In last week’s post, I talked about the incredible power of beliefs and how they influence the way we see ourselves and the world we live in. They affect the choices we make, the relationships we cultivate and determine the limits we set for ourselves. Our beliefs drive everything we do.
Although believing something doesn’t make it true, if you believe it, it becomes your truth and you will try (even on a subconscious level) to create the ‘desired’ outcome in your life.
For example, if you believe that you’ll never find a fulfilling relationship, the decisions you make and actions you take will move you in the direction of making that belief a reality. Perhaps you continue to choose incompatible mates or you find one excuse after another for why someone isn’t the right one. Maybe you exhibit self-sabotaging behaviours that push the other person away. Your belief becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
These limiting beliefs as they are called can keep you locked in fear. You’re afraid to venture outside your comfort zone, you find yourself shying away from taking the actions you need to reach your goals. Alarmingly, although you are often oblivious to this, the effect is you exist in a limited life never realising your full potential.
So how do you start to change those beliefs and adjust your thinking? You first have to figure out what your limiting beliefs are.
Hunting down your limiting beliefs
Beliefs are neutral, they just are what they are. It is when that belief is applied within the context of your life that you learn whether it is helping or hurting. Two people may share the same belief but see very different effects in their lives.
Let’s consider two women who both believe that succeeding in a particular industry is near impossible. One woman uses that as extra motivation to keep pushing while the other uses it as a reason to give up on trying to succeed. Same belief but different effect.
A belief, therefore, only becomes limiting if it is no longer working for you and holds you back from what you want to achieve or create in your life. It is therefore critical to identify which of your beliefs serve you and support your goals and which don’t. Hunting down limiting beliefs I’ve discovered can be challenging, amusing, painful but always eye-opening.
Are you ready to identify your limiting beliefs? Here are 3 approaches consider:
1. Watch your words
Your self-talk is one of the first places to look. What do you say to yourself when you hit a challenge? What do you say when something goes wrong? What do you think when you don’t get what you want? What do you say when you feel afraid? Words like always, never, can’t and shouldn’t are a key indication that a limiting belief exists. Do you use statements like these?
‘I always screw up.’ ‘I can’t start a business I’m too old.’ ‘I’ll never be happy.’ ‘I’ll never find love.’
If you do, then these are probably thoughts that hold you back.
Do you compare yourselves to others a lot and feel inadequate? What words come to mind when that happens?
You want to go for a goal but can’t seem to get going or get easily discouraged. What are the thoughts that go through your mind?
‘I’m not good enough.’ ‘I’m not smart enough.’ ‘I’m not pretty enough.’
All of these are examples of potentially limiting beliefs. So take the time to examine the language you use. It will help you identify what’s keeping you in a negative frame of mind and possibly holding you back.
2. Follow your emotions
Sometimes you may not necessarily hear the words of limiting beliefs but they can sit behind unpleasant or negative emotions. A good way of tracking them down is to follow the emotion down to the underlying thoughts. For instance, you get frustrated at work a lot – look beyond that frustration to what is at its core? Could it be: ‘I’m not smart enough to figure this out.’ ‘I’m stuck here because I have no other options.’ Get to the bottom of what is creating the emotion.
Emotions can be very useful teachers so try to tune in and really experience them. Listen for what the emotion is trying to tell you and identify the limiting beliefs that may be triggering it.
3. Assess your results
Your reality, both the good and the bad is a result of the decisions and actions you’ve taken. Whether consciously or subconsciously, where you are right now is the consequence of what you believe. So what are the results in your life? Are they in alignment with what you want, your goals and aspirations? What area of your life are you trying to improve but the results just don’t line up with your desires? That is another hunting ground for limiting beliefs.
Another is in the challenges you face while working towards your goals. Limiting beliefs can also show up as excuses, procrastination and bad habits. With that in mind consider your goal and then identify the thoughts or feelings that arise when you do. Do you feel resistance and uncertainty? If you do then there may be some limiting beliefs lying underneath.
Let’s say, for instance, you have a goal of starting your own business. It is a challenging goal but also very possible if you put in the necessary time and energy. However, as you think about it you start to feel uncomfortable, perhaps fear kicks in and doubts flood in.
Pinpoint the voice in your head, what is it saying?
‘You’re crazy to even think about starting a business at your age.’
‘You don’t have the money.’
‘It’s way too hard to survive out there.’
You’re not smart enough.’
‘What do you know about running a business anyway?’
Now any one of those statements could be true but more importantly, they could be false. Yet when you listen and believe without challenging them you never get to figure out for yourself which of them (if any) are really true. That is the danger of limiting beliefs.
A bigger life is possible once you figure out what is holding you back
We all have limiting beliefs and as we go through life we act out the roles that we’ve somehow constructed from them. If you are to create new truths that will move you in the direction you want to go, you will need to identify and dismantle the old. Many of your beliefs have been around for a long time so it will take time and patience. You may ask: ‘Is it worth it?’ I guess if you want the prize of a life you love then doing the work is worth it.
Spend some time exploring and assessing your life: your words and your emotions. Examine your goals versus the reality of what you’ve created. Don’t be discouraged as you hunt down the beliefs that may be holding you back. Write them down, look at them, review them and don’t be afraid to feel the emotion they evoke. Be honest about their effect in your life and if they’re not helping you, believe that you can change them. In next week’s post I’ll show you how.
Now over to you:
Were you able to identify some of your limiting beliefs?
How have they held you back?
Let me know in the comments.