Over the last few weeks I’ve talked a great deal about beliefs and in particular limiting beliefs. How they are formed, their influence over our lives and the power they have to hold us back from our goals and dreams.
In last week’s post, I shared how you can start to identify limiting beliefs in your life by:
- Watching your words.
- Following your emotions.
- Tracking your results.
By using these techniques you can begin the process of bringing these beliefs out of hiding, beliefs that may be keeping you from achieving your biggest goals.
But now what?
Well, when I first started hunting mine down I had what seemed a pretty long list. My life although great in some ways felt lacking in others. I had goals that just weren’t materialising and there were areas in my life that fell way short of my best.
When I looked closer, I realised there were many doubts and insecurities holding me back. I knew something had to change but I wasn’t sure where to start. With lots of reading and research, and through trial and error, I stumbled across an approach that has brought remarkable changes to my life. My confidence has grown, and this approach has helped me clear out unwanted and unhelpful baggage and opened my eyes to what’s possible.
Is it a mission accomplished? Heck no! There is so much more to do but the fundamental shift for me was realising that by changing the way I think I could consciously and deliberately remove from my life the things that held me back and replace it with what moved me closer to what I wanted.
So, if you’re where I was, where you’ve gained insight into what beliefs may be standing in your way and you want to start dismantling them, here are seven steps you can take today.
1. Start with a goal that means something to you
Whether it’s improving a relationship, acquiring a new skill or starting a new venture you will have a number of things you want to achieve. The key to success is to focus on those things that you care about. It doesn’t have to be something big just something that you have an emotional attachment to. What is your deepest desire? What do you want from your relationships? What are your personal and professional goals? Find something that matters to you and work on that.
So what does this look like in real life?
Before I started my first blog I’d been contemplating writing for several years. Although I wanted to I was never able to go beyond just scribbling in my journals off and on. What stopped me? Essentially, the voice of doubt and criticism, thoughts of not being good enough. Yes, all the things that come packaged up in those limiting beliefs. It wasn’t necessarily lack of ability holding me back rather my thoughts and beliefs about what I was capable of.
2. Acknowledge the belief
With your goal front and center you will probably find a gap between what you desire and your current reality. Hiding in that gap will be thoughts and emotions that house the limiting beliefs keeping you stuck. Your job is to zoom in on the ones keeping you from getting to that goal.
As you explore your feelings and thoughts about your desire, limiting beliefs will emerge. As they do, write them down and assess them. There is no right or wrong at this point just accept that they exist. Accept that you believe what you do and feel how you feel. Allow yourself to feel the emotion attached to the belief, there’s nothing to be afraid of.
Some of my limiting beliefs showed up as:
‘You’re a rubbish writer.’ ‘No one’s going to read it.’ ‘What do you know about writing?’ ‘Why are you wasting your time, you have more important things to do.’
3. Interrogate the belief
At this stage you need to question the belief. Is it based in fact or assumption? For example you may feel incapable of doing something but that could simply be because of a lack of the necessary knowledge or skills. Such beliefs are not based on assumption but on facts, if you acquired the necessary skills the problem disappears.
I think of such beliefs as natural obstacles. To overcome them requires solving a problem whether that is acquiring knowledge or developing a new skill. They are valid limitations based on fact.
But other beliefs are less concrete. Thoughts like : ‘I’m a rubbish writer.’ ‘No one’s going to read it.’ ‘What do I know about writing?’ are beliefs based on assumptions and conjecture rather than on logic and fact. Fear of criticism and failure makes your mind create these thoughts as a way of protecting you from getting hurt. These are the kinds of beliefs you must break down if you are to get any closer to what you want.
4. Challenge the belief
With your limiting belief identified it’s time to make a choice. Although you may feel like the limitations set by the belief are true you will choose to not believe it.
Consider for a moment:
‘What if what I believed wasn’t true?’
Write down the reasons your belief might not be true. Look for evidence that is contrary to your self-limiting belief.
If you’re finding something particularly challenging could there be another reason for it besides your inadequacy? Can you look at yourself and the situation differently?
Instead of saying ‘I can’t do this.’ Rephrase it. ‘What do I need to learn in order to get this done?’ The natural outflow will be a list of ideas which can be fleshed into tasks. The first statement makes you feel weak and helpless the latter much more empowered and in control.
Your frame of mind needs to be: ‘If this belief was false what would I be doing or saying?’
5. Change the belief
By challenging your limiting beliefs and exploring different possibilities you should now have some alternatives in mind. In this step you will rewrite your story by adopting a different belief.
You will make a conscious decision to adopt a different belief, one that is in line with what you want.
The key here is to take that belief on fully, really experience it. How do you feel having this new belief? What are you thinking as a result of taking on this new belief? Do you feel positive, energised, hopeful, empowered?
For me, this stage took some time. Remember, if you’ve had a longstanding limiting belief just saying something different isn’t going to change things overnight. Saying and thinking the words are essential but what really allows it to take hold is putting that belief into action. You need to prove to yourself that the new belief is true which takes us to the next step.
6. Take action in line with the new belief
Now comes the scary but exciting part. You have to act as if your new belief is true. Behave like the person you want to be. Do the things that that person would. Develop that part of your personality and practise till you become comfortable. In my example:
If I really wanted to be a writer then I needed to act like a writer. Do the things that a writer does. Write and be willing to share my words and thoughts with others even though I was afraid to.
You have to do the very thing that you are most terrified of doing in order to make progress. Start with small actions and build from there. Without action based on your new belief you will feed the old limiting belief which just makes it stronger.
Each small action you take in line with your new belief will help to establish it as your new truth. You are in effect reinventing yourself, creating that new identity slowly but surely.
When you challenge these limiting beliefs especially those that have been with you for a long time it can feel scary. With each step you take, remember to celebrate your success. Each small step is moving you towards a belief that is in line with your goals and moving you away from what isn’t working for you.
I can still remember the thrill I felt finally publishing my first article. It was about more than just the writing but eliminating doubts and fears that had been hanging around for a long time.
Dismantling even one small limiting belief has far-reaching impacts. It teaches you that your limits are really dictated by what you think is possible. It teaches you that you do have the power to create what you want and to eliminate what you don’t.
Change is possible
In looking for my own limiting beliefs I’ve learned that they serve a purpose. They often aren’t logical but our minds will push us into crazy situations in an attempt to ‘keep us safe’.
With awareness you realise that the mind, though well-intentioned, isn’t always right. By trying to avoid short term pain you create long term pain and end up in a mental trap.
But it is possible to change it. You first have to be willing to take full responsibility for yourself. You have to be committed to changing things now, not later. Digging into your belief system can be painful but is so rewarding.
Take the time to hunt down your limiting beliefs and believe that you can dismantle them. Create and instil new beliefs that better serve you, and take action that moves you in your desired direction. Consciously and deliberately create the life you want and remember:
If you can change your mind, you really can change your life.
Now over to you:
Have you identified any limiting beliefs holding you back?
Are you ready to change them?
What will be the first step you take?
Let me know in the comments.