Three “Nutty Beliefs” That Sabotage Your Success And Well Being

A long haired woman in a loose rain jacket sits sadly on a wooden dock with her knees pull to her chest. The water below her is different shades of grey.

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

— Shakespeare, Hamlet

How Do These Beliefs Affect Your Life, Work and Relationships?

The Cognitive Behavioural Psychologist, Albert Ellis, summed up 70 years of clinical practice by observing that “three nutty beliefs” gave rise to most of the misery suffered by his therapy patients.

  • must do well.
  • You must treat me well.
  • The world must be easy (and fair).

You can substitute the words “should,” “ought to,” “have to,” or “need to” for “must.” They have the same self-defeating effect.

Ellis advised that “shoulding on yourself, others, and the world” will almost always leave you feeling stuck, overwhelmed, and even helpless and hopeless. Despairing.

The poet, John Milton, understood this, when he wrote,”The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”

“It’s only when we demand that we are hurt.”

— Henry Miller

Ellis’s 3 Nutty Beliefs Are Demands, Not Desires

The problem with these “nutty” beliefs is that they are absolutes—inflexible demands you impose on yourself and others.

  • “I should….”
  • “You must….”
  • “They have to….”
  • “Life should be….” 

As well, these beliefs imply other absolute beliefs. “I must do well,” for example, can lead to “I must always do well, at everything.” 

This kind of thinking or self-talk can spin you into increasingly nuttier absolute beliefs, such as, “If I don’t do well, it is awfulterriblehorrible — and I can’t stand it!

Thinking like this can easily overwhelm you, depress you and make you anxious.

Graphic of woman dressed in Victorian skirts and ruffled collar. She has dozens of blackbirds rising up like smoke, instead of har
Eckhart Tolle

Nutty Beliefs Are Irrational And Self Defeating

Thinking based on these beliefs pits you against reality. It generates negativity, confusion and a sense of overwhelm.

It also makes it difficult to create what you most want in your life, because your perception of reality is irrationally negative

For example, if you say, I must always do well, and then you don’t do well at something that matters, you’ll feel upset, angry at yourself.

You’ll likely take self-defeating actions such as giving up, seeking relief or distraction from your negative emotions, or taking no action at all.

The good news is that it is relatively easy to learn how to find nutty beliefs and negative trigger word—and change them to self-supporting beliefs and realistically positive words.

Both my Life Design Coaching and Emotional Mastery Coaching can help you do so.

How One Nutty Belief Sabotaged A Client’s Life

I worked witha client who ran successful fitness business that ran well and made money. But he had serious problems trying to make personal “life” decisions.

He lived in a friend’s basement, because he couldn’t decide whether he wanted to rent, buy, or lease to buy his own home. 

He also wanted to buy a new car, but could not make a final decision. For over a year, he’d been stuck between two choices—an Audi 4-wheel drive, or a Volvo station wagon? 

“I just can’t choose,” he said. “I can’t make the decision.”

When I helped him examine this dilemma by looking for nutty beliefs, the first one he surfaced was a whopper:

“ I must make the right decision,” he thought, followed by, “If I don’t, I’ll die.” 

It’s pretty easy to see why he couldn’t pull the trigger and commit to one of the cars. 

But, once he became aware of this and other nutty beliefs—and their effect on his emotions, actions and results—he disputed those beliefs, then changed them.

“If I make the wrong choice,” he realized, “I can make another. If I make a mistake, I can correct it.” Feeling less confused and stuck, he bought the Volvo.

A few months later, he signed a deal for a 1-year, trial lease-to-own agreement, and moved into a 2-story town house. He bought it outright at the end of that year.

Dispute Your Nutty Beliefs. You’ll Feel Better. Do Better

The bad news is that most of us habitually suffer from one or more of three nutty beliefs, and their many variations. 

The good news is, if you can catch them, you can dispute them. You can show yourself that they are irrational‚ and sabotage your success. Then substitute rational, self-supporting thoughts and beliefs in their place. 

When you shift from demands to desires:

  • “I must get it right,” becomes“ I want (or choose) to get it right.”
  • “People shouldn’t laugh at me,” becomes “I’d prefer if people didn’t laugh.”
  • “Decisions should be easier,” becomes, “I’d like decisions to be easy.”

When you change your beliefs, you change your feelings and actions. They become more optimistic, positive and effective. Life becomes easier, and more enjoyable. 

Shift Focus; Shift Your Mood, Action And Results

When you find your shoulds, change them to “want,” “prefer,” or “choose.” When you do, you shift your focus from imposed demands to desired results. You’ll feel better, act more effectively and increase your ability to create what matters.

Try It Yourself

Choose a thought/belief that starts with, “I should…” or “I must….” Then change it to, “I’d like…,” “I want…,” or “I’d prefer….” Notice a difference?

Shifting from demands to desires reduces your stress. It energizes you. It leads to better results.

It greatly ups your chances of creating the results you truly want in life, work, relationships and … almost anything.

Bruce Elkin

Life Design Coach. Personal Life Coach. 25 years experience. Clients on 6 continents. Author of 5 books and ebooks. Cares about the Earth and living in harmony with its natural systems.