An eagle lays an egg but somehow the egg finds its way into a chicken coup. A chicken incubates the egg with all her others and when it hatches, she rears the eaglet as if it were one of her own chicks. It learns to peck the dust for food, to flap its wings and to strut around the farmyard. One day, an eagle flies by overhead. The little eagle looks up and sees this, and says to himself, ‘I wish I were an eagle – how majestic, how free, and how beautiful to be like that and have such a life.’ The eagle lived like a chicken and died like a chicken, because that’s what he thought he was.
~Anthony de Mello
A belief is something you consider to be true. You cannot decide to believe one thing this week and another, opposing thing, next week. You might think you can, but it really doesn’t work like that. I read recently that baby circus elephants are tied to a strong metal post with a heavy chain because they will try to escape and expend a lot of energy on pulling at their tether. After some time, they accept that they will not be able to escape and so stop pulling. The adult elephants are tethered to a wooden stake with a light rope: they could easily escape, but they believe they are unable to do so, and so the light tethering works as a kind of symbol of their bondage. It is clear that whether your beliefs are true or not is irrelevant. What matters is what you regard to be true. It seems to me that this is a good definition of ‘belief.’
The tragedy of much adult life is that our vision is so limited. Like the elephant, we can walk away from our tether any time, but we often don’t because we are shackled by our false and limiting beliefs. People believe all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons. Some beliefs are trivial and others are very important, but two things are certain:
1. Our underlying beliefs operate at a deep, subconscious level, and
2. These underlying beliefs affect what we experience in life, including our level of success or failure in any endeavor.
Where do these beliefs come from? We learn our worldview from our parents, and if our parents think that life is a struggle and that money and success don’t come easily, then this will be our ‘defaults mode,’ too. We spend many years being ‘drip fed’ these beliefs and they get embedded deep in our subconscious. It’s fine to say ‘just change your beliefs,’ but it’s not always so easy. We have picked up many limiting beliefs from parents, teachers, friends, and society in general. Some of these beliefs are holding us back, so doesn’t it make sense that we should want to shed them?
Shedding these beliefs may cause some pain, but growth is often accompanied by pain, and I am confident that they pain of growth is a small price for the loss of a lifetime of limitation.
Our life is what our thoughts make it. Life is neither good or evil, but only a place for good and evil.