Change and improvement in any area of life is impossible without changing your beliefs. Change a belief and you can change your reality; hold your beliefs constant and your life is guaranteed to stay the same. This is a fact. And this is probably the No. 1 mistake I see people make while striving to achieve their goals: They don’t analyze and adjust their beliefs accordingly.
Failing to do so is just setting yourself up for failure. It’s like beating yourself up because you don’t wake up as early as you’d like, when the real problem is that you go to bed at 2 a.m. every night. You must first address the core issue before you can create the change you want to see.
I’ll be the first to admit that the beliefs I’ve listed below did not always belong to me. In fact, my beliefs used to be nearly the opposite of what I’ve written here. It is only through time, a countless number of mistakes, some victories and a great deal of self-reflection that I have absorbed these beliefs into my everyday life. These beliefs are now the foundation of my mental and emotional framework, and keeping them present in my mind has perhaps had the greatest positive impact on my life—as an entrepreneur, business leader, husband, friend and a person just trying to give back my fair share to the world.
I come to you today purely from a place of shared experience. These beliefs have made all the difference for me, and as a result, I believe I’m more content and effective than I’ve ever been. It is my hope that they will have a similar impact on you.
But I must warn you. These will likely seem counterintuitive, and your biology and frame of mind will often tell you to think the opposite. I simply encourage you to stand up to your current belief system and give these new beliefs a chance. What’s the worst that can happen?
Even if after reading these beliefs you don’t immediately believe them (I didn’t the first time I cycled through), just ask yourself, if you did force yourself to believe them, what would change? Would you and those around you be better off? To me this is the key question we must always ask ourselves when considering whether to adopt a new belief. Would our lives be better if we believed these things? If the answer is a resounding yes, maybe, just maybe, it makes sense to fake it ’til you make it.
So here they are: the three top new beliefs that can change your life for the better.
Belief No. 1: The way others act around us is a reflection of ourselves, not them.
Consider the following: Your spouse always seems to be in a bad mood and isn’t as loving as you’d like them to be. Maybe instead of seeing it as their fault, you recognize that you haven’t completely taken ownership in the relationship, and haven’t exactly presented the best version of yourself to your spouse. Then you see that you could do much more to inspire them, support them in their goals and give them love without the expectation of love in return. Sure enough, your spouse becomes the loving person you first fell in love with. Magic ensues.
Your company culture isn’t where it needs to be. Your employees aren’t as engaged as they should be, don’t care as much as you’d like them to, and there always seems to be in-fighting and difficulty with effective collaboration. Is this their fault, or is this a reflection of you as a leader?
How can you expect your team to be fully engaged with your organization when you’re not fully engaged with them? When’s the last time you sat down with each of them just to connect and see what’s happening in their lives? Perhaps they seem to be distrustful of you and your vision because you’re distrusting of them, quick to jump on them when they make mistakes rather than giving them an unreasonable benefit of the doubt. Is it possible that you exert your authority, show anger and frustration, and dominate the conversation in meetings, thus making it difficult for others to relate to you while encouraging fear amongst your team? When you really look at it, are you actually a part of the problem?
Related: 10 Habits of Ultra-Likeable Leaders
When we start to take complete ownership of our surroundings, it forces us to look at ourselves and see how we can improve. This comes down to radical responsibility. When we take radical responsibility over every aspect of our lives, we feel a sense of simultaneous freedom and control that is uncanny and difficult to describe. With this mindset of ownership and responsibility, we’re free to create the life we want and are no longer held hostage to how other people act. This allows us to live the reality we want to live and have maximum positive impact on ourselves and those around us.
Belief No. 2: The way we view the world says much about ourselves and very little about the world.
As human beings, we love to label people and things. That person is arrogant. That activity is stupid. But what do these labels, and these perceptions, say about us?
Perhaps the person you’re calling arrogant is simply more confident than you, and that makes you feel bad about yourself. Or maybe they’ve had a lot of success, which in turn makes you think about those successes you haven’t yet achieved. Or even if the person acts more proud than they should, what if instead you recognized their positive qualities, and thus were attracted to them, became relatable to them and were therefore at least able to experience a positive interaction with them?
After calling an activity stupid, ask yourself, Is it really? Or are you afraid of participating in the activity because of how you think it would make you look or how it would be inconsistent with the identity you’ve created for yourself? If you had a growth mindset and weren’t scared about making mistakes, would you look at the activity the same way? We’ve all created identities for ourselves, and often these identities do not serve us.
The world has a funny way of meeting our expectations. If we expect people to treat us poorly, they typically will. If, on the other hand, we expect to be loved, held in high regard and that the universe will continually be conspiring in our favor, that reality is often created. Be very careful with your expectations, because they just might occur.
Belief No. 3: The things that we resent in others typically reflect deficiencies or dislikes we see in ourselves.
Resent is a very strong word. But most of us have resentments. And many of us can even think of a person we resent. Let’s try this.
Think about a person you resent, or a particular trait of a person that you resent. Dig deep here. What does this resentment say about you?
Perhaps you resent a co-worker for always leaving work at 5 p.m. so they can see their kids and have dinner with their family. You think, Geez, here I am crushing it at work and staying at the office every night until 8 p.m., and Bob is leaving every night when the clock strikes 5:00. He’s a bad team member who isn’t aligned with our organization and should be fired.
Is this really how you feel? Remember, we promised to dig deep here. Do you really care when Bob leaves the office? How does that impact you? More than likely, you’re frustrated with yourself that you don’t have a strong enough why to leave work at a particular hour or you’re not yet disciplined enough to get all of your work done more efficiently. It’s not about Bob; it’s about you. And by the way, Bob might very well be achieving all of his goals, logging onto his computer at 8 p.m. after hanging out with his family and gets in earlier than you do. But you didn’t notice those things, did you?
Maybe you resent that person in your friend group who is always happy and acts so damn optimistic. Since when is that a problem? You resent them because you haven’t yet found out how to exude that same optimism, joy and cheer. Maybe you don’t even try.
Perhaps it’s your spouse. Those unique things they do, those unique qualities and skills and habits that you fell in love with way back when. You fell in love with those things because you didn’t possess them in yourself (but very likely wish you did). That’s why you found them so attractive! But now it’s been 10, 15 or 30 years, and those things that used to attract you now remind you how you don’t have them in yourself. You thought they would have rubbed off by now. Now when you see them, you feel deficient and recognize what you don’t have. You adopt a scarcity mindset without realizing it. You feel bad. So you resent your spouse, treat them poorly and this leads to your relationship suffering. All because of how you view yourself.
If your resentments in others had nothing to do with you and how you feel about yourself, then why would you resent somebody for being that way? You wouldn’t; you wouldn’t really care. You wouldn’t let that person bother you.
By believing that our resentments are actually signals showing us how we feel about ourselves, it allows us to focus on what we can control (ourselves).
By believing that our resentments are actually signals showing us how we feel about ourselves, it allows us to focus on what we can control (ourselves) and not what we can’t (other people). That’s the key here! That’s the key with all of these beliefs. By having these beliefs, it allows us to focus on things that we can alter and not get caught up or invested in those things we can’t. When we spend our efforts on things that we can change instead of those things we can’t, we can create a significantly better life for ourselves. When we spend time trying to change things we can’t, we will likely end up insane, depressed or just feeling burnt out on life.
Self-awareness is the guide that lightens the path to a better life, a more exciting reality and a more fulfilled existence.
Related: 5 Steps to Personal Greatness
Sean Kelly is the CEO and co-founder of SnackNation, a healthy food-as-a-service company that helps make healthy snacking fun, life more productive and workplaces awesome. SnackNation provides thousands of offices across America with a curated selection of healthy snacks and emerging brands on a recurring membership basis. The Los Angeles Business Journal named the company one of Los Angeles’ Best Places to Work in 2016 (#35).
Sean is also the co-founder of HUMAN (Helping Unite Mankind And Nutrition), an Inc. 500 listed healthy vending machine and micro-market company, and the host of The Awesome Office Show, an award-winning podcast that helps people-focused executives and HR pros become better leaders and create more inspiring organizational cultures. Forbes magazine called him one of the top 30 leaders under 30 and one of America’s most promising CEOs under 35, and he’s been recognized as a top 25 young entrepreneur by Businessweek and a “Generation Next” entrepreneur by CNN. He holds a degree in Biomedical Engineering from Columbia University, is a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO), and lives in Santa Monica, California, with his wife and college sweetheart Shannon.