You ARE Your Beliefs!
A collection of 25 transformative essays on the psychology and philosophy of personal excellence on guitar and everything else!
I have often said “What you are as a person is what you will be as a guitarist”. This can be applied to any area of human endeavor. Upon close examination, you will find "All that you do proceeds from all that you are."
An exemplary student of my work, operating from this point of view, asked this question:
It is often said that limiting beliefs are useless and that it is better to just replace them with useful and empowering beliefs. I would like to know how to get rid of limiting beliefs? I have identified limiting beliefs that I hold and just knowing that I don’t want to hold them anymore is not enough to get rid of them! In certain situations, bad feelings arise to remind me of the useless belief.
However, I have a seemingly unshakable belief that I can get as good as I want on the guitar (and it allows me to always do correct practice and experience a lot of success with the guitar). I am not sure how I got to hold this belief and why other people don’t hold it as strongly......Guillaume
Yes, there are thousands of books about the power of beliefs, and in fact the subject has been discussed for thousands of years by sages and teachers of all traditions There are many current and popular books on the subject, and there have been many more in the recent past. When I look very deeply into the whole idea of what beliefs are, and what having beliefs means, here is what I see.
I see that no, it is not possible for you to change or remove your limiting beliefs and replace them with better beliefs. Beliefs may change, but not because of something you do. That is why you don’t know how you came to believe that you can be as good as you want on guitar. Somehow, that belief took root in you without you knowing it. It is also why you cannot change other beliefs you would like to change. If you could change beliefs, I’m sure you would! If people could “do” something to change beliefs, I am sure the secret would be bottled and sold in supermarkets by now, and we’d all be changing beliefs to make our lives better on a daily basis!
As I look further, I see that the reason you cannot change beliefs is very simple, it is because you are your beliefs. Beliefs can change, but you, being your beliefs, are not the one who can do it.
I also see that before you go about trying to change beliefs in any case, you should know something very important about beliefs: all beliefs are limiting. When beliefs do change (and they can), all we are doing is trading one set of limitations for another, hopefully, a set of limitations with different possibilities, which will be more useful to us.
The last thing I see is that the reason it is so difficult to change beliefs is because of the very reason we acquire and keep the beliefs we do — because we need them. All relationships are based on the satisfaction of needs, and your relationship to your beliefs is no different. People hold on to the beliefs that they need to hold on to, for one reason or another, good or bad. Sometimes, a belief is needed simply to keep other ones from being considered and accepted, and thereby disturbing our comfortable life. When you no longer need a belief, it will leave, or change, by itself. When you, by one means or another, have become the person who does not need a particular belief, that believe will change or leave on its own.
These things I know. I also know it is not what you will hear when you read any of those aforementioned popular books on the subject. They will tell you that of course you can change your beliefs by “believing” more, or “believing” in yourself, or something like that. And yet, you can hear all this, and still not be able to change anything, or get rid of those persistent bad feelings you talked about. And that is because you can hear all of that, and still not understand anything about the nature of belief, or why you need the beliefs you have and keep.
“You” ARE Your Beliefs
When I say “you are your beliefs”, you might think that this is a very absurd statement, at which point I would ask you to show me this “you” who wants to get rid of beliefs. Tell me about this “you”. As you would try to tell me about “you”, all you would be able to communicate would be a list of beliefs that “you” currently operate from. Very quickly, you would not be able to distinguish between the beliefs, and the believer!
You might say “I am Guilluame, I am a human being living on the planet Earth, I am a 21 year old male, I am a nice guy, I like to play the guitar, and I am nice to little children and nursing mothers, etc., etc. You would be giving me a list of beliefs (ideas) you have about yourself, or a list of attributes and actions that are outgrowths of your beliefs (i.e. I am nice to people because I believe it is good to be nice), as you attempted to describe YOU, the believer. In fact, anytime someone says I am __________(fill in the blank with anything), they are actually expressing a belief about themselves, or we might say, an idea about themselves which they identify with, which is the same thing.
All of the above description of yourself is a list of beliefs and ideas that have been presented to you as “explanations” of your perceptions and your existence, that you have accepted as facts, as “the truth”. But what could they possibly really mean, if you really thought about them? How could anyone really know what it is to be this thing we call a human being? How could anyone even know where they really are in time and space?
You were not born believing “I am Guilluame”. This idea was taught to you, you learned this, and started believing it. Obviously, you existed before you learned and believed this. Who were you then, who were you when you had no name? Is there not a more basic, fundamental “you” before this “Guillaume” idea?“ When you first began your career as “Guillaume” (as an infant), you had no idea who you were. You had to depend on what Mommy and Daddy and the rest of those giants who lived in the world reflected back to you to tell you who and what you were.
After awhile, you learned to do it for yourself, as the idea of “Guillaume” became an idea, a belief that has grown year by year, carrying more and more attributes with it as it went (“Guillaume, you are so nice, so cute, so generous, etc”), until it has ended up with quite an impressive resume! It is constantly changing, can it really be YOU in the most fundamental sense?
All ideas are simply beliefs about reality. Most of them are a special kind of belief actually; they are the kind called “assumptions”. Assumptions are untested beliefs, and our lives are full of them, maybe entirely composed of them. We really cannot avoid living on the basis of untested beliefs, because there is no way to test all the beliefs and ideas we need to have in order to live.
I’ll illustrate what I mean. Let’s take a simple belief we all have: we all believe we know “where” we are, and “where” everything else is. This means we can locate ourselves and other things in space. But, what do we know? If you ask me where I am, I might answer very glibly, with perfect assurance like I really know where I am “well, I am sitting in a house in Woodstock NY.” Then I would pat myself on the knee and say “yep, here I am right here”, as if I knew what “here” meant.
But really, what do I know? Well, if I look closely at this “where” thing, this “being located in space” thing, I know this house is located on the planet Earth, which is spinning around at around 1,000 miles/hr (at the equator). So, I guess I am spinning with it. So, I’ll have to include my ever changing location in my estimate of where I am.
I would probably start giving up trying to figure out where I really am when I thought about how the whole planet itself is sailing around the sun at around 18 mph, and the two of them together are hurtling through the galaxy at 155 mph –and on top of that, the whole shebang is moving through a larger group of galaxies at 185 mph! At this point my head is spinning at about that speed too, just trying to figure out “where” I really am, and yet I live with an undeniable sense of being SOME where!
So, if I really probe the matter, I see that I can’t actually know where I am, I can’t actually locate myself in space. There is simply nothing to locate it in relation to. I can only make up my own little “local” idea of “whereness” and use that. I cannot actually know “where” I am in any ultimate sense whatsoever. The very question of “where”, as well as its answer, is ultimately meaningless if I examine it.
And yet, believing I am in this room right now, choosing this as the somewhere that I am, is incredibly useful to me (because my guitar is in here with me!), but I will not make philosophy, science, or religion out of the belief.