Are You Making Things Up ?
A common concept in self-development is the one of limiting beliefs or self-limiting beliefs.
“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
What Do We Believe ?
A limiting belief is a belief you hold in your mind that constrains you or limits you in any way. For example, a lot of people believe they are bad at math or that they just suck at splitting the dinner bill.
Has it ever occurred to you that believing you cannot do some sort of calculation or that other people are better at doing it than you, will actually prevent you from even trying to do it ?
Any time you encounter a situation related with numbers, you will probably use a calculator, ask someone for help or just give up and stay silent while smiling awkwardly.
Why Does It Matter ?
You may already be aware that such a person will probably not try to improve their mathematical skills. Mostly because they believe that "they are not good with numbers”, so what’s the point ?
This is an example of why believing you cannot do something, literally blocks you from trying and succeeding. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy that not only limits your possibilities but also is reinforced every time you fail or experience a bump in the road: “See ? I told you I am terrible at this !”.
The longer we hold a limiting belief and the more often we invoke it in our thoughts, the stronger it becomes. Some of them will be so deep in our psyche that we don’t even notice them anymore. They are fully integrated with our core belief system.
Time to reflect
A lot of limiting beliefs about ourselves that we can somehow easily identify, look something like this: “I cannot X”, “I am not Y”, “I always do Z”... They are often beliefs about ourselves and they say something about who we are and what we can do.
It's good that there are many coaching tools which are very useful to become aware of these beliefs and to challenge them. One of them is the "The Persona Exercise".
You basically ask people to give you feedback on their first impression of you. (Be careful, you might get hurt...)
Because it demands some honesty and courage, there is a lot of value and insight in it. While collecting the feedback you will start to see patterns in the way you are showing up to others. And you will start reflecting on who you are and what you believe about yourself that others often don't see at all. (When I tried it, I was really shocked by the results and it seems that I come across as a douche more often than I intend to...)
This exercise is not just about changing your behaviour and getting a better first impression. The main insight is to be able to see that the way we see ourselves has almost nothing to do with how others perceive us. Our beliefs about something as simple as our own image or our appearance are easily shattered with this simple exercise.
The Next Step
Becoming aware of your limiting beliefs is very demanding but also very rewarding. Try to remember this when you find yourself crying in a room full of men staring at you. (yes I cry easily...)
You might want to take it to the next level : what about the other beliefs, the non limiting ones ?
“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.” ― Philip K. Dick
In his book "Unlimited Power”, Tony Robbins makes a cool analogy between beliefs and cars. He explains how any belief we hold can be changed if we want to. You can sell your car when you think it does not work well anymore or if you just want another, better, more efficient or more appealing car. You can get another vehicle any time you want to. (providing you have the necessary funds but you get the idea…)
So what if we could change our beliefs as easily as we can get into another car ? What would that mean for us ?
Well first, it means that we can choose to believe whatever we want to. It also means that if we choose what we believe in, we can decide to either pick positive beliefs or negative ones. It’s not just about positive thinking, it is about what serves us best. This also means that anything we believe in is just that: a belief.
This is more complex than it looks at first. It’s really hard to admit that most of what we think is just a belief. It does not say anything about you being right or wrong. And it does not mean it is true or false. It just is.
So what kind of belief do we take as a fact ? How true do we think it is ? And more importantly, does that belief really serve us ?
I was recently at a conference where we worked on our “money scripts”, the beliefs we all have around money such as: “Money is a measure of success”, “Spending too much will get you in trouble”, “Budgets don’t work”.
We then challenged each other to rate how true these statements were to us and how much they served us in life. It was really tough to accept that these beliefs were only that: beliefs. And even tougher to let them go or try to adopt new ones.
I like this definition of belief: “An acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof."
To sum it up I would suggest that you can decide anytime what you want to believe in.
This is all very good but how can I apply this in my life ?
Here is one way to do it:
- Write down the 5 beliefs that limited you the most in the past.
- Write down the 5 beliefs that would serve you the most to reach your goals.
- Read the new beliefs twice a day until they become fully yours.
Think of how motivated and optimistic you'll feel when you start practicing such a daily routine and let me know if you have any questions or comments.
I will write more articles about coaching exercises in the future.
Bonjour, I am Guillaume.
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