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Overcoming Limiting Beliefs


Techniques >  > Overcoming Limiting Beliefs

Isolate the belief | Seek the source | Recognize the falsehood | Form empowering beliefs | Start 'as if' | Create evidence of success | See also


Most of us have beliefs which limit us in some ways, impoverishing our lives and preventing us from achieving our true potential. Here's how to overcome these and so enable and empower your life and those of others.

Isolate the belief

First consider what the belief is that is limiting you. Many of us make limiting choices without realizing that they are based on flawed, limiting beliefs.

Find times where you have done something (or not done something) that seemed to limit you in some way. Then ask 'What beliefs led to this choice?'. Keep digging, asking 'What belief underlies that belief?' until you come to the limiting belief or beliefs.

Also consider what concerns or frightens you and so limits you. What do you fear? Why? What beliefs lead you to such fears?

Seek the source

Think back to when you first had the belief. When did you first belief this? What happened for you to believe it?

Were you told to believe it by someone? Was it a parent, teacher, or maybe someone who was not thinking kindly about you.

Was it based on an experience? Did you try something once, failed and then formed the belief that you were incapable? Or that 'other people' think in certain ways?

Recognize the falsehood

In doing the above steps, you may already realize that the limiting belief is just that: a belief which is both limited and limiting. You are holding it because you were told to or because it helped you once.

Take time to reflect on this and recognize the full extent of the belief, how false it really is and especially how it has limited you in the past. Feel free to get angry about this.

In doing this, you may need to accept that you are not perfect, which can be disconcerting (beware of limiting beliefs here also). You must be open to learning and ready to change.

Form empowering beliefs

When you want to change a belief, you may well need an enabling belief which will replace the old one.

Be careful with these, making them realistic and not setting yourself up for disappointment. It can be more effective, for example, to believe that you can do public speaking than to immediately believe you are world-class at it. If you lack a skill that needs to be learned, believing you now have it is likely to lead to problems. It is better to believe you are able to learn (which is one of the most empowering beliefs you can have). Believing 'I can' can be more powerful than thinking 'I am'.

In a similar vein, if you thought yourself stupid, notice the different between thinking you are not stupid as opposed to being intelligent. There is a difference between 'Not A' and 'B', both of which may initially seem to be the opposite of 'A'.

The trick is to consider where the belief will take you, what will it let you think and do, and what evidence will it create, as in the next step.

Start 'as if'

A good start point for many beliefs is to act as if the belief were true. Just pretend you are an actor and are going through the motions.

Your mind is not great at knowing when you are acting or not, with the result that what you do will steadily become what you believe. One reason for this is way the consistency principle works. This is a classic way that brainwashing works. All you are doing, is brainwashing yourself into the beliefs that will serve you best.

Create evidence of success

The most powerful and unshakeable beliefs are those that are based on lots of evidence. So now you have recognized and challenged you limiting beliefs and found empowering beliefs, then you need to start creating evidence.

Depending on what it is, you may be more sensible to start small. If you believed that you could not talk with strangers, try starting with simple politeness, saying 'thank you' and 'after you', which immediately show that actually you can talk to strangers. Then build up with brief small-talk, such as about the weather or sports.

When you see a success, no matter how small, use this an affirmation. Tell yourself 'I did it!' and reflect on how you are now a changed person, with no way back. When you have done something new, it cannot be undone.

Keep building evidence until the limiting belief seems daft and you are now comfortable in your new belief. Determination and persistence are critical in this. Also watch for other limiting beliefs which get in the way (change these too if you need to).

See also

Enabling Beliefs, Limiting Beliefs, Learning, Identity


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