How about the opposite? Have you ever seen a co-worker push through difficulties and succeed in unexpected ways?
If you knew what led either to happen, you would know what drives them, and ultimately, you would discover what is at their very core.
How about yourself? Do you know what led to your biggest failures and your biggest successes in the workplace and in life?
Although beliefs can be found at different levels, deep ones are called core beliefs. There are very few of those--maybe just one or two--but they are responsible for most of the decisions you make. You are just not aware of them because they are buried deep in the heart. Discovering our core beliefs can help us understand why we feel and behave the way that we do. It can also help us see our staff in a different light, recognizing that their behaviors are rooted in a deeper core belief that impacts the way they feel and behave, too.
How do you discover your core belief?
You have to dive into a couple of areas:
If we got together the people you were raised with and asked a few questions, you will discover that there are belief themes that run through the family - even if each family member is very different.
How do you discover these? Ask yourself what your family is about. What matters most to them? If they are threatened, do they jump into a state of alarm? Let’s say a family seems to care a lot about what people think of them. And let’s say we see some inordinately strong behaviors when their image is threatened. The next thing you want to ask yourself is, “What does their image represent to them?” That’s where the belief is. So it could be that they believe that if they look good to others then they will have:
The more emotionally intense a situation is, the more it impacts our beliefs. When we go through an emotional trauma, we are so overwhelmed by the emotions running through our bodies that our brain can’t process it quickly enough. While our brain may numb us out, or even in some cases knock us out, or form memory blocks, our heart seems to scream, “I will never face that pain again!”
The heart then sets up new “protective” beliefs to prevent us from getting into a scenario where we can face that kind of hurt again. You can spot these protective beliefs because they often seem like an over-reaction.
For example, say a staff member is struggling with taking initiative on a project. If he has had experiences in the past where he has been rejected, shot down, or criticized for his assertiveness, his defense mechanism may be to passively accept others' suggestions. His “protective” belief looks like, “If I agree with others’ opinions, I will be accepted” and “If I take initiative, my team members will reject me.”
Belief changes are not always negative. I have seen others develop new beliefs when they push hard to accomplish a goal, and succeed. The “confidence” that results can be traced to a new belief that came through the experience of pushing themselves.
Once you have listed all the beliefs that you sense derive from your family, and the traumas/milestones in your experience, then see if there is a belief that binds them all (cue the Lord of the Rings). That could be the core belief.
Ultimately, recognizing our own core beliefs helps us better understand the way we operate in our workplace. As we explore the root of our core beliefs, we can identify areas where we primarily operate out of maladaptive beliefs. Is our need for approval rooted in a belief that we are never good enough? Is our superior attitude towards coworkers rooted in a belief that without power, we are worthless?
Not only does processing our beliefs help us better understand ourselves, it helps us better understand our staff, too. Recognizing that the behaviors we see are rooted in core beliefs that we cannot see helps us approach staff with grace and understanding. In the next blog, we will talk about how to deal with these core beliefs.
Chew On This:
- If you wrote out your story and included your family of origin and traumas/milestones that you experienced, what would be the belief themes that come up for you?
- How does becoming aware of your beliefs affect the way you view yourself and others in the workplace?
Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams. *This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients. No one single client is being singled out.