Have you ever felt that you were capable of more and yet regardless of how hard you tried to attempt something new, felt incredibly stuck? Perhaps you made some progress and yet encountered a frustrating obstacle. At my company, we believe in human potential. We believe that although motivation is helpful, every person is capable of living into more and with the right tools, and guidance system, they can accomplish more than they ever dreamed.
Imagine that your limiting beliefs are like screaming toddlers who, if they do not get their own way, make every effort to make their presence known. These beliefs can be so prolific that they hold us back from achieving not only what we want, things that are actually good for us. These beliefs often come from experiences in early childhood where we either witness, or become immersed into an occurrence from which we create perceptions based on our maturity. These perceptions become beliefs and these beliefs either propel us forward or hold us back.
Consider the following potential limiting beliefs:
- A child hears her mother complain about her weight to a girlfriend. The mother says, ‘I am just built this way.’ The child fills in the blanks so to speak and reasons, ‘my mother is built this way. I must be built this way.’ The child grows into an overweight adult who begins to diet. No matter what this girl does, she never loses weight. Her limiting belief is that she is built like her mother.
- A young boy hears his parents fighting. He observes his father yelling at his mother about overspending. His mother has tears in her eyes and yells back, ‘what more do you want? I am doing my best.’ After the boy goes to bed, his parents reconcile the argument. The next day, they are holding hands. The child fills in the blanks and reasons that happy couples yell at each other over money. He grows up to become a controlling man, yelling at his wife about spending.
You must understand that the formation of these limiting beliefs is rarely rational and often filtered through the mind of a young child. We store these in our subconscious which decidedly uses them to fabricate a reality that aligns with our misconceptions of the world.
Growing up, I played with blocks. In my play, I put the blocks together to build different structures. My mind created the desired structure and I used the blocks to fabricate the architecture I had imagined. Similarly, limiting beliefs are created by observing, or experiencing, a situation, and creating a structure that mirrors that occurrence. These beliefs then become the fabric of our existence.
Conversely, some beliefs support us. A great example of this is my youngest daughter. When she was one and half years old, she was toddling around our living room. It was a cold winter day and we had the gas fireplace on. I turned to respond to our five-year-old, who had requested something, and my baby touched the fireplace. She immediately pulled her little hand back and starting crying. Fortunately, she created a supportive belief that fireplaces are hot and it is not good to touch them and came out of the situation without any harm.
In life and business, however, our limiting beliefs can run our lives and keep us from achieving what it is we desire.
Although we have the ability to create limiting beliefs, we also have the powerful ability to torch them; shaking the belief until it is rendered no longer valuable to our subconscious. I have been using the following formula for torching limiting beliefs with clients, and students, for years. It is simple and can be done on yourself in just a few minutes.
- Clearly Identify The Belief and The Associated Feelings
What exactly is your limiting belief, what does it feel like, and where do you feel it in your body? These are the questions you answer in this first step. It is imperative that you become specific and avoid generalization. For example, instead of saying, ‘no one likes me,’ you might say, ‘no one likes me at work.’ Human tendency is to go into victim mode where we create sweeping ambiguity. To deal with a limiting belief, we must be as concise as possible as to what the belief is and in which situation it is specific to.
- How Would Your Life Feel Without This Belief?
In this step, we must identify the feelings associated with living without this limiting belief. For many words like, ‘freedom, clarity, happy, joy, and liberated,’ may come to mind. It is critical to articulate the emotions of being free of the bonds of limitation.
- What Would You Do Differently in Your Life Without This Belief?
By asking this question, we allow our creative mind to paint of picture of life without this limiting belief. Here we envision our lives without this belief by listing all the things we would do if that belief wasn’t there. This powerfully allows our minds to create an alternate reality and once we have this, the belief begins to become shaky – a key process in releasing it.
- Is This Belief Really True?
In this step, we consult our logical mind – the part that understands reason. Is the belief really true? Could there be evidence that the belief isn’t true? For example, if our belief is that no one likes us at work, and we ask this question – the mind will search for examples that the belief isn’t true. The mind suddenly remembers that Dave, our co-worker, brought us a coffee two weeks ago, and Chantal, in HR, held back a piece of Tom’s birthday cake because you were out of the office.
By asking this question, the mind seeks evidence to the contrary, and we become closer to releasing the belief.
- What Is the Evidence That This Belief Isn’t True?
I was doing a live coaching session with a woman who felt stuck in her weight. In this step, I asked her if she could think of someone of her age, and gender, who had lost weight on the same program she was using. The answer, of course, was ‘yes.’ Now her mind was forced to conclude that her belief was fabricated as there was evidence to the contrary.
Regardless of the belief, there is always evidence that it isn’t true.
- If The Belief Isn’t True, What Is An Alternate Solution?
Now that we have established that the belief isn’t true, we can proceed forward with asking our mind to come up with new solutions to the challenge. As a coach, and trainer, I find that this is much more powerful than offering up solutions that the client isn’t likely to follow. Because we are working with a powerful mind that has created this belief, we must incorporate this same mind in finding an alternate paradigm.
You can take this six step model and use it on any limiting belief. My suggestion is that you write out a list of all of your limiting belief and tackle them one by one. In my classes, we work on these so that the students can truly step into their power™ and breakthrough to the next level. The majority of people that I meet are only one, or two, torched limiting beliefs away from achieving the goals that seem to be always on the horizon.
Susan Sly is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, certified NLP practitioner, coach, and trauma recovery specialist. Susan specializes in helping people become more productive so they can lead ridiculously fulfilling lives. She is the mother of five and has been working in human potential for over two decades.