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Change Your Action Steps, Change Your Beliefs

April 5, 2012

Have you ever responded to a client who has come to you ready and willing to finally learn how to take action and change her behavior, with some version of the following? “Wait! You’re unlikely to make any behavior changes until you change your negative thinking. Before you can change your life in any way, you have to get rid of your limiting beliefs and learn how to be positive!”

I used to give this answer to clients wanting to change habits too!

As a psychotherapist and licensed clinical psychologist, I knew the power of the unconscious. And I was skeptical about any change sticking until we changed the client’s underlying negative thinking and beliefs about him or herself.

So, I focused on helping clients get to the root of their negative thinking, and on finding the underlying cause of their false beliefs.

Belief change methods are hugely popular amongst coaches today. And, they can absolutely be effective. The idea comes down to this: Beliefs influence behavior.  Change the belief, change the behavior.

However, after being a coach for 8 years, and running a membership site based on behavior change and taking action steps first, I have discovered an even more effective method to help clients make positive behavior changes. The idea I am proposing is this: Behavior influences beliefs. Change the behavior, change the belief.


In other words:

“Do it and the belief change will come.”

This method’s effectiveness comes down to the size of these action steps; the secret is to make them teeny, tiny, and unintimidating! By taking small, painless steps first, your clients don’t have to figure out how to be positive and generate new beliefs about themselves before taking action.

By taking these very small action steps daily, pretty soon they begin to add up! And, as your clients see themselves taking action over time, something magical starts to happen:

They begin to believe that they are capable of taking action!

When this happens, the client’s old belief may resurface and declare: “I’m not capable of doing this!” But the evidence before them will answer: “And yet, I AM doing this!”

The client will then experience cognitive dissonance, as that old belief arises, and is continually proven untrue. In other words, as your client continues taking action and seeing results, and simultaneously notices that old, self-limiting belief resurfacing, she feels the discomfort of this contrast. The result? She begins letting go of that old belief.

And this is how taking action leads to belief change.

I’ve seen over and over how the power of action is the first step toward changing limiting beliefs and transmuting them into positive beliefs.

A professor who began using these techniques in the Academic Writing Club (http://academicwritingclub.com), a membership site for academics (and my first business), had these results:

This has been the best … investment in my academic career, ever. I have a whole shelf full of books on writing and procrastination and productivity, but nothing has helped as much as this class. …Not only am I getting more writing done, I’ve started to think about my writing in a different way. And I’ve even started to think about myself in a different way. I am NOT a procrastinator or a person who can’t write. I can do this.

This professor was able to get over her writer’s block and achieve tenure (a giant accomplishment involving lots of writing) during her time in the Academic Writing Club.

Finish Agent is based on the same principles. As a coach, mentor, manager, or leader, you license the Finish Agent software and system and use it to guide your community through taking those small but all-important action steps.

People make changes, and change their beliefs along the way.

I suggest that you coach with this fact in mind – that you really can change your life by beginning with changing what you do. Encourage your clients to take tiny daily action steps and they will learn how to be positive about themselves, and create empowering beliefs in the process.

Have you successfully eliminated negative beliefs by taking small action steps first? How do you help your clients to transform negative beliefs? Please leave a comment below and share your experience!



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