With Will Ross
Meaning of Life
Up until 1955, Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis had been the dominating influence in the field of psychology. Then in 1955, Albert Ellis started a revolution. He discovered that the real reason his clients were upset had nothing to do with their childhood (as claimed by Freud) but had everything to do with their beliefs.
Ellis found that when he got his clients to 'unlearn' some of their irrational beliefs, and replace them with rational ones, they very quickly got much better. With this discovery, Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) was born!
Interestingly, Ellis discovered that his clients all shared a number of similar beliefs. These same beliefs are the ones that hold most people back from reaching their full potential, and restrict their personal development.
As you read through the beliefs, you'll undoubtedly recognize that they are irrational, and you'll probably think that you don't believe them. And there is the trap. When they're pointed out they seem obvious, but rest assured, at least one of these beliefs, if not all of them, has at some time stunted your personal growth.
The good news is that each belief has a rational alternative. If you convince yourself of the truth of the alternative, you'll very quickly unleash your full potential.
Let's now examine some of the common irrational beliefs that Ellis discovered:
1. It's awful and I can't stand it if I look foolish or if people don't like me. I mustn't do anything that would make people look down on me.
Being afraid of looking foolish is perhaps the biggest obstacle to most people's personal growth. Fear of being looked down on keeps you from doing the things you want to do with your life. You are under the influence of this belief when you say things like:
If fear of disapproval is holding you back, remind yourself of this rational alternative: Much as I'd prefer it for others to like me I don't need their approval. I can live happily and fully without their love and approval.
2. My personal worth is based on how well I do things. Therefore, I must do everything well. If I make a mistake, or do poorly it proves how worthless I am. I must not fail.
Fear of failure is the second major obstacle to personal growth. Because you believe that your personal worth is on the line, you decide not to take any risks. As a consequence you remain stuck in the same rut day after day. Fear of your own incompetence keeps you from doing the things you want to do and living the life you want to live. This belief is at work when you say things like:
If fear of failure is holding you back, remind yourself of this rational alternative: I don't have to prove myself to anybody, especially myself. Although I'd like to do well, I don't have to be good at what I do.
3. It's awful when things are not the way I'd like them to be.
Not all of your hopes and dreams will come to fruition and your life will frequently not go according to plan. But whining about it won't help. When you tell yourself that a situation is awful or terrible, you make it worse than it already is by exaggerating the inconvenience. No matter how disappointed you are, it is not the end of the world. When you convince yourself that you can't stand the situation, you invariably waste time and energy upsetting yourself about it instead of doing something constructive towards your personal development. The following statements are typical of people whose whining has derailed their personal growth.
When you complain about how awful 'it' is, all you're doing is making yourself miserable. You can learn to accept life's troubles without letting them get in the way of your personal development by reminding yourself of the rational alternative: It's unfortunate when I don't get what I want, but it's hardly the end of the world. It won't kill me.
4. I can't help feeling the way I do. My feelings are the result of what is going on in my life.
Most people feel upset or stressed when things go wrong in their lives. That's natural. But it makes no sense to continue feeling that way long after the event has passed. As Epictetus pointed out 2,000 years ago, we make ourselves upset by what we tell ourselves. You can change the way you feel by changing the things you say to yourself. Brooding over your misfortunes prevents you from getting over the past, and from getting on with enjoying the rest of your life. The belief that you can't help your feelings is widespread, but it's false. You can see evidence of the belief in each of these statements:
You can stop being a victim and start taking control of your emotional destiny. When you weigh yourself down with bad feelings, lift yourself up again with this rational alternative: I can change the way I feel by changing the things I say to myself. I'll feel better the minute I stop telling myself nonsense.
5. People should always do the right thing. When they do the wrong thing, it proves that they're no good, and they should be made to suffer.
Whenever you find yourself getting angry with someone – including yourself – it's a sure sign that you're buying into this belief. You tell yourself that there is a difference between right and wrong, and that everyone should observe that difference and stick to what's right. Getting angry is a waste of your valuable energy that could be better spent on doing things that you enjoy and that keep your blood pressure down. You're under the influence of this belief when you say things like:
When you find yourself wasting energy by getting angry with someone, remind yourself of this rational alternative: Life would be better if people made an effort to do the right thing and act more kindly towards one another – especially towards me – but there's no law of the universe that says they must.
6. I can't stand discomfort, therefore I shouldn't have to put up with it.
Getting the most out of life takes effort. First, you must decide what you want, and then be willing to pay the price. Telling yourself that you can't stand discomfort and hassle, indicates an unwillingness to pay the price, and leads to a mediocre existence. If you find yourself continually avoiding responsibilities or spend a lot of time idly loafing instead of doing the things that will create a better life for yourself, then there's a good chance that you're buying into this belief. Here are some typical statements from discomfort-dodgers:
When inconvenience and hassle stand between you and your goals, remind yourself of the rational alternative: There's seldom gain without pain. I can tolerate this discomfort, although I may never like it.
7. I need someone stronger than myself on whom to depend or rely.
Friends and family can often be a source of comfort and support. But if you tell yourself that your personal development is dependent on them or other outsiders, your growth will be less than optimal. While you may find it helpful to turn to others, exclusive reliance on them or on a higher power will eventually sabotage your ability to handle your own challenges. The key to be on the lookout for is anything that indicates the word 'need.' The following phrases are examples of over-dependence:
It makes sense to get help when you can, but it makes no sense to regularly tell yourself that you need others. If your growth is stalled or delayed because you're overly dependent on others, tell yourself this rational alternative: Life's easier when I have someone to help me, but I don't need them for every hassle that comes my way. With effort, I can do it alone.
These are the 7 beliefs of highly ineffective people. By replacing them with their rational alternatives, you'll be ready to soar!
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