it has always been that way. Do not believe something just because others may believe so. Examine and experience yourself.
Changing a belief
Developing a positive mental attitude
Nothing can stop a man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal.
Nothing on earth can help a man with the wrong mental attitude.
When a belief is expressed in words or actions, with emotion, it becomes an attitude.
Many studies have tried to find the secret of success and franchise it for commercial use, and contrary to what most people think, it is not the most gifted or even the hardest working who make it. The only consistent personality trait associated with success is a positive attitude.
When you approach a task with a positive attitude you feel more alive, more enthusiastic and more committed. You improve your chances of success immeasurably. Just as life coaches work on the attitudes of their clients, one of your principal aims in self-coaching is to cultivate positive attitudes, because you’re unlikely to get far without them.
Your expectations are among your most influential beliefs. Clinical research backs up the conclusion that low expectations bring poor results and high expectations bring great results.
Many studies have shown that children of average ability taught by teachers with high expectations outperform groups of children of equal ability taught by teachers with low expectations. Raising children’s expectations undoubtedly raises their level of achievement. Moreover, children with high achieving parents are likely to follow suit, because of the positive expectation (as long as it is not too pressured) they receive from their parents.
Expectations have a powerful effect on our aspirations, performance, achievements, relationships and on who we become. Expecting to fail is like tackling your goals with both hands tied behind your back. But if you expect to succeed, you’re already on your way.
Open your mind to all life’s possibilities. If you expect the best, you’ll probably get it!
St Peter’s School in Paddington, a run-down area of London, used to be a place where pupils spat and swore at the teachers, truancy was rife and staff couldn’t wait to leave. One class had 25 different teachers in one term. The building was squalid, and closure was imminent, because the school inspectors considered it a danger to pupils.
Then a determined young teacher arrived. Helen Ridding was from a privileged background, having attended a fee-paying boarding school, and was only 24.
Soon after she started, the Head suffered a breakdown and left her in charge. She could easily have moved on to a well-run school in a more pleasant part of the country, but Helen was made of sterner stuff. She was consumed with such passion over the plight of those young people that she decided to stay and fight.
Now, more than a decade later, St Peters is rated one of the best schools in the country. Pupils consistently attain at a level far above the national average, and visitors are struck by the confidence and commitment of the children. ‘We aim high here,’ asserts Helen. ‘When expectations are high, children surprise you.’
Use your intuition
Intuition is a powerful ‘knowing’ widely experienced by successful people from all walks of life.
Have you ever felt an overpowering urge to do something without being able to explain it logically? Have you ever known, just known that something is right without being able to put it into words? If so, this was your intuition at work.
Intuition is available to everyone – and you are no exception.
Using your intuitive powers
As your intuitive powers begin to develop, you will find you can tune in to them at any time. In addition, here are some purposeful ways of making full use of this new resource.
Use your imagination
Imagination is more important than knowledge. It is a preview of life’s coming attractions.
First dream your life, then live your dream
Creative imagery is simply imagining things, e.g. ‘seeing’ them in your mind’s eye, or ‘hearing’, ‘smelling’, ‘tasting’ or ‘feeling’ them in your imagination.
Creative imagery works because it has an immediate and powerful impact on the subconscious mind. The material in your subconscious mind is largely responsible for your habitual behaviour patterns, because it contains all your programming and conditioning. This is very beneficial if the material is positive, because once an idea takes root in the subconscious, it's extremely difficult to shift.
Daily creative imagery sessions can help eliminate bad habits, create new habits and strengthen motivation. This is so for three main reasons:
First, the subconscious goal-seeking mechanism (see page 31) is most easily influenced by images, symbols and feelings. Holding a mental image in your mind or feeding in a vivid emotional experience makes a deep and lasting impact. Your subconscious takes it as an instruction to ‘make it so.’
Second, the subconscious does not have the ability to distinguish between stimuli received through the five senses (i.e. the external world), and those coming from your imagination. It accepts whatever the conscious mind thinks about as real. Have you ever woken up at night in a sweat after a bad dream? Or cried at the cinema? You knew the experience wasn’t real (because your rational conscious mind told you so), but still you were affected emotionally because your subconscious responded as if it was. It processes them in exactly the same way and stores them in your memory as if they were equally real.
Imagine you are biting into your favourite food. Can you taste it? Is your mouth watering? It usually does, despite the fact that the food exists only in your imagination. And as far as your memory is concerned, you really did just enjoy a mouthful of your favourite food.
Third, the subconscious is housed in the right brain, which is the visual and emotional part of the brain. This is why ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ – it reaches parts of the brain that language alone cannot reach.
Creative imagery works most effectively when your mind and body are deeply relaxed and in the alpha state. Entering the alpha state for even a few minutes a day is enormously beneficial. Coupled with autosuggestion, creative imagery is an effective technique for changing limiting beliefs and mental images because it bypasses the conditioned conscious mind and communicates your desires directly to the subconscious.
Getting the most from creative imagery
Just about any dream grows stronger if you hold on a little longer.
The ‘as if’ principle
If one advances confidently in the direction of their dreams and endeavours to lead a life which they have imagined, they will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
Motivation is an inner drive that compels you to action. Motivation is vital if you want to change or achieve anything. Motivated people have more enthusiasm, more energy, persistence, resilience and creativity.
Some people appear more driven to succeed than others. Why? Is it just something one is born with – or can you increase your level of motivation and use it to move yourself towards a better future? The answer is yes. How? By gaining a better understanding of motivation and applying the tools and techniques you’re learning about.
Nothing constructive and worthy of man’s efforts ever has or ever will be achieved except by that which comes from a positive mental attitude, based on a definiteness of purpose and activated by a burning desire, and acted upon until the burning desire is elevated to the level of applied faith.
The key to staying motivated lies in our old friend, the ITIA formula.
Step two: summing up
As a human being your ability to reflect on your experiences and think and act for yourself is your greatest asset. Your success in any walk of life ultimately depends on what you think, say, imagine and do. These are the major causes – your life itself and how you feel about it are the effects, and since you’re in charge of your thoughts, word, imagination and actions, you’re in charge of your destiny too.
Negative thinking is probably the main single reason why many people do not achieve their goals. It is a habit, usually learned in childhood; it has nothing whatsoever to do with your genes. Unwanted thinking patterns can be changed with just a little willpower and patience.
The ITIA formula is a complete approach to positive mental conditioning. Fix your intentions (goals); correct negative self-talk and dispute unhelpful beliefs; constantly affirm and envision your happiness and success; and identify the actions that will take you closer to your goals and keep doing them.