We often feel helpless to control the events in our lives. Little do we know, our lives are more under our control than we realize. If you want more control over your life, you have to understand how life is as simple as ABC.
Dr. Albert Ellis, a prominent Psychologist, explains how all life events are a matter of ABC and how to change them.
Every event has a beginning, a middle and an end. For example, let’s say that you’re running late for work and there’s traffic on the road due to an accident.
The beginning of this event is the traffic and the end is your frustration, anger, worry, etc. Unfortunately, we’re rarely aware of the middle part of this sequence. The middle part is your subconscious belief about this event.
The A stands for Activating Event. The Activating Event is anything from losing your keys to getting yelled at to bad weather.
The B stands for Belief. We all have subconscious beliefs, or meanings, we attach to what happens to us. For example, some people believe in karma — what goes around comes around. Others think when something bad happens, it means they’re cursed with bad luck.
The C stands for Consequence. The consequence is emotional, physical or mental.
Some people are more prone to feel angry, depressed, anxious or apathetic. Others may drink more, eat more, sleep less, or procrastinate. While others may have difficulty concentrating, become forgetful, make more mistakes or be unable to stop thinking about their problems.
When things happen to us, we jump from being aware of A, the Activating Event, and then C, the Consequence, without ever noticing B, our Belief about the Activating Event.
But two people can experience the same event and have different reactions to it. This is because we don’t realize that the consequence is really dependent on our subconscious belief about the event and not the activating event itself.
How does this work in real life?
Let’s say that you have to make a presentation at work. The activating event (A) is having to make the presentation. You hate making presentations and so you delay preparing for it, dread the upcoming date and hope that something will happen to the office so that you won’t have to present.
By the time the meeting starts, you feel anxious. You’re sweating, your heart is pounding, you have difficulty remembering what you were going to say, and you look constipated. This is the consequence (C) of having to make this presentation. Did you recognize the subconscious belief (B)?
The middle part of this sequence was your subconscious belief about the presentation. On the surface, you may think that it’s because talking in front of an audience makes you nervous.
But, if you dig a little deeper, you may find that you believe that the audience members will judge your presentation skills and find them lacking.
Let’s say you have a co-worker who has to present right after you. They have the same activating event (A) but their consequence (C) is different.
Their heart might race for the first few minutes of the presentation but then they’re comfortable and flowing smoothly through their powerpoint slides.
Same activating event (A), different consequence (C). Why is that? Because their subconscious belief (B) about the presentation and their skills is different.
They may think “The audience is here to get information that I have. It’s not about me; it’s about the information.” Their subconscious belief is that they are competent and will present well. This is subconscious belief naturally leads to a different consequence.
Here’s the key to changing your life!
We often blame activating events for how we feel (the consequence) but two people can experience the same activating event and have very different consequences.
Moving may be stressful to one person but not to another. Watching a horror movie is stressful to one person but not to another. Presenting to a group of people is stressful to one person but not to another.
It’s not the activating event that determines the consequence. It’s the subconscious beliefs we have about the activating event that determines the consequence we experience.
It’s the subconscious beliefs we have about our lives that determines our experience of life.
The good news is that you can change your subconscious beliefs. This is the key to changing your life.
If you find yourself experiencing a negative consequence (C), pay attention to your self-talk, it’ll give you clues to your subconscious belief (B) about the activating event (A).
There is continuous self-talk going on in our minds at all times. We need to regularly stop and listen to our self-talk. If you find that your self-talk is negative or unproductive, you can choose to think a different thought.
One way to install new subconscious beliefs is to repeat them constantly to ourselves. So whenever you catch unproductive or negative self-talk, immediately replace it with as many productive or positive self-talk as you can. Over time, you’ll see an improvement in how you experience life.