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Practice management: The beliefs that run our lives

Beliefs are the premises and assumptions that we hold about how the world works, like how we should behave and what we’re capable of. They are very powerful because we hold our beliefs to be “the truth,” and so they become the truth for us, leading to self-fulfilling prophecies.

Wednesday, November 19th 2008, 4:27PM
By David B. Posen

We often don’t know that we have them until we start exploring our behavior, thoughts and feelings.

People who are overloaded (especially type A individuals) are often driven by beliefs such as “you have to work long hours to be successful”, “you have to be busy all the time” and “you always have to give 110%”. Three diagrams offer some interesting perspectives about the beliefs that drive high-striving people:

1. The human function curve shows that performance and productivity increase as stress and arousal increase— but only to a point. Beyond that point, performance and productivity actually start to decline and working longer and/or harder is not only unproductive, it’s counterproductive.

2. The inefficiency cycle shows that when you are tired, you’re less efficient. When you are less efficient, it takes you longer to get your work done. When you work longer hours, you have less time for sleep, exercise, leisure, hobbies, time with friends and family, etc., which keeps you tired, less efficient, working long hours—in a vicious cycle. The irony is that the things we cut back on when we’re overloaded are the very things that would actually reduce our stress, increase our energy and improve our productivity. Sometimes the secret of improving productivity is to work fewer hours and to give yourself the time you save for rest, relaxation, sleep, exercise, socialising, entertainment and hobbies.

3. The problem-solving model shows that sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to get away from it. Certain kinds of timely time-outs allow your subconscious mind to work on the problem.

The key to dealing with beliefs is to identify them. Start looking at your behavior and tap into your inner thoughts. Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?”; “Why do I feel I have to get all of this done?”; “Why do I feel I have to do things in this order?” Begin listening to your inner dialogue when you’re feeling stressed. Ask, “Why am I upset by this situation or that person’s behavior?” Explore where these beliefs came from. Ask yourself questions like “Where did I first hear that?” or “Who says that is true?”

Then start to challenge your beliefs. Be willing to try different behaviors and to modify your thinking, perhaps even discarding beliefs that are outdated or self-defeating. Be willing to revise your beliefs and to come up with new ones that will serve you better and help to reduce your stress.

You have more control than you think.

David B. Posen has been teaching people creative and effective strategies for mastering stress and change since 1985.

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