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How to (Literally) Climb a Belief Ladder

251 steps. I remember looking up at those steps and thinking, “There is no way I can climb those steps. I’m too out of shape.”

I had been on a personal journey of transformation. I had started the journey weighing 349 pounds looking for a physical transformation. My intention was to lose weight and get healthy. Little did I realize in the beginning that the condition of my body was only an outward sign of the trajectory of my thoughts. What began as a physical transformation has become one of renewing my mind, which brought me closer to Christ. Any diet or exercise program could help me lose some of the weight, but only working on my thoughts and bringing them to reason would help me to achieve a lasting transformation.

On that day, looking at those steep steps left me feeling paralyzed with fear. In my head I heard, “I’ve never climbed steps like that before, so I know I can’t do it now.” My family had already climbed the steps and was enjoying the amazing view from the top of the waterfall. I wanted to be at the top of that waterfall with my family, but those steps seemed so overwhelming. Although I had lost a good amount of weight, I was still over 280 pounds at that time. I believed that just because I had not done it before, or had failed at doing it before, I would not be able to do it now. This had been a pattern in my life that I have learned to recognize. I was using the past for validation on what I was capable of in the present moment.

Same thought just change the subject:
I’ve never done a push-up before, so I know I can’t do it now.
I’ve never been able to ride a bike, so I know I can’t do it now.
I’ve never been successful at losing weight, so I know it won’t work now.
I’ve never run a 5K before, so I know I can’t do it now.
I recognized that thoughts like this ended the same – me paralyzed with fear and not even trying to attempt what was in front of me.

One of the most important lessons I learned prior to that day was that if I wanted to change my life, I had to stop recreating my past. In the past, I would have sat on the bench at the bottom of the waterfall while my children and husband enjoyed the view from the top. Staying stuck in the past, I was not living. The only way to move from focusing on the past is to focus on the present moment. I learned that all those thoughts were a choice. I had to choose to change those thoughts.

Changing my thoughts took awareness, intentionality, a lot of prayer, and practice. I had to choose to believe something that I had never believed before. I learned to look for evidence that my old thoughts were wrong, and this day, with 251 steps ahead of me, was no different. What if I am wrong? Could it be that just because I’ve never done it before does not mean I can’t climb those steps? Do I really want to miss out on yet another experience with my family just because I am afraid to try? Who wants me to stay here? Certainly not the Lord, for he said, “The thief only comes to steal, to slaughter, to destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

To move past a very strongly held belief we need to choose thoughts we can believe. We can’t always go from 0 to 60 immediately. It sometimes takes small steps to build the evidence needed to believe something different than we are used to believing. The thought I chose to practice was one that I knew would ignite courage in me: “I only need to start.”

After I started, the thought became, “I can take one more step.” Despite my knees hurting, despite my back aching, despite the heat that caused me to sweat, and despite the steepness of those steps, I continued to take one step over and over again 251 times. As my children realized that I was climbing to the top, they got very excited and cheered me on. When I made it to the top, my kids threw their arms around me in delight and my husband looked at me and asked, “What made you climb up? I thought you were going to stay behind and wait. If I had known you were coming, I would have climbed with you.”

“I guess I’m sick of missing out,” I told him.

When you encounter a belief that’s difficult to change in your journaling, you may find yourself facing your own 251 steps. Start with replacing that thought with something that is just a little more believable. If you keep practicing your new thought, eventually you will collect the evidence needed to climb to the next level and change that thought to something that is closer to where you want to be. Eventually, you will make it to the top of those stairs one step at a time.