What we believe determines what happens to us

When you’re a writer, an artist, or an entrepreneur, you can feel like the whole world is against you.

It feels like there are far too many obstacles and roadblocks to fight through.

And on some days, it’s terribly exhausting, making you think that you just can’t hack it anymore.

Worse still, everyone else seems to be making money in far easier ways — just rock up to work and put in the hours… But you know that that way of life in the end is not easy.

Some people can do it, but not you.

So, you strive forward on your own (the road to doing your own thing is not crowded) but you continue to wrestle with thoughts like:

Who do you think you are? No one in your family has created the life they wanted. They got what life gave them. How can you expect things to be different?

It is thoughts like these that make being a creator terribly difficult. Not only do you have to deal with the uncertainty of creating something that people may love or hate, but you also must wrestle with the demons of the past, and every doubt that has plagued your family for centuries.

I see these demons as the major forces that stop us from sharing our gifts. We are so busy trying to fight them off, that we don’t connect with who we are — we don’t develop the self-awareness we need to work on what is most meaningful to us.

I too lived with those demons for far too long.

I believed that I was a victim of my circumstances. I had little opportunities because of my background, my past and who I was.

I saw the decades of conflict and turmoil in my family and extended family as something that others didn’t have to battle with.

They were the “lucky” ones.

Worst of all, I saw my early years of struggle and abandonment as meaning that I was not valuable.

Not smart enough, attractive enough or good enough. Other people are lucky. They are blessed with fortunate circumstances. But I’m not.

Because of these thoughts, a large part of my early years were spent running away. Running away from my inner voice that was screaming out to be heard. Of course, I tried to smother it. But the more I tried, the more anxious I would become.

My anxiety stemmed from not knowing who I was.

My identity was defined in opposition to others. They were rich, I was poor. They were beautiful, I was ugly. They were smart, I was dumb.

I saw myself as inferior in every which way possible. Genetically, culturally and historically.

But it was these very ideas that were alienating me from myself. With this smorgasbord of self-defeating beliefs, I ended up in hospital, terribly afraid and weak.

Ultimately, I learned that it was my beliefs about who I was that brought me there.

What we believe determines the direction we go in.

If we believe that we must stay in a job because we’re lucky to even have a job, then we will stay in that job, no matter how boring, repetitive or uninspiring.

If we believe that we must stay in a marriage because we are unattractive and no one else will put up with us, then we are going to stay in that marriage, no matter how bad.

If we believe that we are born sickly and that we are doomed to a life of ill health, we will experience nothing but ill health. We may have moments of temporary reprieve but sooner or later, we are struck down again — a victim of our bad biology.

This is not natural or normal, we are taught to think like this.

Just as we learn how to walk and talk, we learn about our limitations. Our parents and society don’t deliberately try to sabotage us. They also learned the same “facts”.

From their earliest years, they were told that they can’t do this and they can’t do that. They are not talented, not smart enough and definitely not like those successful people. They ended up absorbing this way of looking at the world hook, line and sinker. They grew up believing that they were unable to have what they wanted.

We grew up this way too.

When we do manage to get something we want (as we always get some things that we want) we don’t see it as a direct result of our efforts. We put it down to luck, or the stars have aligned in our favour. We feel like the wily fox who just narrowly escapes a trap, relieved and lucky to have been so fortunate, but in no way will be repeating the same steps just in case he or she is not so lucky the next time.

We also carry our experiences of failure like a red blaze across our chest. Forever burnt into our flesh, ready to bleed at the slightest word. Our memory of failing to achieve good grades or approval from a loved one reinforces our feeling that we cannot have what we want or even worse, we don’t deserve it.

Often, we don’t even know what we want.

We see others around us not creating what they want, and we assume that we must live like that too. We feel guilty for wanting more, and guilt is one of the deadliest emotions. It prevents us from doing what we love, and when we don’t do what we love, we are in a world of pain.

Henry David Thoreau wrote about how when we swallow the beliefs of our family and wider society about what we can and cannot do, we will live lives of quiet desperation. There will be an invisible policy that shapes and directs our lives and mostly for worse.

When we ingest these beliefs unquestioned, we lower our vision to what is achievable. We only do what is “realistic,” “practical” and what we believe we can have.

We succumb to determinism — believing that we have been dealt the cards of fate, and we have very little choice of what happens to us.

I saw this pattern of thinking in my immediate and extended family. There was a deep-seated belief that things happen to you, and most of your life is out of your control. There is a tonne of bad shit out there and you are doomed to be its victim. You are best to try and keep safe, stay out of trouble and be thankful you are not dead.

They believed that just like the moon controls the seasons of life on planet Earth, so does the cards of fate. We are given our lot and the most we can hope for is a life of “toleration” and immediate pleasures. Food, sex, romance, consumption of toys with bells and whistles became the primary goal — at least those things are achievable.

Taking on the challenges that successful people have mastered was way beyond even imagination. We just didn’t have it in us. We were of the peasant stock, poor, uneducated and with only enough ability to eat, shit and sleep.

But this is all based on the assumption that we couldn’t have what we want, even though many others can. Others can have it because they have been blessed by having “favourable circumstances” — the right family, biology, history, etc., but we were not so fortunate. I write about the 6 common reasons we believe we cannot have what we want here.

Robert Fritz, an author on creating what we want in our lives, outlines how the circumstances that exist in our life are not the determining factor of the results you desire to create. You are not limited by them, even though it may seem that you are entrenched in them.

It is our beliefs about what we can create that determine what happens to us.

If we believe we can’t have what we want, we will live the life that others have led us to believe is possible. If we believe we are determined by forces out of our control, we won’t realise that we have the power to make choices that will lead to the consequences that we favour.

When we take action to create the results we want in our life, we become a force to be reckoned with. We know it is our choices and actions that determine where we end up, not outside forces that don’t care too much about how fulfilling your work is to you.

Only you do.

Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will. ~Jawaharlal Nehru