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The Power of Our Beliefs
Posted by Dr. Ben Kim on Dec 14, 2009
Originally published in March, 2009
Late last year, I started playing tennis again after a hiatus of several years from regular play. It took me a few sessions to get my wind back, but all in all, it's been amazingly fun to be back out on the courts. I feel younger, stronger, and healthier than I have in several years.
My return to playing tennis has been a good reminder for me on the power that our beliefs have to influence the quality of our health and lives. To elaborate, I need to share some details from the road that my wife and I have traveled.
About a year prior to getting married, I put everything that I had - physically, emotionally, and financially - into starting my own chiropractic, acupuncture, and fasting clinic. I was fully committed to creating a clinic that would allow me to provide the kind of health care that I was passionate about, and my schedule was such a non-stop blur that the clearest memory I have of that first year was sleeping for a few hours at a time on my chiropractic table.
After that exhausting first year, Margaret and I got married and immediately moved to a larger home that could accommodate more fasting guests. Funds weren't plentiful, so we didn't even consider going on a honeymoon. We took about a week and half after our wedding to get the new clinic ready, and before we knew it, we were newlyweds with fasting guests to care for.
Our quality and frequency of sleep didn't improve with the arrival of our first son. Thankfully, his presence injected us with all the energy we needed to love him fully and joyfully while running the clinic.
And before we knew it, we were greeted by our second child, a boy with more energy and natural fighting spirit than Ali had in his prime.
When it was just us and our firstborn, we all slept together on a few mattresses in a single room. And when our second son arrived, we decided to go one-on-one, with Margaret sleeping with our youngest in a different room, and me staying with our toddler. Today, the four of us sleep together on four mattresses that cover the floor of our master bedroom, as our boys have become used to being with us at night, and it doesn't quite feel right to have them sleep on their own just yet.
What I'm getting at is that over the past several years, I can accurately say that I haven't had the time to go out even once a week to let loose on a tennis court. And the same can be said for Margaret and her lack of "me" time. Personally, I don't regret the sacrifices, because I feel that I have used my time and energy for the best possible purposes in caring for our family and devoting the rest of my time to work. I'm sure that Margaret feels the same way.
Last November, an old university friend named Mike visited from New Zealand, and for old time's sake, I took Mike to a local indoor tennis court to show him a good time - Mike and I have shared a love for tennis for as long as we've known each other. Though my lungs were on fire, it was great fun to knock the fuzz off the ball again.
As we were driving home, Mike asked me if I planned on building on our outing and getting out on a weekly basis. I remember answering right away, saying that there was no way I could do this. Despite being on a sabbatical from our fasting program, I still work 40 to 60 hours a week, and when I'm not working, I'm with Margaret and the boys, I explained.
Mike persisted, and asked me if I truly couldn't find just one day a week to take a break and have some fun on the courts. Though I said once again that it was out of the question, Mike's suggestion lingered over the next few days.
And the more I contemplated why I believed it was impossible for me to play a little tennis, I began to realize that I felt a lot of guilt towards Margaret. I felt guilty about not being able to give her a honeymoon. I felt guilty about working 60 to 80 hours a week during the first few years of our marriage. And I felt guilty about her caring for our boys for most of the day while I continued to work. Though I work hard when I work, I consider caring for children to be the hardest work around - much harder than writing, researching, doing consultations, and giving a few treatments here and there.
Because of my guilt, I had a deep rooted belief that the right thing for me to do was to avoid all activities except work and spending time with the family. On some level, I think I even felt that Margaret would resent my getting out to play tennis once a week because of everything she does to care for our family, but ultimately, the real cause of me not getting out was my guilt.
After sorting through and identifying these feelings, I shared them with Margaret. And sharing brought us even closer, because I could tell from her reaction that she thought I was crazy for not taking time to have fun with a sport that I love so much.
To create a plan that would help both of us experience more fun and physical well-being, we agreed that I would aim to get out to play tennis a few times a week, while she would shoot to go to the local community center for various fitness classes a few times a week while I played with the boys.
It's been several months now since we came up with our "fitness and fun" plan, and I'm happy to say that both of us are feeling as well as I think may be possible for parents of two young ones. A real bonus has been meeting and befriending some talented tennis players who also happen to be really good people. And Margaret is building momentum to return to her true love, taekwondo (a Korean martial art).
Getting back to the point of this post, my return to playing tennis has been an important reminder for me to be on the lookout for limiting beliefs that are keeping me from living as meaningfully as possible. For several years, much of my behavior was dictated by the belief that I didn't deserve to have some down time, and the belief that if I did try to make some time to play tennis, that my wife would think I was being selfish.
My beliefs weren't rooted in reality, and they hindered the quality of my life and my capacity to share my best attributes with those around me. I wasn't walking around all grumpy and mean, but now that I'm making time to have some fun with tennis, I have more energy and positive spirit in the tank to share with everyone in my life.
This experience has me ready to evaluate all other areas of my life that don't quite feel right, and to see if I'm holding on to limiting beliefs that aren't serving me and those around me well.
I realize that going on a honeymoon and getting out a couple times a week to play tennis are luxuries that many in our world can't afford, and I don't want to be insensitive to this reality. I do feel, however, that every person in this world contributes to creating his or her destiny, and a huge determinant of what we create is the set of beliefs that we consciously or subconsciously adopt.
I strongly believe that these thoughts on the power of our beliefs are relevant to every person's journey to better health.
Here are some of the limiting beliefs that I've encountered in patients and clients that I've worked with over the years:
"I was destined to have breast cancer because my mother had breast cancer. To be realistic, I'll probably die before I'm 50, just like my mother did. It's in my genes."
"I can't afford to eat the right way. It's not fair that only rich people get access to the stuff that really works."
"This health problem is God's way of punishing me for what I did in the past."
"My doctor said that there's no known cause or cure."
"It doesn't matter what I do or what I eat - I simply cannot lose weight."
"I can't exercise because ______________."
"I'm ugly and nobody likes me."
"I'm stupid and nobody likes me."
"I'll never find someone I can share my life with."
"I just can't trust anyone anymore."
Some of the beliefs listed above may not seem related to specific health challenges, but the truth is that every belief we carry about every aspect of lives impacts our health. We can never be at our best if we have significant friction in even one area of our lives.
I hope that this post serves as encouragement to think about the ways in which limiting beliefs are affecting your health and overall quality of life. For more on this topic, including specific exercises that you can do to identify and transform limiting beliefs, please view: How to Identify and Transform Limiting Beliefs.
If you have any thoughts on this topic, please feel free to share via the comments section below.
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