Overcoming limiting beliefs
Previous articles have covered topics such as the mindset for success and defining prosperity for ourselves (including defining your life purpose, and setting and achieving goals). This article covers how to deal with one particular type of obstacle that you may find en route towards your success.
I am extremely fortunate to have coached and trained thousands of people, many of whom have faced significant challenges in their life. Apart from generally having a positive mindset, one common trait in each “success story” is that each of these individuals has been able to change any ‘limiting’ beliefs they may have about the situation they were facing and the goals they wanted to achieve.
A limiting belief is a belief you have about yourself, other people or the world generally, which limits you from being, doing or having what you want to be, do or have in the future. Examples include:
- I’m stupid
- I don’t deserve success
- People who have money are bad/dishonest/greedy
- People from my background won’t succeed
- I need qualifications to succeed in life
- I should know all the answers
Sometimes these beliefs appear to be real or ‘the truth’, such can be their hold on us. There are many ways to change limiting beliefs, some of which probably require the help of a qualified NLP Practitioner or coach, and some you can self-coach.
Here are some tips to remove/reduce the impact of limiting beliefs. They can be used in conjunction with each other.
- Look for counter-examples. Ask yourself, “where or when has this belief not been true either for you or other people?” Find enough counter-examples to overcome this belief. One client, a director of a management consultancy firm, believed she couldn’t sell to large clients. After my asking for the tenth example of her selling successfully to large clients, she burst out laughing, realising that the belief was simply untrue.
- Use perceptual positions: Often putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, or imagining it from a neutral observer’s perspective, will change how you perceive the situation. One client, an endurance athlete, said that, having failed in her previous attempt, if she failed to achieve the goal again she would be a failure (this is a limiting belief). I asked her to imagine someone else having unsuccessfully attempted last year, and doing all the training and preparation this year; what would she think of that person? She replied, “I think she’s courageous and dedicated.” “That’s you!” I replied.
- Check your reality: Sometimes we make assumptions and then start believing them. It could be worth asking yourself, “How do I know this belief is true?”, or even “How do I know this belief isn’t false?”
- Increase your capabilities: Limiting beliefs may result from lack of skills. By learning these skills, your beliefs will probably change.
- Pretend: Ask yourself, “What would someone who could do this do? How would they act?”, and then do that. “Fake it until you make it!”
- Use the Mindset for Success: Consider opposing positive beliefs. Behave as if these are true. Remember to be At Cause.
- What’s your purpose? Sometimes getting in touch with your values, sense of identity or purpose will help you find the motivation to overcome a limiting belief. On my training courses, I often ask delegates to think of something they don’t think they can do, and then to imagine that the happiness and fulfilment of a loved one depended on them being able to do it. I then ask whether they would somehow find a way to achieve the goal, and in all cases the answer is a resounding ‘YES’.
- You’ve changed beliefs before: Almost all of us have believed we couldn’t do something, and yet found later that we could. Think now of at least five times when you have done this (e.g. run a 10km race, get promoted). Could the current limiting belief simply be another example of a belief which has reached its sell-by date, or soon will?
Occasionally clients remove limiting beliefs, only to find that a similar type of belief appears later. For example, someone may believe they can’t start their own business. Having cleared this initial belief, they may find that they want to achieve, for example, £50,000 profits in their second trading year. If this desire leads to another limiting belief about them being able to achieve it, it could simply mean that the person is moving forward: they would not have identified this second belief had they not cleared the first one and had they not taken action towards their goals!
Limiting beliefs, whilst potentially appearing real, may simply be a result of flawed thinking, which can be overcome in numerous ways, leading to clients feeling empowered to achieve