In April 1963, Dr Martin Luther King was arrested in Birmingham, Alabama, for disobeying a ban on demonstrations. Using scraps of paper given to him by a janitor, notes written on the margins of a newspaper, and later a legal pad given to him by SCLC attorneys, King wrote his essay “Letter From Birmingham Jail“.
King wrote his “Letter From Birmingham Jail” in response to a newspaper article titled “A Call for Unity,” a statement made by eight white Alabama clergymen against King and his methods.
King’s critics thought that his actions were ‘unwise and untimely’ and that they ‘violated common sense.’ They were worried that King’s actions would cause them to lose ground, believing that:
- Nonviolence was ineffective and armed resistance was needed;
- Racial reconciliation was impossible as white people wouldn’t change;
- Racism was engrained culturally and could not be changed;
- The civil rights movement was asking too much, too fast.
However King rejected these limiting beliefs, and believed that the times called for urgent action. And like Gandhi, that nonviolent demonstrations and protest was not only necessary but effective. He believed that hearts and minds could be changed, that racial reconciliation was a real possibility and that society could change for the better.
King saw the world through a different lens to his critics. King’s more optimistic lens enabled him to see a different, better future, regardless of the opinions of others. Seeing the world through this lens freed him to act with hope, conviction and determination.
The “Letter From Birmingham Jail” was widely published, and became an important text for the American Civil Rights Movement. A few months later, King led the 1963 March on Washington, attended by more than 200,000 people, where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. That demonstration galvanised nationwide support for civil rights, and the March On Washington was instrumental in President Kennedy passing sweeping civil rights legislation.
Monday, 15th January is Martin Luther King Day. A national holiday in the United States to commemorate Dr King’s great dream of a vibrant, multiracial nation united in justice, peace and reconciliation; a nation that has a place at the table for children of every race and room at the inn for every needy child.
Martin Luther King Day is also an opportunity to commemorate a global leader who inspired nonviolent liberation movements around the world. Indeed, programmes commemorating Martin Luther King Day are being observed in more than 100 countries. Here in the UK, Nottingham Trent University is for example hosting a seminar to reflect on how his legacy can challenge us to better serve humanity and how to approach the social injustices today.
In a week when the President of the United States made vulgar, racist remarks about why the United States should take in immigrants from “s***hole countries” over people from places like Norway, Martin Luther King’s vision for a better world may seem far away.
It’s easy to succumb to limiting beliefs. Maybe:
- Like me you’ve been feeling disheartened that you don’t have a big enough platform to make a difference.
- You’ve bought into the idea that racism – and sexism for that matter – are so engrained culturally that they can’t be changed.
- You’ve found running a business a real struggle and doubt whether you have it in you to make it a success.
When it comes to creating the life you want to live, the business you want to run and the world you want to be a part of, you don’t have to be constrained by limiting beliefs. You always have the choice to exchange your viewpoints for more liberating truths. In his book Your Best Year Ever: A 5-Step Plan For Achieving Your Most Important Goals, Michael Hyatt sets out six ways you can do just this.
1. Recognise the limiting belief: There are several giveaways that you’ve succumbed to a limited belief, like ‘black and white thinking,’ catastrophising and universalising. It’s important to remember that our opinion about reality is just an opinion. And that opinion might just be wrong.
2. Write the belief down and name it: It might go something like:
- I don’t have a big enough platform.
- I don’t have enough/ the right experience.
- No matter how hard I try, I always fail.
3. Evaluate the belief: Is the belief an empowering one that enables you to accomplish your goals? Or is it getting in the way of you achieving what you want?
4. Either reject or reframe the belief: If a belief you hold is limiting, you have the option of simply rejecting it outright. If there’s some truth to your belief, you can always recast the story you’ve been telling yourself. For example, yes, my platform is smaller than I’d like right now, but I have previously built a large and highly effective platform and can do so again.
5. Revise the belief: This involves re-orientating your thinking around a new liberating truth. If you think you’re ‘too young and inexperienced to run a successful business,’ you could revise this to ‘I’ve more energy and enthusiasm than my competitors.’
6. Reorient yourself to your new belief: Initially this may feel uncomfortable, like wearing a pair of shoes that pinch. But if you keep reminding yourself of your new belief, eventually it will fit. The more we live as if our beliefs are true, the quicker we will bring our experience into alignment with our hopes and dreams.
Martin Luther King Day serves as a powerful reminder that the seemingly impossible can, if we upgrade our limiting beliefs, become first probable, and then possible. My hope is that this article will help you exchange any limiting beliefs you hold for liberating truths, and make 2018 your very best year ever.
Wishing you a year when you realise all your hopes and dreams.
Question: What does Martin Luther King Day mean to you? I love reading your feedback so please do take a moment to share let me know in the comments box below.
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