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The Power of Our Beliefs

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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Dear Dr.Ben Kim,
What a lovely article you have written,I really enjoyed it.. You seem so devoted to your beautiful family and I think that's wonderful.
Thank you for your interesting and most informative articles.

I relate very much to your article. Thanks for sharing.
It is too easy for those of us who are "giving" people to neglect ourselves. If we don't take time to recharge our batteries then we are liable to burn out. So for the sake of those we love and ourselves it is imperative to make the time for a hobby or activity that we really feel drawn to do. I am impressed that you chose a physical activity as that is very good for your cardiovascular system. In addition hitting the ball must be a good chance to safely let out some frustrations.
I might also add that you should consider a weekly date with your wife. This should be a time without the children. Take the time and pay attention just like you would with a new client. Really listen. There's always a way if you're committed.

While it is easy to not take the time for ourselves and our partner we do so at a real risk of putting ourselves and our relationships at risk. Don't burn out! You have much to offer and can do your job much more effectively and for much longer if you take the steps to keep in balance and recharged.

I really enjoyed your article. I began to read it with interest because I too have recently returned to playing tennis at least once a week.
As an EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) Practitioner I found your story even more interesting. EFT is used (among many other things) to identify and clear these limiting beliefs quickly and effectively. You might want to look into it.
Also, I do agree with Cynthia: is is just as important to spend quality time together as a couple.

Dear Dr. Kim... We love your personal stories, and thank you for sharing them. Your personal integrity and honesty is deeply refreshing and appreciated. Your article on The Power of Our Beliefs echoed clearly the conversations my husband Richard and I have been having about the state of the world. So, while our comment does not relate to a specific health issue, it reflects the message that you are conveying. We are in the process of starting a small business, and if we allow ourselves to listen to the negative, fear based news media, we might as well give it all up before we even start. We humans are very "vulnerable" creatures who easily "absorb" either the "positive" or "negative" messages we hear. Many of our "Beliefs" are built on a "negative" foundation, which requires courage and effort to transform. The need for this transformation is particularly obvious and of supreme importance at this particular time in history, if we are to remain strong and faithful during this stormy period. Thank you Dr. Kim and Margaret for touching our lives in the special way that you do, by simply being the wonderful people that you are. Sincerely, Margaret and Richard Jamros

I enjoyed this article and you explained the situation of self-limiting beliefs beautifully through your personal example. Thank you.

Dear Dr. Ben Kim:
Your article is very inspiring as other articles of yours always have been. I very much enjoy your articles and appreciate your sharing your perspective.

I am impressed and admire how you care for your family and are committed to your professional life. You may not know how much you positively influence young people, personally and professionally, like myself.

p.s. I have enjoyed your information so much that I have your website as my homepage.

Thank you again for all your hard work.

Kelly from Toronto

At first this article interested me as I understand the power of beliefs. However, when Ben's article got to the part to describe how he couldn't afford one night per week, and perhaps one night per month, to enjoy for either himself or with a friend, this began to bother me. It reminded me of so many people in my own life who have no time for doing things outside of their marriage, either for their own enjoyment or with a friend. Ben's reasoning that he felt guilty made some sense, and fortunately he realized that it wasn't healthy. To be living the remainder of one's life with this sort of guilt can't be fruitful.

So, I'm glad to read this sort of inspiring story. Yet it still saddens me to see people that can't easily wake up to living healthy. Thank you for sharing, Ben.

As always, I thank you for your special newsletters. I always enjoy them so much and share them with my husband and who ever else may be near. It's nice to have a fellow human share the depths of his/her soul and challenges as well as triumphs that life brings. You just never know who you can touch through sharing these feelings, and I commend you. Sincerely, Chelsea B. Bessette p.s. I cannot wait to order some more coconut oil-it's the best!!!!!

Dear Dr. Kim,
I just want to send you and your wife a thank you for all of your hard work and sacrifices. I am a Teacher and a mother of two with kids close to the same ages as your sons. Your web site has changed my life and as a result, the lives of my family. I love the articles on parenting your wife has written and your health information is easy to read and understand. I use a variety of your products and would hate to live without a single one at this point. I know this was not the intent of your posting, but I bet you guys receive several notes of thanks. Ya'll are wonderful, kind and generous. You both continuously display the true beauty of giving, educating and caring for others.
Thanks from your friends in Texas!

Dr. Kim, thanks for this wonderful article.

When i read this article, I felt that this was a message for me written by my mother. I recently lost my mother to cancer. She was only 57 years of age. Ever since then I have been living with a deep fear on contracting this disease, suffering like her and leaving my family behind at a young age. I have tried several times to fight these thoughts but I have not been successful. Such negative thoughts keep coming back to me affecting my day to day living - my work, my relationship with family/friends, my health..

I plan to visit the doctor this weekend to get a medical examination. I hope that helps in giving me some peace of mind.

I am getting married this November. Sometimes these thoughts dominate my mind so competletely that i fear getting married to the love of my life and leaving him all alone in this world.

I am sure that if such a thing can happen to an optimist like me, it can happen to anyone. I realise that it is in us to fight these beliefs and live happily.

I am happy that you and your wife have found "me" time. My husband and I have always recognized this. Our personal interests keep US interesting to each other. We love to share our experiences, funny stories etc.
I am reminded of my grandmother's saying: "All work and no play makes for a dull Jack"!

I liked your article a lot. I want to say that the word "deserve" is loaded and I am training myself to not use it or even think about what it appears to mean.

Only Almighty God Himself knows if you "deserve" this or that; we cannot know in any true sense. All we can know is that if taking specific, harmful-to-no-person action makes us feel healthy and good - then it is right. That's good enough for me!

You needed to indulge your love of tennis, you needed a change of routine and scene, your wife didn't mind - what more can one say!

I love that you and your wife found a balance that enhanced both of your lives and I'm sure enhanced your energy with your sons too. Many years ago, I had a counselor who gave me an exercise to do. I was to list everything I did for a week - everything. Then, I was to rate from a --- for something that totally drained me to a +++ for something that totally energized me. Things could fall anywhere in-between too (---, --, -, -/+ which would be neutral), +, ++ and +++). Her goal was to help me increase the items that gave me joy/energy and decrease those that didn't. I also thought of things I wanted to do, but hadn't done during that week that increased my energy/joy and gave myself permission to add more of those things in to the mix. Obviously, there are some things that need to get done regardless, but I could group them or limit them or ask someone else to do them. My husband and I did the exercise together and found that many items on my list that I didn't enjoy were neutral to him and vice-versa so we were able to trade some chores. Hope this info, along with your great article, helps someone like it did me.