In Flux

Embracing transitions and change

The Belief Inventory

What do you believe?

Men often become what they believe themselves to be. If I believe I cannot do something, it makes me incapable of doing it. But when I believe I can, then I acquire the ability to do it even if I didn’t have it in the beginning. Mahatma Gandhi

Instead of making resolutions that will most likely be left behind in the next few weeks and months, it may be more effective to start the New Year by challenging yourself a little about who you are and what you believe in. The Belief Inventory will help you clarify what you believe. You may feel that you already know this but it’s worth the time to answer some questions. You may want to write your responses down so that you can refer to them later on. When you do this inventory for the first time you’re creating a baseline for yourself; in other words, where you are right now. Hopefully, some of your answers will be provocative enough for you to want to explore them in depth.

The Self

 Create an inventory (including personal, historical, relational, spiritual, and intuitive aspects) that describes who you believe yourself to be at this point in time.

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 Write a list of 20 things about yourself you know in your heart to be true. What determines the truth of these characteristics/traits to you? (Do you just “know”, have you been repeatedly told these truths, or are they a result of self-examination and soul-searching?) Do you affirm these characteristics/traits in the way you live your life?

 Write a list of 20 things others believe to be true about you but you know are not accurate. Why have these characteristics/traits been reinforced? How do you effect a course correction with those things that you feel don’t accurately fit you, or are core negative beliefs.

The Child You Were

Returning to the “source” may help shed light on those special things that interested you and were meaningful to you when you were young.

 When you were a child what did you love spending most of your time doing or being?

 What did you want to be when you grew up? What did you fantasize being/doing?

 What were you encouraged or discouraged from being or doing?

 Who was the person/people you admired the most? What did you admire the most about them?

 What “job/task” did you like doing the best/the least?

 What do you wish you had been able to do but never got the chance?

 What were the things that you were especially recognized for?

 What were the thing(s) people neglected to recognize most about you?

Relationships

Significant others are mirrors of yourself. What you see reflected in someone close to you may be more about you.

The Present--- Focus on your current relationship, or the last one you had if you are not in a relationship at this time.

 What does intimacy mean?

 What are the qualities you value most about your partner?

 What are the things you tolerate about your partner but don’t really like?

 What are the things you’d like to change most about your partner?

 What are the things you’d like to change most about your self in relationship with your partner?

 What are things you wish your partner would do more/less?

 What are you most concerned, worried, or anxious about in your relationship?

 What is your biggest fear about being in a relationship?

 What are the things you don’t want your partner to know about you?

 What is the deepest, darkest secret that you never want to reveal, or be revealed?

 What are the things you’d want to change most about what you believe is required in order to have an intimate relationship?

The Past---Repeat this exercise for any or all other significant relationships you’ve ever had. Is there a pattern that emerges? Are there any issues that specifically and consistently appear over and over again? If there are, take some time to reflect upon those issues and why they cause repeated concern.

The Future---Project yourself into the relationship that you believe would best suit you. Imagine yourself in this relationship using all of your senses to make it feel as real as possible. How are you different than in past or present relationships? In this ideal relationship what traits/characteristics would you choose your partner to possess?

Work/Career

Here are some reasons why people work: survival, money, power, the satisfaction of working in a team, being innovative/cutting edge, fulfilling a passion, rising in the ranks of a company, changing jobs every few years, being helpful to others/appreciated, making a difference in the world, being left alone, being your own boss. Where are you now? Are you now doing what you really want to be doing?

 What do you consider the most important aspect about working?

 What are the special traits/skills/gifts unique to you that your current work allows you to utilize/express?

 What are the traits/skills/gifts that your current job/work does not allow you to utilize or express?

 What job, career, or profession did you wish you had pursued?

 What got in the way of your pursuing/being what you thought about earlier in your life?

 If you had your choice to be/do anything at this point in your life what would that be?

 If you had your choice to pursue whatever career/profession/endeavor you wished what would you have to do to accomplish that?

Creativity

 What is creativity?

 Do you consider yourself to be a creative person? If so, how do you express yourself?

 How did you express yourself creatively as a child? Did that expression find its way into your adult life? If not, why?

 What was your family’s attitude about creativity and the creative process?

 Were you encouraged or discouraged in your creative expression/endeavors?

 Do you believe that there is some creative aspect of yourself that you have never pursued or expressed? If so, why haven’t you?

Religion/Spirituality

 Do you consider yourself to be a religious person? What does this mean to you?

 Are you spiritual? If so, how does your spirituality express itself?

 Can you be both religious and spiritual?

 What did you learn from your family about religion and/or spirituality?

 How important is religion/spirituality to your life currently?

 What’s positive about your religious/spiritual beliefs? What aspects of these are problematic for you?

 How have your religious/spiritual beliefs influenced the way you live your life?

 Can you understand and accept others’ beliefs that are different from your own?

Loss

Loss can mean anything---death, a finished relationship, divorce, illness, a physical move, loss of job, change in status or identity (even a good change), or as a part of the natural cycling through change. What events/happenings signify loss to you? List the losses in your life, rating them by depth and intensity, using words such as mild, moderate, severe, or extreme. Note your emotions, feelings, and behavior for each loss you experienced.

 How long did it take you to process each event?

 Did you successfully process your loss, meaning did you find a satisfactory solution or resolution?

 If not, had did this loss carry over into your life?

 What patterns emerge over time about the way you deal with loss?

 What beliefs do you hold about loss? Are these carry-overs from your earliest experiences with loss? If so, are these beliefs as applicable today as they were long ago?

 Were you able to discover something new about yourself through this exploration into past loss?

This inventory covers basic topics. You may want to expand it to include areas that are relevant to you Whenever you are confronted by change, and transition is necessary to move forward, you may want to repeat the part(s) of the inventory that are relevant to the kind of change you are encountering. Remember, that what you believe is not written in stone and can be altered to better fit who you are within a specific stage or life circumstance.

Abigail Brenner, M.D., is a psychiatrist in private practice. She is the author of Transitions: How Women Embrace Change and Celebrate Life and other books.

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