Beliefs Beneath The Surface

[Originally published as a Choice Magazine Expert Series]

In this 4-part series, we examine BELIEFS –
what they are, how they function, and how they impact
your client’s behavior (and your own, as well). 


Part 1:  What To Do When Your Client’s Behavior Confuses You

Have you had clients who said they would do the practice or assignment you offered, then didn’t do what they promised? They committed to it, but they only had an excuse: they got busy, or ran out of time, or forgot, or had to meet a project deadline.  Or they didn’t know why – they just didn’t do it.

Have you clients suddenly quit in the middle of the coaching process? Even after expressing delight with their forward momentum?

It’s easy to feel confused when these things happen. You may even feel incompetent, or think of yourself as a failure.

What happened?  And more importantly, what can you do about it?

Instead of feeling bad about yourself (or about your client), this is a moment to take proactive action. Don’t allow their behavior to throw you off of your game. This is an opportunity to awaken your client to a behavior pattern that has kept them stuck for years – or decades.  When you take this approach, there’s a very good chance that your client will become even more committed to the coaching process.

This practice is based on the understanding that your client has one or more beliefs beneath the surface – beliefs that caused their inconsistent behavior – and you can help them shift their belief, and thus change the pattern.

Here are five steps to take at this important moment:

  • Step 1: Accept their statement, decision, or excuse without judgment or reaction. Reflect back what they said accurately, using their words, and check for accuracy.
    • Example: “Okay, I hear you. You said that this process isn’t working for you, and you want to end our work together. Did I get that right?”  Then pause. Let the impact of their decision weigh heavily in the space.
  • Step 2: Ask whether this decision, action, or non-action is part of a pattern.
    • Example: “I have a question for you. Has this been a repeating pattern in your life? Have you made commitments to doing important things so you get what you really want, and then find something wrong with it, and then quit?”  Allow them take as much time as they need to answer this important self-discovery.
  • Step 3: Invite them to look at the impact of this pattern on their life.
    • Example: “How has this pattern affected your life? Has it interfered with you getting what you want?”  Ask them to remember and describe other times when the pattern occurred, and the result of the pattern in each case.
  • Step 4: Ask them if they want to clear the pattern so it doesn’t continue to interfere with their life. Focus on the benefits.
    • Example: “Would you like to clear that pattern so that you don’t get stopped anymore, so you can really get what you want?
  • Step 5: Link that important goal to the belief beneath the surface, and your continued work together.
    • Example: “I’ve found that there are usually beliefs beneath the surface that cause this kind of pattern. Discovering them, and changing them, should be the focus of our next few sessions. If you could clear that pattern, your future would be filled with what you want, instead of what you don’t want. How does that sound?”

These steps will penetrate through the fog of your client’s internal blocks, barriers, and resistance. You will change the conversation and get them re-committed to the coaching process

You then need a technology for getting to the source of this baffling behavior, and removing the subconscious beliefs that cause their behavior pattern.  When you do this, you help them overcome their challenges, and achieve their goals more easily. Your reputation as an effective coach will soar.


Part 2:  Beliefs: The Root Cause of Most Human Behavior


It is estimated that 95% of human behavior is automatic, unconscious, and habitual. 

When you think about your own behavior, how much of it comes from careful research, logical forethought, consideration of potential consequences, and conscious, willful choice?  For most people, it’s a pretty small percentage.

There have been many attempts to explain the automaticity of most human behavior.  Psychologists discuss it in terms of unconscious drives, subconscious ego motivations, and early childhood influences.  Neurologists describe how patterns of brain activity are set into neural habits that cause behavior patterns. Computer scientists view it as a series of programs within our internal Operating System.

Regardless of how you describe it, it’s obvious that the cause of most of our behavior lies below our conscious awareness.  Coaches are often taught that the subconscious mind is a forbidden terrain, to be managed only by licensed psychologists, psychotherapists, and mental health professionals. We are told, “Focus on the present and the future.  We’re not interested in the past. We coach forward, not backward.”

There’s a significant problem with this “present-forward” approach. It’s likely that your clients will continue to do what they’ve always done – even if you offer them intelligent alternatives.  Unless you help your clients clear the cause of their repeated patterns of behavior, you can’t help them shift their lives in any significant way.  You’re left with techniques that attempt to change their behavior from the outside – with good questions, prioritizing, planning for action, and practices that create better habits.  All  of these forward actions are in direct opposition to the old programs lying below the conscious mind. It’s like Sisyphus pushing his rock up to the top of the mountain, only to have it roll down again. The old patterns re-surface, over and over again.

What can you do, as a coach, to help your clients shift subconscious patterns that  are causing all the trouble?  Focus their attention on the beliefs that are at the core of their behavior.

Our beliefs create our limitations, and also our possibilities.  When you help your client change their belief, at the core of the psyche, it changes everything: their thoughts, emotions, motivation, and options.  For example, if a client begins a sentence with “I can’t…,” this belief creates a self-imposed impossibility.  Help them clear that belief, and replace it with “I can…,” and you’ve opened a possibility that didn’t exist before.

Negative self-beliefs, such as “I’m not worthy of love,” or “I’m not good at marketing,” can cause great suffering. They also create negative strategies, such as, “I might as well give up.”  When you clear negative and limiting beliefs, you remove the suffering ­– and create an internal environment of true empowerment with possibilities for success.

The ability to shift beliefs is an ideal skill for a coach.  It doesn’t tread on psychotherapeutic territory because your client’s story about their past isn’t relevant to the process.  Belief-change is direct, fast and effective. It demonstrates the transformative power of coaching at its best.

Our clients come to us because they want change in their lives. They want more of something, and less of something else.  When you help your clients shift their underlying beliefs, you give them the gift of real personal power.

If you study beliefs and how they operate, you can also learn to change your own patterns – the ones that keep you stuck, or prevent you from being as successful as you could be.

Beliefs can be changed, and you can change anything by shifting the belief beneath it.  Begin your exploration of your own beliefs with the Belief Self-Diagnosis Exercise, which you can download HERE.


Part 3:  Where Beliefs Come From, and How They Function


You possess a huge collection of beliefs stored in your subconscious mind. 

During your lifetime, you acquired tens of thousands of these internal programs, including:

  • Beliefs about yourself (Who I am; What I’m capable of; What I can and can’t do, etc.)
  • Beliefs about others (How I should treat people; What it means when they don’t respond; How to get what I need; etc.)
  • Beliefs about the world (Where I fit in; How society works; What I need to do to survive, etc.)

Any belief can become a stumbling block, a source of resistance, or a limitation in a person’s life. Especially our earliest core beliefs about who we are, or what we’re capable of.  For example, an entrepreneur who believes “I’m not a good salesman,” will have difficulty marketing their services.  A person who believes “I can’t lose weight,” will have problems maintaining a weight-loss regimen.

Most of our frustrations in life can be traced to limiting beliefs we hold about ourselves, other people, or the world.  Our efforts to help our clients move forward are met – and resisted – by those old subconscious programs.

Beliefs are simply a structure that the mind has used to learn about the world, and to navigate within it.  This process begins in our earliest years. Newborn infants try to figure out how to survive in their new environment.  Our parents want to help us, so they give us their beliefs – the ones that worked for them. They tell us who we are, and what we are, and how we should behave. We want to survive, and align with them, so we take on their beliefs willingly.  Besides, the more we are like our parents, the less likely they will reject or abandon us.

Our parents begin this process, and then we receive additional beliefs from our caregivers, siblings, family members, teachers in school, religious leaders, and the media.  We accumulate tens of thousands of beliefs by the time we reach adulthood.

It would be great if beliefs came with an expiration date, like food products, but they don’t.  It would work better if they simply dissolved when they were no longer useful, but this doesn’t happen either.  Instead, our older beliefs get pushed down into the subconscious mind as newer beliefs come in. They stack up, and continue to operate in the background, influencing our behavior, causing our reactions, and interfering with our forward momentum.

When something occurs that reminds us of our past, those old beliefs lying dormant in the background suddenly jump up and attempt to help us in that situation.  For example, a child may learn, “If I cry and make a fuss, I’ll be taken care of.”  This is a helpful belief for an infant!  However, it’s unseemly for an adult.  Most of us know at least one person who still uses this same strategy to get what they want.

This is a pattern that’s crucial to understand: Whenever we make a commitment to something new, our old beliefs (the ones in conflict with that new commitment) rise up and re-assert themselves. It’s automatic, and it interferes with everything we want to create in our lives.

For example, you commit to writing a promotional brochure for your services. Your old beliefs leap out from the subconscious and begin speaking loudly: “No one wants to hear from you. You’ll get rejected again. Don’t do it! You’ll feel awful when they reject you!”  This is the core of resistance, procrastination, and the failure to get things done. We’re stopped in our tracks by these inner voices and old beliefs.

Our clients, who come to us for help in moving forward, experience this all the time.  We offer them practices and projects and actions, and as soon as they walk away from the session, and start to take action, their mind begins to remind them of all the reasons they shouldn’t do it.  This is what’s underneath their confusing behavior – and it confuses them as much as it does us.

When you understand and appreciate the immensity of this mechanism, you’ll feel more compassion for your clients, and yourself.

The next step is to find a method that will allow you to shift or eliminate those old beliefs – the ones that keep us stuck, and hold us back from achieving our goals.

Make a list of all the beliefs that come up for you when you decide to do things that you know you should do, but you’ve put off.  The voices or thoughts may sound mean, like an Inner Critic (“You’ll never amount to anything.”), or overly caring (“Don’t do that, Dear. You’ll just get hurt.”) or reasonable, (“Yes, you could do that, but then you wouldn’t be able to do those other things.”).  List them simply as beliefs:

  • I’ll never amount to anything.
  • I’ll get hurt.
  • I’ll miss out on those other things.
  • Etc.


Part 4:  Help Your Clients Change Their Beliefs, and Clear Their Path Forward


Beliefs create our limitations, and they create our possibilities. 

The belief, “I can’t play the piano,” creates a solid barrier, a reality in which learning, practicing, and getting better are not possible.  The opposite belief, “I can learn to play the piano” creates a reality in which it is possible to become an accomplished pianist.

The most important thing to know about beliefs is: they can be changed.   

It is said, “Your beliefs create your reality.”  More accurately, beliefs act like colored lenses in front of our eyes. They filter out everything but a limited range of possibilities.  If you change your belief filter, you can suddenly see different options.  When you help your clients clear their negative and limiting beliefs, their possibilities open, and unlimited (more accurately, limited only by their other remaining beliefs).

In the first three parts of this series, we discussed where beliefs come from, how they function, and how they impact our lives. Beliefs are not just a mental phenomenon. They are multidimensional, multi-sensory experiences that affect all aspects of our psyche. They can appear as thoughts, physical sensations, emotions and feelings, urges, drives, or invisible barriers.

To clear beliefs completely, you need a process that reaches into all aspects of the human psyche. 

As a professional certified coach and a teacher of coaches, it is my belief that every coach should have tool available for transforming beliefs when they arise during a client session.  You ask a question, or make a suggestion, and the client shuts it down. “I could never do that.  That’s not possible.”  At that moment, you can open possibilities by asking, “How is that belief working for you?”

There are many techniques available for changing beliefs.  Many are based in a conscious, mental process, or inquiry. Byron Katie’s “The Work,” for example, helps you recognize that a belief is not true – but it doesn’t appear to touch the belief where it lives – in the subconscious mind.  Conscious recognition techniques tend to produce results that are only partially effective, or temporary.  It is our subconscious mind that drives most of our behavior, not our conscious realizations.

There are belief-change methods that employ muscle testing, which is a highly subjective art. It carries the potential of facilitator-caused bias or error.  Practitioners of these methods claim that this is not so, but I am not aware of any scientific studies that validate their claims. Some people do report permanent relief from these methods, however.

Many belief-change methods employ tapping on acupuncture points while saying “clearing phrases” out loud.  For many clients, tapping is a bit “woo-woo,” although it is becoming more widespread. Some methodologies, such as EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) have been scientifically validated in long-term studies, so it is clear that they are impacting the subconscious mind.  One advantage to these tapping techniques is that they are easy to learn and apply (although difficult to master in a coaching context).

One of the best-known techniques for belief-change is NLP, or Neuro Linguistic Programming.  Originally designed to model and change patterns of mental and emotional behavior, it has been widely used and promoted since the 1970s.  Learning and mastering the processes can take many years, however, and its effectiveness seems to be based entirely on the facilitator’s skill level – so results appear to be inconsistent.

The methodology I prefer and recommend is the Clear Beliefs Method.  I am its creator, so please take my prejudice into consideration when exploring these ideas.  It is designed to work with all three levels of the mind – the subconscious, conscious, and super-conscious. It uses guided visualization, which is inherently multidimensional and multisensory – just like consciousness itself.  It taps into all parts of the psyche, so it is rapid, effective, and permanent. The method can be learned in ten weeks of study and practice.  A great advantage for coaches who work remotely is that it equally effective whether delivered by phone, skype, or in person.

Your clients will continue to present you with challenges they face every day in their lives. They are looking to you for your help and guidance.

When you learn to help them clear limiting and negative beliefs, you sweep away the obstacles, resistance, and blocks that have prevented them from moving forward.  In my experience as a coach, there is no greater gift.

To learn more about beliefs and the Clear Beliefs Method, download the free eBook, “Clear Your Clients’ Limiting BeliefsHERE.  Learn more about the Clear Beliefs Coach Training at


(c) Copyright 2016 by Lion Goodman and Clear Beliefs Institute 

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Lion Goodman
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