Overcoming Self-Limiting Beliefs

I’ve noticed that very few people in this world pursue their goals or dreams.

When I ask why they don’t, I usually get some answer like, “I can’t,” or “it’s not possible."

When I hear that, I am often tempted to ask the following questions:

"You can’t accomplish X because it breaks the laws of physics? Or you can’t accomplish X for some other reason?"

99.9% of the time, the goal in question doesn’t defy the laws of physics but does defy the person’s belief system.

For many decades, I’ve been using the following acronym:

SLB = Self-Limiting Beliefs

"I can’t start my own company."

"I can’t have a good career and a good marriage."

"I can’t get a promotion."

In these cases, the ideal outcome exceeds the person’s self-limiting beliefs.

There are two useful steps to address self-limiting beliefs.

First, notice that you have them.

Instead of saying, “I can’t get a promotion,” say, “I perceive that I am not able to get a promotion.”

The latter is a more accurate statement because it allows room for your perceptions or beliefs to be incorrect, incomplete, or to change over time.

Second, ask yourself if your beliefs are useful.

“I can’t start my own company.”

  1. Okay, I see this is a belief.
  2. Hmm... is this belief useful to me?

Let's look at an alternative.

“I could start my own company, but it won’t be easy.”

  1. This too is a belief.
  2. Is this a more useful belief? Does it lead you to take actions that move you toward your goals?

Having thought about this idea for decades, I’ve come to the conclusion that self-limiting beliefs are as the name implies... self-limiting.

The majority of the time, they are not useful.

I’ve found that a neutral or even positive statement is often more useful.

“I could start my own company, but it won’t be easy” is a more useful statement than “I can’t start my own company.”

The former says something is possible but there are challenges. It implies you can figure out how to overcome those challenges. It implies developing a greater skill set or gaining access to specific resources can make it easier. In short, it implies possible avenues for taking productive action.

“I can’t start my own company” only implies a single logical course of action.

Don’t bother trying.

Whether your beliefs are accurate or not is largely irrelevant.

The far better question is: are your beliefs useful? Does believing in them serve you? If not, why hold on to them?

Questions of the Day:

What beliefs do you hold on to?

Are these beliefs useful?

It’s worth thinking about...

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