The "Bent-Nickel Belief:" How Our Belief Systems Cause Us Stress

You can never stack fast enough, work hard enough, or be sincere enough to make up for a ‘bent-nickel’ belief.

Imagine going on a leisurely drive through the countryside with a couple of your friends … but you’re not feeling well, unfortunately. So when someone calls your attention to a lovely lake, you don’t give it much notice. After all, you’re not feeling well. And when someone else comments on a magnificent mountain in the distance, you hardly hear him.

The next day you recover. You feel fine. You go on the same drive as before, visiting the very same places. But now, everything is completely different. You enjoy the lovely lake and magnificent mountain. You enjoy yourself.

How come? It was the same scenery both times. But on the second trip you were different. As Vernon Howard, the author of “Psycho-Pictograpy,” says, “Enjoyment of life is not the presence of something outside ourselves; it is the absence of something within ourselves.” As Howard would say, it is the absence of gloomy beliefs.

And in our world of personal, corporate, and national anxiety, I would suggest that the main cause of stress is not the economy, international threats, or environmental conditions. The NUMBER #1 cause of stress is …

=> 1. Gloomy, inaccurate, ineffective beliefs

You see … on your imagined road trip above … you did not see things as they were. You saw them as you were. And when you’re filled with gloomy, inaccurate, or ineffective beliefs, you’re going to have stress rather than peace and joy.

One teacher made that quite clear to his class when he asked his students to put all their nickels on his desk. He then went on to explain important lesson. He said, “If you have a bad foundation or a belief that isn’t accurate, your life will always be filled with struggle and anxiety.”

To illustrate the point, he pulled a badly bent nickel from his pocket. He put the nickel on his desk and began stacking the students’ nickels on top of it. The stack collapsed after six nickels, but he tried again … getting the same results. He looked at his students intently, held up the bent nickel, and said, “You can never stack fast enough, work hard enough, or be sincere enough to make up for a ‘bent-nickel’ belief. Make sure your beliefs are accurate.”

Quite simply, your beliefs … your inaccurate beliefs … either caused your stress or added to it. And Dr. Paul D. Ware confirmed it. Named the “Outstanding Teacher of Behavioral Medicine in the U. S.,” he wrote, “Most stress is not caused by external circumstances. It is caused by our belief systems. And we can change our belief systems.”

That’s great news. We can change our belief systems!!!

But, we have to be aware of our inaccurate, bent-nickel, stress-inducing beliefs before we can change them.

So I ask you, “Are you aware of the beliefs that are stressing you out?” It would be well worth your time to figure them out. And as you do that, take a look at …

=> 2. The most common stress-inducing beliefs

See if you buy into any of these ridiculous beliefs … even though these beliefs cause pain, block problem solving, drain time and energy, and even threaten relationships and productivity. If you do, I would challenge you to affirm the new, self-empowering belief.

**Stress-inducing belief: “I shouldn’t have to put up with this.”
**Self-empowering belief: “There is always something I can do.”

Absolutely. The inspiring poet Maya Angelou talked about that on her 70+ birthday when she was being interviewed. When asked how she felt about getting older, she said it was “exciting.”

When asked about all the changes in her body as she aged, she answered there were many changes occurring every day … like her br–sts. “They seem to be in a race to see which will reach her waist, first.” The audience laughed so hard they cried … as they grasped the profound wisdom of her comments.

Angelou obviously held the self-empowering belief that “there is always something I can do” … which may be something as simple as finding the humor in her situation. And you can do the same thing.

**Stress-inducing belief: “It’s too hard. I just can’t take it anymore.”
**Self-empowering belief: “I have handled tough situations in the past and can handle this one now.”

It’s true. You have had tough situations before, and the fact you’re still around says you’re a survivor. You CAN handle tough situations.

Author Barbara Pletcher says, “The real winners in life are the people who look at every situation with an expectation that they can make it work or make it better.” I would even advise you to repeat Barbara’s comment throughout your day. Let it inspire you and help you through the tough times.

**Stress-inducing belief: “It will never change.”
**Self-empowering belief: “Everything changes.”

Nothing ever stays the same. All jobs change. In fact, even if you’re in the same company with the same job title for the last 20 years, your job is nothing like it was 20 years ago. It’s changed.

And all people change … sooner or later. As life experiences come their way, they get better or bitter. Even relationships change, as they all come to an end eventually, through retirement, death, or divorce.

Maya Angelou even goes a step further. Instead of merely recognizing the fact that things do change, you CAN change yourself so you CAN deal with any situation more effectively. In her words, “If you don’t like something change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.”

**Stress-inducing belief: “Some people are impossible to deal with.”
**Self-empowering belief: “I can find a way to get along with others.”

You may not like some people and you may not agree with some people. But you can learn to get along … or at the very least … cope with almost everybody. Sure, it will take some patience and some skill, but it can be done. That’s what I teach in my course on “Cooperation and Conflict: Working Together Instead of Coming Apart.”

And, of course, it will take some empathy to get along with others. One husband and wife had to learn that lesson the hard way.

As the wife was making a breakfast of fried eggs, her husband burst into the kitchen. “Careful,” he said, “CAREFUL! Put in some more butter! Oh my G–! You’re cooking too many at once. TOO MANY! Turn them! TURN THEM NOW! We need more butter. Oh my G–! WHERE are we going to get MORE BUTTER? They’re going to STICK! Careful … CAREFUL! I said be CAREFUL! You NEVER listen to me when you’re cooking! Never! Turn them! Hurry up! Are you CRAZY? Have you LOST your mind? Don’t forget to salt them. You know you always forget to salt them. Use the salt. USE THE SALT! THE SALT!”

The wife stared at him. “What in the world is wrong with you? You think I don’t know how to fry a couple of eggs?”

The husband calmly replied, “I wanted to show you what it feels like when I’m driving.”

**Stress-inducing belief: “Big deal. I already knew that.”
**Self-empowering belief: “I put my knowledge to work.”

It often amazes me how the most negative and ineffective people respond to seminars. They’re the ones who need it the most but don’t show up. Or if they do show up, they dismiss almost everything said … because they “already knew that.”

I doubt it. There’s a huge difference between “knowing” something and actually “doing” something. And I find most people don’t lack knowledge; they lack implementation.

As the author Kahlil Gibran noted, “A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle.”

**Stress-inducing belief: “I don’t have time.”
**Self-empowering belief: “I make time for the important things.”

Everybody has the same amount of time, and yet it is absolutely astounding how much some people get done and how little others get done. It’s all a matter of priorities and organization. If you know what’s important … AND put first things first … you won’t have nearly as much stress. And you’ll be a LOT more productive.

So yes, it’s tough out there. Stress is extremely high for most people right now. But you have an amazing control over your stress … if you discard your ineffective beliefs and adopt some self-empowering beliefs. As German statesman Karl Wilhelm Von Humboldt said back in the 18th and 19th centuries, “I am more and more convinced that our happiness or our unhappiness depends far more on the way we meet the events of life than on the nature of those events themselves.”

Action:  Select the stress-inducing belief that causes you the most trouble. And every time you catch yourself thinking that thought, replace it with its counteracting self-empowering belief.