A lot of very smart people find themselves preoccupied with debates on whether certain negative self-beliefs are true.

Maybe I will never amount to anything in my career.

Maybe I will never have the romantic relationship I desire.

Maybe I’m not smart enough to succeed.

Maybe I don’t have the pedigree to have a great career.

Maybe I have the wrong gender/ethnicity/[insert your demographic variable here] needed to excel.

These thoughts can occupy the mind as they are inherently difficult to address with 100% certainty.

However, rather than asking yourself whether a particular idea is true or not, I think it’s more beneficial to ask, “Is it useful (to believe this idea)?”

Is it useful to believe that your career will never amount to anything?

Is it useful to believe you will never have the romantic relationship you desire?

Is it useful to believe you’re not smart enough to be successful?


In many cases, asking the question of whether an idea is useful is far more helpful than debating whether it is true.

If you believe you will fail in every facet of your life no matter what you do, logically, you should not try.

However, if you do not try to achieve your goal, it is a logical impossibility that you will ever achieve your goal.

The reason many of us debate the validity of what I call “self-limiting beliefs” is that doing so serves as a way to avoid disappointment.

Disappointment hurts. It stinks.

The problem with beliefs that anticipate disappointment is that they tend to lead you to never attempt anything meaningful in your life.

Useful beliefs are ones that prompt you to try because if you try, at least you have a chance to succeed.

If you don’t let the risk of disappointment hold you back from trying, you will accomplish far more in your life than if you do nothing.

Most successful people you see in the world are not only more successful than you.

The most successful people you see in the world are both more successful and less successful than you.

They didn’t succeed by avoiding all failures. They succeeded by getting a lot of benefits out of their success and minimizing the losses from their failures.

This is a subtle but profound distinction that very few people notice.

So, no matter what you believe about your prospects for success… ask yourself, “Is it useful to hold this belief?” It’s a question worth asking.

What are your thoughts on self-limiting beliefs? Comment below to let me know.

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