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Changing Belief


Techniques Willpower > Desisting > Changing Belief

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



When you are doing something that you know is wrong, stop and reflect. What are the beliefs you have that are perpetuating this action?

Some beliefs that can lead to harmful action include:

  • I do not deserve to do well.
  • I can't do that.
  • I have to do this.
  • I can't stop myself.

One way of changing an absolute belief, such 'I can't' is to ask 'Can anyone' or 'Have you ever'. By finding one example that breaks a belief, you show yourself that the belief is not true.


A person who is trying to stop smoking believes that because it is a chemical and neurological effect, then it is impossible to quit. But then a friend reminds them that many people have given up.

When a person who is trying to stop procrastinating thinks about why they do this, they find that they have an underlying belief that they will be able to 'do it in time' or 'do it later', and then believe there will be no consequences for putting it off again. Thinking about it, they realize that there are significant consequences for them a little further into the future. 


Beliefs are often not proven truths in the way that scientific facts are true. They are often actually assumptions, based on very limited experience, faulty thinking or hearsay. Many beliefs are founded in childhood, where our understanding and experience of the world is limited. Yet we cling to those early beliefs, often to our longer-term and continuing detriment.

Beliefs are such a fundamental part of how we understand and live in the world we often do not realize that we hold them. And even if we do, we consider them to be immutable. In consequence, we do not think about the possibility of changing them. Yet if we do take the time to think about this, there is no reason why we cannot change them.

A powerful and simple way of changing beliefs is by reframing them. That is, by looking at the situation in a new light, seeing things in different ways and realizing that there are better truths and beliefs.

Even if you cannot be certain about something, you still may have to make some decision and hold some tentative belief. In any such situation, the best approach is often just to think 'what belief would serve me best, particularly in the longer term', and then adopt this.

See also

Beliefs, Reframing


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