“Who taught you that?”
At least a few times a month I will ask a coaching client a gentle version of “who taught you that?” It is a way for me to nudge my clients into thinking about why they believe what they believe and begin a process called Critical Reflection. We go through this thought process when a client bumps up against a belief or assumption that no longer fits for their life and it’s time to make a change.
Many fiction story lines have some version of Critical Reflection imbedded into the plot. A character is certain about something and then meets a lovely woman and her long-standing assumption is challenged and then updated or discarded. And, when the Critical Reflection period is complete, girl gets girl.
In general, Critical Reflection is a three-step process. The first step is to identify a current belief and determine how and where you developed that belief. Beliefs are stories we have told ourselves over and over again until they become our truth. Those stories originated somewhere and most often started with the family of origin. Most individuals rarely Critically Reflect upon their lives and live with the values that were handed over to them from past generations. Identifying those “take it for granted ideas”, rules of thumb and common sense that underlie our thoughts and actions can sometimes be difficult to ascertain. It’s just a part of who we are.
The second step is to challenge the belief to determine if you still want to keep it. Taking a long look and giving serious thought to our underlying assumption about how the world works is hard and sometimes, painful. For example, a common belief is that a certain color of skin represents stereotypical character traits. Or another example of a common (and I know personally is very wrong) belief is women with blond hair are dumb.
The third step is to change the belief to better reflect your current values. This process is a way to move past your current beliefs into a new awareness. The hope is the new awareness is a better fit and leads to better ways to think, feel and live.
Of course, easier said than done. My wife, who I adore, has a medical condition, diabetes. It is important, vital, that she exercise regularly to keep her glucose in check. Fortunately we live 40 minutes from a gorgeous state park on the shores of Lake Michigan where she has created for herself an intensive two-hour physical fitness program. She/we climb 237 stairs up a sand dune to a lookout with a spectacular view of the waves crashing onto the sandy beach, a cool red lighthouse and sparkling water. She/we walk a mile or so in the sand along the shoreline (she wants me to tell you she now has calves of steel). Everyday that she completes this routine, her glucose level remains low. Yahoo! Unfortunately, she has underlying beliefs that interfere with her enjoyment of the exercise and she feels guilty. Why? Her parents instilled the beliefs in her that if she isn’t working then she is lazy. If she is spending money on herself then she is selfish, and if she takes time out for herself then she isn’t being responsible because she isn’t working. She feels guilty that she is wasting time, gas and wear and tear on the car by driving 40 minutes over and then back again when she “should” be using her time more wisely. So here’s our conversation:
Me: Honey, did you read my blog for this week?
Me: Did you read the part about Critical Reflection?
Wife: Yep, but it’s easier said than done.
Me: I know honey, but maybe you could …
Wife: What?… could what…?
Me: It’s about letting go.
So, that was the end of our conversation. What I didn’t say out loud is that resistance is normal but the process of Critical Reflection is healing.
As an author, when have you used Critical Reflection in your life? What beliefs did you bring with you from your past that needs updating? As you read this blog, what thoughts come to mind about beliefs that you still have that need analyzing and updating?
Angela Grace BCC