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Chapter 04: Your Beliefs Determine Your English Success


In the last chapter, you learned the importance of fuel, or psychology, for English speaking success. You also learned how to anchor (connect) strong positive emotions into English.

In addition to peak emotions, there is another important element of psychology that you must master in order to speak English powerfully: belief. Beliefs are our most powerful "brain programs." They guide our decisions, our feelings, and our thoughts. They tell us what is possible and what is not. They open us to success or limit us to failure.

We can put beliefs into two general categories: limiting beliefs and empowering beliefs. A limiting belief is typically a negative "program" that limits your potential and performance. In other words, limiting beliefs limit your success.

The hidden curriculum is the source of most negative beliefs about English. Over time, schools consistently program limiting beliefs into the minds of their students. After years in school, most students share some or all of these limiting beliefs:

  • English is complicated and difficult.
  • It takes many years to speak English well.
  • English is stressful.
  • Grammar study is the key to English speaking.
  • I'm not good at English.
  • There is one right answer. There is one right way to say it.
  • Something is wrong with me because I still can't speak English well.
  • My test scores are low, therefore I can't speak English well.
  • The best way to learn English is to sit in a class, take notes, and read a textbook. Only a few special people can learn to speak English powerfully.
  • English learning is boring and frustrating.

The problem with these negative beliefs is that they lead to negative emotions (about English). The negative beliefs and emotions then lead to bad decisions, and bad decisions lead to disappointing results.

For example, someone who believes that English is stressful, complicated, and difficult is unlikely to be motivated to work hard every day. Rather, they will constantly be struggling to force themselves to learn English.

Someone who feels only a few special people can master English will likely become frustrated very quickly. They will assume that something is wrong with them, that they are "not good at English." Again, their progress will be slow.

Finally, those who believe that classes, textbooks, and grammar study are the key may spend years using these ineffective methods, driving their old slow car on the road to fluency and never achieving success.

This is why beliefs are so important. They are the central programs in our brains that create feelings, decisions, and actions. Beliefs are what make the difference between ultimate success or a lifetime of frustration with English.

Beliefs tell you what an experience means. Whenever you have an English language experience, your brain must decide the meaning of what happened. In other words, your brain generalizes the experience. Your brain decides what the event means to your life as a whole. And with each negative experience, the belief can grow stronger and stronger. Eventually, you become completely certain about the belief.

For example, maybe you were repeatedly corrected by an English teacher. After each of these embarrassing experiences, your brain had to decide the meaning of what happened. Based on these events, maybe you decided that you were bad at English. Maybe you decided that English was painful and stressful. Each negative experience made the belief stronger.

The problem is that these beliefs then affected all of your English experiences that followed. So whenever you had another encounter with English, it was always with these negative limiting beliefs. Because of this, you automatically viewed every new experience with English more negatively. If your beliefs are strongly negative and you don't change them, you can completely destroy your ability to succeed as an English speaker. Many English learners completely lose hope and simply quit, never to succeed.

You must, therefore, replace your limiting beliefs with strong empowering ones. "Empowering" means "giving power." So an empowering belief is one that gives you power!

What kind of empowering beliefs do you need for English speaking success? Here is a sample list:

  • English is easy, fun, and exciting.
  • I can speak English fluently in about six months.
  • Mistakes are normal and necessary. Even native speakers make mistakes.
  • Communication, not a test score, is the purpose of English speaking. Grammar study kills English speaking.
  • Anyone can learn to speak English powerfully.
  • There's nothing wrong with me, I've just been using a bad method and I can change that.

I'm sure you can see how much stronger these beliefs are. You can see that these beliefs are more likely to create success than the limiting ones. You can probably imagine the greater feelings of confidence and excitement that these beliefs create. But how do you create these beliefs? Clearly the empowering beliefs are more desirable, but how do you truly re-program your mind?

One powerful method for changing beliefs is called modeling. Modeling simply means to find a successful person and study them carefully. If you want to speak English powerfully, for example, you find another person who has learned to do it. You learn about them. You learn what they did and how they did it. If possible, you talk to them and learn about their psychology and their methods. Finally, of course, you do your best to do exactly what they did.

The more you model successful people, the more your beliefs will change automatically. By focusing on success instead of failure, you gradually reprogram your brain. This is why I created the Effortless English Club. In our community, the most successful members guide and advise newer members. While I hope this book will help to change your beliefs, there is nothing more powerful than hearing from another person, just like you, who achieved success.

Your job now is to find successful English speakers and model them. You might find them in your town. You will certainly find them online. When you do find them, ask them about their beliefs and methods. Study their psychology and their success. This is exactly what I did when I developed the Effortless English system. I studied the most successful English learners. I interviewed them. I studied their emotions, their beliefs, their goals, and their learning methods. That is how I created a system based on success, not a failure.

Remember, beliefs are created by the meaning we attach to experiences. The more you focus on and think about negative experiences, the stronger the limiting beliefs become. You can make empowering beliefs stronger in the same way. In other words, you can use "selective memory" to create and strengthen your positive beliefs.

How do you do this? Simply by reviewing all of your past experiences with English. As you remember all of your past experiences, search your memory for any that were positive. Maybe you remember a fun activity. Maybe you enjoyed reading a short story in English. When you remember these positive experiences, write them down. Create a list of all the positive experiences you have ever had with English.

Most people can identify at least a few such experiences. The next step is to focus your attention on these memories every day. Each day, review your list of positive English memories. Remember each experience. See each one in your mind and feel those positive feelings again.

Then write down a new empowering belief about English. You might write "English is easy and fun." You might write "I enjoy learning English and I'm good at it." Write this belief at the top of your list and also review it each day.

And of course, every time you have a new positive experience with English, add it to your list. Your list will grow longer and longer. And as it grows, your empowering beliefs will get stronger and stronger.

We all know the computer programming term "garbage in, garbage out." Beliefs are our brain programs. Garbage (negative limiting) beliefs create negative emotions, bad decisions, and low motivation. These, in turn, create "garbage out" – terrible results. Those bad results then create new and stronger negative beliefs, and the whole cycle starts again, even worse. This is called a "downward spiral."

Positive beliefs, on the other hand, create an upward spiral. Empowering beliefs create more positive emotions, better decisions, and better motivation. These, in turn, create better results. Better results then create even stronger empowering beliefs. The whole cycle repeats, again and again, getting stronger each time. This upward spiral is the key to rapid success with English.

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