Chapter 1: You Are What You Think

My family struggled when I was a child, a fact that I was always painfully conscious of. So I was always worried about what others thought of us. As a matter of fact, I worried so much that I would start to believe whatever I heard other people say about us. I believed that my family wasn’t as “good” as the other families in the neighborhood. This then carried over into my own sense of self-worth and what I believed I was worthy of. I ended up internalizing and carrying those beliefs with me into adulthood.

Our childhood has a profound impact on our lives. It shapes so many of the beliefs you operate under today, but I’m going to tell you something that will impact your life forever: You are not what people say about you, but what you believe about yourself. It may sound intuitive but this realization was an epiphany for me.

You are no accident. You are wonderfully made. There is a purpose to your life. You just have to believe it.

You Are in Charge of Your Beliefs

Before we journey through your beliefs in your value and how they impact your progress in life, I feel it’s important to address any argument you might have as to whether or not you are even in control, or allowed to be in control, of your beliefs.

Your beliefs don’t just happen—you have freedom over them. We can think freely and believe whatever we want at any given time. That is a powerful thing! It is this freedom over our beliefs that, when correctly applied about ourselves, leads to greatness and wonderful progress in our lives.

As I was swept up in the legal fallout of my company’s sale, the last thing I felt was “in control.” I felt like there was little I could do but react to what came my way, put together my defense, and then see how the chips fell. If you had asked me then, I would have told you that I believed that my circumstances dictated my beliefs. After all, how could I find joy when it felt like my life was shaking apart?

It was a verse from Genesis that made me think differently:

“Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man [Adam] to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky, and all the wild animals.” – Genesis 2:19

I had heard the verse before, but had always paid more attention to the creation aspect. Now, for the first time, I was paying attention to the last half of the passage. Even in the presence of God, Adam had agency. He had authority to use his mind, to allow his brain to be free to discover, think, calculate, contemplate, and determine the world around him.

The scene could have played out differently. God could have acted like Adam’s boss: “Send me a proposal on what names you think are best for the creatures, and I’ll take that into consideration when naming them.”

Let’s imagine for a moment that’s how God and Adam’s transaction took place. Would Adam’s responsibility and burden change? It sure would, because he would simply be living in a world that he would never impact. If Adam’s world was externally controlled and wholly determined, then he wouldn’t have a purpose within it. And he’d know it. If Adam believed that the “king of the jungle” should be named “lion” but God changed it to something else, then Adam would have every reason to believe that his thoughts had no power and his actions had no meaning. He would likely believe—just as I did at that time—that it didn’t matter what he did because his life was going to be determined by circumstances outside his control.

My jaw practically hit the floor, as I finally understood what this passage was telling me. Adam had the freedom to determine the world around him, even in the presence of the highest controlling force—his very Creator. Surely this meant that I, too, had the freedom to determine the nature of my own existence in this world; I was only up against lawyers!

I realized that I hadn’t taken control of my beliefs and, by extension, my life. Instead I had given myself over to depositions and damage control. If you don’t accept authority over your beliefs, then you allow the world to have that power instead. You are suddenly at the whim of the world’s beliefs. Whatever the world tells you about “you” has more authority in your life than your own beliefs about the value placed in you.

Giving the power of your beliefs to others causes you to allow the world to decide your actions and progress. And as your progress slows to a halt, you place the blame on the world:

“Everything that happens is someone else’s fault.”

“The system or the man is holding me down.”

“Well if they would have called, I would have helped.”

“If he showed he cared, maybe I would do something about that.”

“If she showed me respect, then I would give her more time.”

In doing that, you have relinquished your personal agency—your ability to determine your life—AND your personal responsibility for your life over to external forces. With this transfer in power, you start to allow others to shape the belief you have in your value. Over time, you don’t even have a clear picture of your own true identity.

The truth is we do have freedom over our beliefs, but it does us little good if we do not accept it. And I want to encourage you to accept that right now.

EXERCISE: While this may seem juvenile to you, this exercise is powerful and will help you to reset your thinking and believe you are in control of your thoughts and beliefs.

You’ll find a list of daily affirmations that I say to myself each day at abetteryou.com/resources. This allows my brain to hear the beliefs that are core to me. Right now, say to yourself: “I am valuable. I am wonderfully made. I have freedom to control my thoughts. Whatever I believe will directly impact my attitude, my actions, and the progress in my life.”

Repeat this three times.

If this is a core belief of yours already, then I encourage you to continue to protect that belief by saying this daily to yourself. If this is NOT already one of your core beliefs, then I encourage you to say this daily to renew your thinking and allow yourself to believe that you valuable and with this freedom you are in control of your life. Your life is your responsibility—taken ownership of it!

Take Ownership

How many times have we made a bad decision in our lives, only to blame someone else for it? We must take personal responsibility for our actions; it’s the only true measure that we really believe we have the freedom to control our thoughts and beliefs.

When you believe you have freedom over your thoughts, your actions will represent this belief. You’ll find your true identity—who you really are inside—not just the idea of “you” that the world imposes on you. Knowing this is critical to owning up to our failures, knowing that when we make bad decisions it’s not someone else’s fault. It’s also important to note that handing control of your beliefs to the world is still a choice, whether it is conscious or not. You might believe that stuff just happens in your life and you have no control, but that does not make it so. Adhering to a belief that doesn’t serve you is still a choice. The fact is, you brought yourself to where you are today under your own freedom and it is with that same freedom that you will take yourself where you want to go.

This was a powerful realization in my life: It’s not only having the power of free thought and authority over our beliefs that’s important, it’s actually believing that you do and taking responsibility for what you do with it. It’s this core belief that is critical to how you see yourself.

Do you see yourself as the world says you are or as valuable? Evaluate your actions in life, and this will expose your underlying belief.

EXERCISE: Take a moment and spend some time evaluating who is in charge of your beliefs. What do you let impact those beliefs? Take your time with this exercise. It’s worth the investment!

So many strong authorities and thought leaders support the fact that your life is a direct result of your own beliefs. There are so many quotes out there that drive home this point, but here are a few of my favorites:

“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” – Proverbs 23:7

“Man is what he believes.” – Anton Chekhov

“Seeing is not believing; believing is seeing! You see things not as they are, but as you are.” – Eric Butterworth

“What we can or cannot do, what we consider possible or impossible, is rarely a function of our true capability. It is more likely a function of our beliefs about who we are.” – Anthony Robbins

What is each author driving at here? Your image and belief of yourself will impact the direction of your life and every action you do or don’t take. The perspective you have on each situation in your own life, and the progress you make on the journey, are all impacted by the belief you have in your value.

You truly have the freedom to control your thoughts. And with this freedom, you can choose to see yourself as amazing and having great value. I firmly believe that none of us is an accident. We are valuable and designed to accomplish great things.

This belief didn’t come to me overnight. I actually still had the ingrained thinking of my failures. It was over time, with constant prayer and meditation and my maturing, that I developed this new perspective on myself.

I used to see myself as a failure, as someone who didn’t even deserve success. I now realize I was allowing these internalized beliefs to drive my actions and, in turn, created a self-fulfilling prophecy. I allowed my negative view of myself to drive my decisions—settling for lesser deals, backing down, not asking for what I really wanted. And if any of those decisions were wrong, it simply proved that my belief that I was a failure. In the next chapter, we’ll dig deeper into the destruction of these lies, but for now you need to know that you are wonderful and beautiful. You have a purpose and you are perfectly capable of fulfilling it. You are alive and breathing—that is no accident. You are interacting with and impacting your world. If we adopt this view of ourselves—if we can see ourselves from this loving perspective—then we would see ourselves as valuable and important to this world and the people in it.

During this discovery in my life, I wanted to know more about God’s love for me. This was critical to my understanding of my value and why I am in the position I’m at in my life. His love is a pure love. Since we are covered in His love, He only sees us through that perfect love. For me, this simple realization set me on the path to discovering how to create a better “me.” It is my sincere hope that this book can do the same for you. Whether or not you share my religious beliefs, the lessons I’ve learned from walking this path can help you in your own journey to discover and believe in your value.

Life’s Ceiling

Let’s revisit the self-determining power of our belief in our value (or lack thereof). My belief that I was a failure actually lowered the ceiling on my life. You’ll only go as far in life as you believe you can. Imagine a scale of your life, with one being the lowest and ten being the highest in terms of your belief in your value.

Let’s say that you see yourself as average. In this case, you’d see yourself as a five. If you only see yourself as a five, then you’ll never be more than a five. You will only see the opportunities that you think are available to you and never think to look higher—and so you’ll stay where you are. But what could be possible if you choose to see yourself as a ten?

I challenge you to see yourself as a ten. And I say “challenge” because it’s not an easy thing to do. Not only do you need to reverse old patterns of thinking, but you also have to undo the negative and defeating ideas ingrained in us by the world around us.

The world has told us some huge lies: “You shouldn’t think too highly of yourself.” and, “You’re not as great as you think you are,” and, “Who are you to think so highly of yourself?” Humility is a virtue but not when it limits your belief in yourself.

I believe the real virtue of humility is to acknowledge and appreciate your gifts without seeing yourself as greater than others because of them. We all suffer from the inclination to hold ourselves and our lives—whether it is our success, our ability, or even our clothes—against the lives of those around us, feeding our egos as we determine our worth by comparison.

The living example of this principle came into my life through Ezra, the leader of my church’s worship team and a man that I am truly blessed to call a friend. Ezra is a gifted musician and talented singer. My singing “ability” could get me kicked off a karaoke stage. Yet, despite his amazing voice, Ezra would never discourage me from joining him in song. He would never think that his talent gives him more worth than another person.

But Ezra also doesn’t deny or downplay his talent either. To do so would be false humility at best, and a waste of talent at worse. Instead, he acknowledges and appreciates his gift—he sees his talent as valuable—and he uses it to serve and encourage others.

Imagine if Ezra allowed the negative influence of the world—the messages telling him, “How dare you consider yourself a great singer!”—to take control of his beliefs. Imagine if Ezra thought his talent was not valuable. What if Ezra told another singer that her talent was worthless?

The real point is that you should not lower your belief in your value or your talents, but that you shouldn’t let that belief make you think you’re better than others. Understand that each of us is valuable, with a gift and a purpose in this world. It is up to us to share our gifts AND acknowledge and encourage the gifts in others, just as Ezra does.

Today, the world says, “Who are you to think you’re so great?” I would respond by saying that in my individual and unique life I am wonderfully made. I choose to view myself as valuable. And you are too! You just have to believe it. Each of us is different and we each excel at different things. Life’s journey is about figuring out your talents and then sharing those as gifts with the world.

This basic lie the world has taught us is so ingrained in our thinking that we truly struggle with a correct view of our own value. This struggle for value is so powerful that if we don’t see ourselves as valuable, then we start to see destruction in our lives—things like self-negation, self-hatred, and an unwillingness to forgive ourselves. This destruction will lead us down a path of believing we have no value.

And so we get to the basis of this book! We struggle with the primary aspect of believing in our value. This struggle causes us to have a negative attitude. It prevents us from being able to help others. It stops us from making any progress and keeps us from getting the results we want in life. Our ability to accomplish our goals is severely impacted by our poor belief in our value.

So how can we change this belief in our value?

Renewing Your Mind

“If you can change your mind, you can change your life.” – William James

The beliefs we’ve been fed (lies in many cases) significantly impact our thoughts and behaviors. You need to recognize that you are beautifully and wonderfully made. You are valuable. You have great value to share once you know it and take action on your beliefs.

Because you’ve been taught not to believe in your own value, you need to adjust your thinking, and in many cases completely overhaul the beliefs that you are not only allowed to, but are actually supposed to, have about your value.

You need to renew your mind and your thought process, but this is no easy task. A powerful verse from the Book of Romans underscores the importance of how powerful our mind and freedom of belief really are, and how the ingrained beliefs we have need to be renewed:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” – Romans 12:2

This is such a powerful statement, and it helped me change the way I think about the messages I take in from the world around me. Let’s break it down a little. What are some predominant lies we are often taught? On either a cultural or personal level (or both), it’s likely that you have been taught to believe the following statements:

 

  1. – Who are you to strive above and beyond?
  2. – We should all be equal in our success.
  3. – You are not going to be able to do that!
  4. – No one in your family has done that before. What makes you special?
  5. – You are no better than me. (True, but falsely used.)
  6. – It takes money to make money.
  7. – If I had your talents I’d be better off in life.
  8. – Someday when I have a bunch of money, I’ll be happy.
  9. – I don’t want to step outside my comfort zone.
  10. – I don’t have the time.
  11. – I will do that tomorrow.
  12. – I am not worthy of success.

 

These statements are just examples of the power of external influence to shape our beliefs. There are so many more worldly beliefs thrust into your brain that I could probably write a whole book of quotes that are outright lies. Listening to these types of statements conform our behavior to those negative patterns. And if this is something you’ve been doing over time, you’ve probably established patterns in your behavior that will require effort to change. The good news is that you have the freedom to make that change.

The brain is the strongest organ in our body and it can have significant ramifications when it comes to the patterns of beliefs we have established. Simply trying to think differently won’t cut it. Our brains will resist change and try to revert back to our old patterns quickly. Studies have shown that when your beliefs are temporary in nature, then you’re most likely to return back to a certain type of thinking or a pattern of acting that reflects your established beliefs.1 In other words, to truly affect change, you can’t just change your thoughts. You have to change your beliefs.

In addition to resistance to change, there are behavioral triggers that help reinforce the “no change” message to the brain. If we don’t address these triggers and our short-term thinking, then our mindset will stay firmly rooted in a poor belief of ourselves.

So how do we break this pattern of thinking?

Repeat Behavior

In order to actually have a long-term impact on your beliefs, you need to actually renew your mind. So let’s break down the second half of the verse from earlier:

“Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” – Romans 12:2

A transformation is a “thorough and dramatic change in form.”2 In other words, it takes radical action to renew your mind. As I mentioned earlier, your brain will resist a dramatic change in beliefs because it has already established a pattern of beliefs. The physically constructed pathways in your brain are well established and it would take a radical effort to change them. Instead, you need to create new pathways!

But just how do we create new physical pathways in our brains? We must first renew our minds in order to create new pathways, and this requires purposeful effort repeated over time to establish a new and better habit in how you view your value. In order to not conform to the patterns of this world—beliefs that focus on a lesser version of you—we need to develop new patterns and practices that allow you to believe in a better version of your value.

As I mentioned, creating a habit is necessary to transform an established pattern or belief. So if you see yourself as mediocre (a five on our scale), then in order to see yourself as a ten you have to purposely and repetitively think of yourself as a ten in order to actually renew your thinking.

Jeff Olson, author of A Slight Edge, has some great insights on daily habits. He discusses how you need to work each day for at least 60 days to develop a habit. Some studies indicate that you can develop a habit in a little as 21 days, but there is also evidence that the pattern is not fully established after such a short period of time.

Decide for yourself: what can you do for the next 60 days to change your pattern of thinking and renew your mind?

Fail Forward

I’ve been a businessman most of my adult life. I’ve had many failed ventures, along with a few successful ones throughout my career. I figured that a mix of a few successes and a lot of failure was the name of the game. Besides, I naturally expected myself to fail. I always had a pattern of thinking in my life that told me I was not supposed to be successful since I came from such humble beginnings. Each time one of my business ideas failed, my mind would veer back to my belief that I failed because I was not worthy of success. It was a powerful belief in my life; so powerful that I may not have been succeeding because of it.

Earlier in my career we had an information publishing business that taught people how to run a successful home business. We massively grew this company to over 200 employees and many products. To capitalize on its success, we decided to sell the company to a group out west, but the sale didn’t go as planned.

The entire company ultimately closed and we didn’t recoup anywhere near our expected proceeds. I quickly realized that I could have structured that transaction much differently and avoided much heartache and job loss.

When the buyer’s parent company was shut down it dragged our business down with it. We didn’t plan any asset protection or business sheltering—the exact things I am an expert at preparing for other people. I was so consumed with the sale and the proceeds that I completely ignored protection against a catastrophic event. I suddenly started to feel that I was not worthy of success; that I should expect to fail and not to overcome.

Wow, did I have that all wrong! Not only was I viewing my potential for success as a five, but I also saw failure as an outcome—a stopping point—instead of a step on my journey to where I wanted to be. I realized failure can be used to shape my character, not define my life. I never considered that failures helped me to develop and ultimately to prepare me for success!

This was a game changer for me! My failures were not a reality of my being unworthy. My failures were actually part of the journey of life. These events shaped my character and helped me to develop perseverance. I was no longer a slave to the lie that I was not worthy of success because I failed. I actually became more eligible for success because I now believed that I had the strength to push through these failures.

This has been essential to me as a husband, a father, and an entrepreneur. This belief allows me to endure and push through all hardships, and it will help you too. The key is to believe in the belief.

I made the decision to believe that about myself, and each day from there I had to remind myself of this (to develop the habit of positive beliefs). The business failure that I mentioned earlier came with consequences for my bad decisions. I had a lot of doubt and conflict to work through. Each day, I was given a choice to believe in my ability to endure or to fail. And each day, I made the conscious choice to believe not only in my strength to come out on the other side of this failed step but also in my future success. I chose that perspective every day until I truly believed it. I won’t say it’s easy, but believing in your own ability is worth the effort.

It’s a simple, fleeting decision to change your mind. It’s a daily endurance race—and a worthy investment—to renew your mind.

EXERCISE: Stop right now! I want to take you through a powerful exercise. Get in front of a mirror and tell yourself that you are valuable, even in your imperfections—that you are beautifully and wonderfully made and that you are worthy of success. Repeat this to yourself 3 times.

Now I know that feels good now, but I challenge you to do this every day for at least 60 days, and I promise you will see an amazing renewal in your mind. Your belief in your true value will be better.

In the next chapter, we’ll discuss the power of positive thinking and its impact on your beliefs. But let me briefly say here that you NEED to have the positive mindset that this will work in order to have any chance of success. You have to believe that you can change your thinking to believe in a better version of yourself.

Believe in the Belief

I could just throw information at you about believing in yourself or how to work on renewing your mind, but the first and most important step – is actually believing in your value. This may seem simple, but it’s critical.

Then, from there, you can build your beliefs on a firm foundation. I believe in a better you. The basis of this book is built on this belief in your value! You don’t need to hear from me or anyone else that you are valuable. External validation certainly feels good, but it’s not necessary. Your belief is enough. When you bear sole control (and responsibility) for your beliefs, you do not need to rely on the impact of the world.

Chapter Takeaways

 

  1. 1. You have freedom to control your beliefs, especially your belief in your value.

 

  1. 2. Assess your current beliefs about yourself so you know what patterns to work on changing.

 

  1. 3. You are only going to progress as far in life as you believe you can. See yourself as valuable!

 

  1. 4. In order to change your thinking, you need to renew your mind.

 

  1. 5. The only way to succeed in renewing your mind is to believe in developing the habit each and every day to renew your thinking!

 

  1. 6. Your belief in your value must be real in order to make a difference.

 

  1. 7. You don’t need me or anyone else to tell you that you are already valuable. You just need to believe!

 

Resources

If you want to explore some great tools and exercises that can help you with renewing your mind, visit abetteryou.com/resources. You can also reach out to us at [email protected] for anything we can help you with on your journey to a better you!

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