How to Break Free From Your Hidden Beliefs

Go-Karting start poster

Our plan was to organize big-scale amateur go-karting races for our engineering school in Paris, France. 

150 to 200 “pilots” would get a chance to simulate what it’s like to be a race car driver: big outdoor race track, teams, pit stops, refueling, etc.

Getting enough drivers for our first race was our toughest challenge. No one knew who we were.

Historically, student associations on campus all promoted their events in the same manner: a few posters in the areas that were pre-approved by the administration, and a physical booth where you occasionally sold your tickets.

My Hidden Belief at the time was: “If everyone is doing it one way, it’s probably the best way.”
So I suggested we do the same as everyone else.

My friend Thomas was already way ahead of the game. He had decided he wouldn’t play by the same rules.

The main weakness with the conventional method, he explained, was that we barely got any exposure. The very few spots where we could put up our posters weren’t very visible to most students and they were crammed with competition.

We needed to find a way to circumvent the rules.

Fast forward to a few weeks before our first race. It was impossible for anyone NOT to notice our posters. The first thing you would see when going down the entrance escalators was a wall of giant posters. They were all around campus, in every spot that had previously been out of bounds.

Each poster was on an unmissable bright orange background. The layout was very simple: a photo of one of the most influential figures on campus wearing racing gloves and holding a helmet, next to a personal quote that related to racing.

We had everyone. From the head of campus to the most cherished teachers.

eKarting Posters

A selection of our posters, translated from French.

We didn’t ask for permission.

Our campaign was so different from what everyone else was doing and so visible, that nobody ever asked us if we had gotten the OK to display the posters in the first place.

When you think about it, who could possibly come up to us and tell us to take down a giant poster of the most powerful person on campus?

This experience shattered the negative Hidden Belief I had been carrying around for so long. “If everyone is doing it one way, it’s probably the best way.”

Since that day, when I notice consensus I see an opportunity to make my own path.


Last week, we talked about the power of Hidden Beliefs over our lives.
Hidden Beliefs are scripts we’ve convinced ourselves to be true, that limit our lives when they are negative, or blast open our potentiel when they are positive. If you haven’t read my previous article, now might be a good time.

The aim of that post was to get you through the first of three steps to overcoming a Hidden Belief. Step 1: “Identify it”.

Today we analyse Step 2: “Create a Counter Belief”.
We’ll use Béatrice’s comment:

Speaking in public is so scary, the fear of not being good enough. For the last ten years I have had to do it in front of 100 people to present the yearly accounts of the not for profit I work for. Year after year my confidence built up and not only can I do it without becoming bright red but I can defend my point of vue in any meeting. I realised that if you know well what you speak of, you are on the same footing as everybody else.” (emphasis mine)

Béatrice was scared of speaking in public because she was afraid she wouldn’t be good enough. This is a very common Hidden Belief that comes up often with different wordings: “Why would people want to listen to ME?”, “I will become so red that people won’t listen, that’s all they’ll see”, “What I have to say isn’t as good as what others are saying”, “People won’t understand what I’m trying to say”, Etc.

She found herself in a situation where she didn’t have a choice. She had to speak in front of 100 people. There was no backing out.
She most likely became bright red, stuttered, and wished she would die right then and there, but she got through it.
And no one really noticed anything. No remarks on how much she was blushing. No one firing her. The meeting went on and the next person took the floor.

I want to emphasize this point. When she spoke, nothing notable happened. She knew what she was talking about, said what she had to say, and the meeting went on.

Probably unknowingly, Béatrice found her Counter Belief: “Whether I turn red or stutter, if I know what I’m talking about people will listen to what I have to say and ignore the rest.”

Which brings us to Step 3: “Use your Counter Belief as often as possible”.

Imagine how Béatrice felt when she walked home that evening. Feel the adrenaline rushing through her veins, the feeling of power over herself pulsing through her whole body. Exhilarating.

Something changed.
It was ever so slight, but she could feel it.

The next time she finds herself in a similar scenario, her Hidden Belief will appear like it always has: “Don’t speak up, you don’t have anything worth saying”. But this time it’s different. She can summon her Counter Belief: “You know what you are talking about, you are on the same footing as everybody else”.
In that moment she has a choice. If she activates the Counter Belief, the virtuous cycle of exterminating her Hidden Belief will have begun.

Every time she choses the Counter Belief it becomes stronger.

Counter Beliefs Painting

I like to think of the Hidden Belief as a black canvas, and the Counter Belief as a brush flush with white paint. The power of a belief over you is directly related to the amount of its color on the canvas.

When you act on your Counter Belief — Béatrice speaking in public for example — you are applying white paint on the canvas.
Soon your canvas has more white than black.

Eventually, you’ve used your Counter Belief so many times that it overwhelms the Hidden Belief almost entirely, hiding it from sight. At that point it becomes merely an afterthought.

As Béatrice put it in her comment: “Year after year my confidence built up and not only can I do it without becoming bright red but I can defend my point of vue in any meeting.”

Congratulations, Béatrice.

So how do you overcome your Hidden Beliefs one by one?
Three steps:

  • Step 1: Identify it.
  • Step 2: Create a Counter Belief.
  • Step 3: Act on your Counter Belief as often as possible.

Caveat: A Hidden Belief is “alive”. If you stop using your Counter Belief, if you stop taking advantage of opportunities to act on it, your Hidden Belief will slowly eat away at your paint strokes, and darkness will take over once more.

This story is a continuation of a previous article I wrote about identifying the hidden beliefs that weigh us down. There are some amazing comments from readers who share their top 3 hidden beliefs.

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