His name was Jim. His dreams were all but shattered, and his empty wallet weighed him down. He had dreams of being a comedian, but the future was dimly lit, and there was nothing funny about it.

Half joking, and half serious, he took out a cheque, wrote down $10 million dollars and signed it to Jim Carrey, ten years in the future. He put the check into his empty wallet. You can probably guess what happens next. There is a universal quality that successful people possess, something that goes beyond hard work or luck.

When Jim Carrey post-dated a cheque to himself. He was subconsciously reaffirming his belief in his own talent. Our subconscious belief systems have a large impact on our lives. Envisioning and practicing positive beliefs is just as much about self-affirmation as it is about working through our limiting beliefs.

Einstein said, “reality is an illusion… but a very persistent one.”

Imagine every human carried around a large lens. Every person used their lens to look at the world. When we are born, our lens is crystal clear. As we grow up, we create belief systems. Imagine these as the lens bending to see better, or a smudge that impairs you, maybe a tint is put in place to protect you. These are assumptions that help us simplify and efficiently deal with the constant stimulus around us.

Our beliefs first come from our own experiences. But they are also formed and manipulated by our friends, family, society, and increasingly, the media we consume. They all live in our subconscious mind. We do not actively think about them, and rarely even recognize they exist.

Not all belief systems are created equal. Sometimes, a belief may limit us, and other times is positive and enables us. A positive belief is that touching a hot stove will hurt us, or that jumping off a cliff would be kind of a bad idea. It can also be the reaffirmation in our ability to run 10 miles, or read 50 pages of a book every day.

We also limit ourselves with some beliefs. These can manifest as tiny thoughts such as “I can’t do this” or “This is too hard for me to do” and “I don’t have the time to do this.” Though these thoughts have the potential to save us from pain, they limit our true potential, and even inadvertently cause us more pain.

So what do we do?

The first step that we can take is to accept that we have limiting beliefs. They are nearly unavoidable. Once we can accept they exist, we make a promise to ourselves to face them. Acknowledgement of our limiting beliefs is one of the strongest tools we already have to deal with them.

As most of our beliefs exist in our subconscious mind, we cannot just take out a notepad and begin to write a list. We must maintain an active awareness that when we feel emotions, especially negative ones, that they are caused by some underlying belief.

Some people also have physical and mental manifestations of limiting beliefs. Anxiety, depression, and even chronic pain can be caused or amplified by limiting beliefs. These manifestations develop triggers, warning the body and mind of the possibility that maybe, just maybe, you’ll experience pain in the future. To avoid this, your body sets triggers to cause pain in the present. A tactical move to make you avoid situations and experiences that will cause those triggers to fire.

When you feel a negative emotion, imagine yourself floating above your physical body. Close your eyes and watch your emotions, what does it look like? Can you see clearly why you’re feeling that way? When we try to separate ourselves from our emotions like this, we often see a flaw in our thinking, or a reason that stems from a much deeper place in our mind.

When you tell yourself that you’ll never make it in trading equities, your music will never hit the radio, or that novel you want to write will never be good enough, you’re using limiting beliefs to avoid possible future failure. When you feel these feelings of self-doubt, anger, envy, jealousy, or sadness, take a moment and imagine looking through a clear, untainted lens.

Often, our limiting beliefs carry little weight, or are illogical to start with. Breaking them down and acknowledging them can often do wonders to completely get rid of them.

Sometimes, we need help to evaluate and understand our experiences so that we can understand how we think and act according to these beliefs. We should never feel ashamed for getting help to deal with these beliefs. That help may be a friend, or even a therapist.

Most of the time, we can sit down after a negative experience and think quietly. A practice of mindfulness and meditation can help unlock the reasons why we might have felt a certain way.

Practicing this type of mindfulness will take us a long way towards becoming our best selves. We can find the right path and be able to take the right steps along it.