May the Fourth Be With You 🙂
One of my favorite scenes from the Star Wars movies happens when Luke is training with Yoda during The Empire Strikes Back. Luke is training in the Force, and he is struggling. At one point, he fails to move his ship with the Force, and says it is impossible because it is too heavy. After Yoda moves the ship easily, Yoda says a line that will be key in Luke’s training if he is going to succeed: “You must unlearn what you have learned.”
Luke had a set of preconceived ideas, based on his history and past experience, about what was possible and what was impossible. These ideas held him back from his destiny—and being the person he needed to be. To succeed, he needed to unlearn what he had learned—he needed to develop a new set of beliefs that weren’t focused on his limits but rather on his potential.
Stuck in What We Have Learned
I think a similar problem often happens with us. We grow up and have certain experiences, which shape our beliefs and ideas about how life works, and what is possible. Then we grow up and become adults. We might want to change, improve, or do something different, but our minds are still stuck in what we have learned. To move forward, like Yoda said, we must unlearn what we have learned.
4 Ways to Unlearn What You Have Learned
But… that’s easier said than done. How can we unlearn what we have learned?
- Have a new experience. This first point is most important. The best way to change our thinking about something is to have a new and different experience. There’s something about actually experiencing a change in our body that can rapidly shift our thinking. If you really want to change something, you have to get moving and actually do something different.
- Shape your change. But sometimes it’s hard to just do something different, especially when you have developed a habit over time. One principle from behavioral psychology that can help us is shaping. Shaping happens when we try to reinforce approximations of the behavior we would like to do. So, if your end goal is to get in shape, start small and go for a walk around the block. Then, reward yourself. Start with something you know you can do, and work up from there.
- Get a coach. Sometimes it’s hard to do something different on your own. We all need a little help sometimes. If you are having trouble changing your thinking and behavior, find a mentor or counselor you trust. See if they can help keep you moving forward toward your goal.
- Model your thinking and behavior after someone else. For anything you want to change, there are experts who have been successful in the past. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Find someone who is similar to how you want to be, and observe them closely. What do they do? How do they think? What are their routines? Copy what they think and do, and see if it works for you.
What limiting thoughts and beliefs do you place on yourself? What have you found to be most helpful when trying to shift these limiting ideas?