• Posted in November 2014
  • Article written by Michael Carroll

Beliefs are they a hindrance in terms of your personal development?

The Oxford Dictionary offers a simple definition of a belief as ‘an acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof’. It goes onto offer different examples of what a ‘belief’ is. At this moment in time around the world people are giving their lives in the name of a certain belief they have. In most cultures people are marginalised and stereotyped because of generalised belief systems and also their own belief systems. The question I will be exploring in this article is ‘are beliefs a hindrance in terms of your personal development?’

In NLP speak, a belief is a filter, that determines our perception. A belief is a generalisation where you delete counter examples of the belief. If a counter example to a strongly held belief arises, the person with the belief will delete the exception from their experience. Many people in NLP have created interventions for changing beliefs to creating empowering belief systems. However I propose a new empowering belief system will also have limitations and will suck the person into another rigid map. What would life be like without beliefs, where you ‘acted as if’ instead?

The ‘act as if frame’ came about when John Grinder with Richard Bandler began modelling to create NLP. The key part of modelling is to suspend your own filters and ‘act as if’ you are the model. To do this, the NLP co creators suspended their own ‘identity’ and unconsciously assimilated the world of the people they were modelling. If at any time their own (Grinder and Bandler’s) beliefs had become present, the modelling process would have been corrupted. Grinder and Bandler became behaviourally just like the people they were modelling to create the models of NLP. One thing I know about John Grinder is he has an incredible level of flexibility and a high tolerance of ambiguity.

Flexibility and tolerance of ambiguity are traits that are the opposite of rigidity sponsored by strongly held beliefs. The song ‘Imagine’ written by John Lennon epitomises the ‘act as if frame’. Lennon seems to be, in his lyrics inviting us to imagine a world without beliefs. He invites us to imagine what it would be like to live in the moment with the following line ‘imagine all the people living for today’ The song is a well known protest song inviting people to trade their beliefs for peace. It seems reasonable to me, it’s a shame so many governments did not quite hear the message. A world without beliefs, nothing to live or die for, as Lennon says, sound like a different world altogether, one that many people may fear but could well enhance your personal development.

The peace Lennon writes and sings about is world peace. What about your own inner peace. Do you ever feel like you have a personal war going inside your mind?  For most people their inner conflicts arise from conflicting beliefs.  These conflicts arise where you are holding onto something past or several things past and you want to do something new, and somehow you would like the new thing to be as strongly held as the past. The resistance in your system comes from the polarity in the opposites, and the unconscious mind is not willing (perhaps for secondary gain purposes) to let go of the past. What if the new belief and the old belief were as false as each other but had uses in given contexts. What if you could choose to ‘act as if’ a belief is true depending on context? On the other hand you could act as if the same belief is false depending on context. In terms of personal development, the act as if frame creates many more options; it creates flexibility and tolerance of ambiguity, perfect skills for going into the unknown to create new choices.

In Linguistics a belief is a nominalisation, a word that acts like a noun (thing) but comes from a verb (process). So in this case ‘belief’ is the noun and ‘to believe’ is the process. When you ‘believe’ something to be true you are in a process, it does not necessarily mean you will believe it always, it does mean you believe it now. When you say you have a ‘belief that’ you have created a noun and you are acting as if the belief is an entity. It’s much more rigid than the process. In reality, a belief is not a thing; it does not fit in a wheel barrow. You cannot touch, it’s not real. From a personal development perspective, what is the value in investing energy in something that does not exist; at best a belief is an illusion that creates an illusion to believe in and even if it’s positive, it can hinder your personal development through its rigidity.

You could loosely categorise beliefs into 2 types, beliefs about self (internal) and beliefs about the world outside of you (external). Some people like to talk about their positive beliefs and argue that these beliefs support them with their personal development. Whist this might seem reasonable, it is possible and likely that any positive belief will have a shelf life, and will ultimately become redundant. When it is too strongly held, you will miss the point redundancy occurs and therefore the point of upgrade. Upgrade essential for self development,

To summarise, key aspects of self development are flexibility and tolerance of ambiguity, strongly held beliefs (positive or negative) reinforce the content of the belief and thus are not usually supportive of flexibility and ambiguity. Thus in many cases beliefs would hinder your personal development. A belief in language acts like a noun, when really it is not. You cannot touch it, it does not exist. What is the value in believing in something (a belief) that does not in reality exist?

As said earlier we can even create unnecessary inner conflict with these beliefs, which seriously impacts our personal development. So to conclude the process of ‘acting as if’ something is true seems far more resourceful than the rigidity of a strongly held belief in terms of personal development. So when you think of everything you want today ask yourself ‘how shall I act as if today’? And tomorrow it could be totally different because tomorrow is a new day.

About The Author

Michael Carroll is the founder and course director of the NLP Academy and co-founder with John Grinder and Carmen Bostic St Clair of the International Trainers Academy of NLP.

He is the only NLP Master Trainer in the world certified by John Grinder and Carmen Bostic St Clair and he works closely with them in developing and delivering high quality NLP training.



  • Superb training, great atmosphere and the credibility of the Academy for certification is second to none.

    Rob Purfield
  •