Habit 2 from the 12 Habits of Resilient + Thriving People

Each week for 12 weeks, I’ll blog about one habit. And if you feel inclined, you can road test it for yourself. Habit 2 is about Creating Powerful Beliefs. 


Habit 2: Create powerful beliefs

Resilient people hold beliefs about themselves that empower them to thrive. They believe they have the internal resources required (or they can gain them) to achieve their goals. They don’t believe in “luck”. They can identify, challenge, and change any self-limiting beliefs they hold that are not helping them move towards their desired state. They know their beliefs are not hard-wired. They understand their beliefs are the foundations of their resilient and thriving lives.


Each one of us has thousands of beliefs. Beliefs about ourselves, others, our world, politics, religion, everything. Many of us don’t think about them all that much though. They are just there, somewhere in our mind. If we do think about them, we’re likely to say “that's just who I am, you know, how I operate”. And that’s a little bit true … in a way. We do view the world through our “belief” lens. We’re not viewing reality, we’re viewing it through our beliefs.


Even negativity (negative thinking) becomes a belief. If someone has a negative thinking style, they'll be filtering what they see, hear and experience, through this negative belief lens. They won't hear the positives, because their negative belief lens is filtering out all the good positive stuff. That’s why you might view yourself as boring, and I might think you're insanely interesting. Same person, different belief lens. Even when I tell you how interesting you are, you won't hear it. You'll think I'm just trying to be kind.


The word “belief” always has this serious sort of tone to it. You could swap it out for “label”. We all label ourselves - “I’m an introvert, I’m not very creative, I have never believed in luck or fate”. These are all beliefs, or labels we pin on ourselves. We operate, and see the world, according to our belief/label rules. A belief is really just a thought we've had at some point, and we keep thinking about it until we believe it to be fact/true. 


"A belief is a thought you just keep thinking." [from The Thrive Programme]


The beliefs we hold can be helpful and empowering, or hugely unhelpful. For example, if you have a belief that there's no point in putting in much effort as it all comes down to luck, well ... that's not going to be very helpful when it comes to preparing yourself for a job interview is it? You're unlikely to put in much effort which means you're unlikely to get the job. Unfortunately, it will also likely confirm this hugely unhelpful belief you hold.


Which beliefs are important if you want to thrive?

Empowering beliefs are clearly important if you want to thrive in life. Empowering in this context means making a person stronger and more confident, in respect to their life.


There are a number of BIG beliefs that are truly empowering. They are:

  1. the belief that you feel in control of your own destiny 
  2. the belief that you feel confident with who you are
  3. the belief that you feel socially confident


The sciencey names are 1. Locus of Control, 2. Self Esteem, and 3. Social Anxiety. There are many more that have been extensively studied and researched of course, but these are particularly interesting (to me and to resilience and thriving).


My personal favourite is Locus of Control. It’s my favourite because science has proven since the 1950’s that if I have an “internal” locus of control (I’ll explain what that means in a minute), I’ll have more academic success, more self-motivation, and I’ll have less stress. Who on earth wouldn’t want that?


How do you feel when things don’t go according to plan such as you didn’t get the role you thought was in the bag. Is it your fault (because just maybe you weren’t as prepared as you could’ve been) or is it because the interviewer didn’t like you? What about when things go really well? Just say you aced your last assignment. Did you buy yourself a glass of champagne because you studied a lot for that assignment so you deserved those “big praisey” comments scattered throughout, or were you just lucky, maybe the person marking your assignment woke up feeling generous?


If you feel outside forces (people or things) are responsible for your fate, good or bad, you have an external locus of control. If you take responsibility or credit yourself, you have an internal one.


I can hear you saying right now “but you can’t control everything!” Correct. You can’t control the weather. You can’t control someone else’s behaviour. But you CAN control how you respond to both of those. I had coffee with a friend last week and she complained about a guy at her office. She said “he makes me so angry!” Nope. You’re allowing his behaviour to make you feel angry. You’re giving him that power. Take that power back! An internal locus of control gives you the power and control over how you think and behave.

An external locus of control means you’re letting his behaviour make you feel angry and usually that anger stays with you for a while, you feel stressed, you take it out on someone else … ugh. Who wants to have that sort of day? Yet so many people do.


Self-esteem is also a belief. It’s the belief we have about ourselves - whether we believe we’re good enough, tall enough, intelligent enough, funny enough. It sits on the bookshelf very closely to Locus of Control. As you can imagine, someone with high self-esteem won’t be comparing themselves to others or judging themselves by external standards such as what others think. They feel good about themselves. On the other hand, someone with low self-esteem is less likely to believe they have any influence or power over what happens in their life, which means they tend to have an external locus of control.


And then sitting right alongside Self-Esteem on the bookshelf is Social Anxiety. These two really are siblings. If you have low self-esteem i.e. you think you’re 4/10 in the “I’m a good person” stakes, then it’s highly unlikely you will think others are going to judge you as a 9/10. You’ll think others judge you the same way you judge yourself. So that means low self-esteem equals high social anxiety. High self-esteem equals low social anxiety. 


The big question of course is whether you can change these beliefs you hold. Of course the answer is “yes you can” (provided you want to). If you want to feel more in control, more powerful, less stressed, more resilient, happier, and thriving, then building an internal locus of control, high self-esteem, and low social anxiety is a great place to start. 


I can't provide you with all the various techniques here in this blog, but this week's road test will get you started with recognising the language of Control.


Habit 2: Road test

1. Try to notice the language used that may indicate someone has an external locus of control. It can be easier to notice it in others before we can notice it in ourselves. You might hear:

  • They made me so angry when they ...
  • It’s not my fault the ….
  • It would be just my luck that …
  • There's nothing I can do about it, that's just how I was taught ...
  • Well good luck, I'll cross my fingers for you ...

If you’re having a meeting with someone or even just going out for a coffee, put on your big listening ears for an hour or two and really try to notice their language.

2. Then turn the mirror back to yourself. Where might you sit on the Locus of Control continuum? Towards internal or towards external? Do you blame yourself when something doesn't go according to plan, or someone/something else? Notice this week when your stress levels start to rise ... what's your language telling you? Are you being internal or external?

For more information on The Thrive Programme:

The Thrive Programme in Business

The Thrive Programme for Business Leaders

The Thrive Programme for Individuals