Overcoming Limiting Beliefs

Overcoming Limiting Beliefs by Avril Kidd
Written by: Avril Kidd
This need to succeed and achieve is more critical now than ever during these turbulent economic times, when so many people are competing for so little. At a time when we need to be at our strongest and most assertive we can find ourselves paralyzed by the fear of failure and our own limiting beliefs in our ability to perform.

You begin to fly when you let go of self-limiting beliefs and allow your mind and aspirations to rise to greater heights. [Brian Tracy]

We all have the desire to succeed and be successful. This part of one of the other key success factors is known as ‘life satisfaction’. This need to succeed and achieve is more critical now than ever during these turbulent economic times, when so many people are competing for so little. At a time when we need to be at our strongest and most assertive we can find ourselves paralyzed by the fear of failure and our own limiting beliefs in our ability to perform.

Limiting beliefs are the little voices in your own head that convince you that you can’t be/do/have something. It may be easier to recognize these by thinking of times that you said “I can’t do that because … I am not smart enough … strong enough … rich enough … no one ever listens to me anyway…” and so the list may continue.

I am sure that there are many other examples that you can think of. You need to be really honest with yourself as the first step to conquering these limiting beliefs is recognizing and acknowledging these.

Where could our limiting beliefs stem from?

It may be our need to be perfect, the need to keep others happy or maybe because we have tried and failed, so now we convince ourselves that we will never be able to do it. They can also stem from external factors including family members, coaches, teachers, society.

More than a century ago, German zoologist Karl Möbius conducted an interesting experiment.

He placed a pike fish in a glass tank filled with water. He then divided the tank into two parts, by placing a glass panel in the middle of the tank, he then placed some smaller fish in the tank. The pike fish is a predator so naturally wanted to eat the other little fish, however the pike wasn’t aware of the transparent barrier separating it from the side of the tank filled with prey. Every time the pike would attempt to eat/attack its prey it would hit into the barrier. After many failed, and also potentially painful, attempts, it had ‘learned’ attacking the small fish was futile. When Möbius removed the barrier, there was nothing to stop the pike from filling its belly, and yet it would keep ignoring the fish. So even though the barrier was removed, the predatory fish kept acting as if it was still there and had given up trying.

So often we do exactly the same thing. We bump our heads a few times trying something and then view this failure as permanent and stop trying and tell ourselves why we could never succeed. Remember the limiting belief sentences that start with “I can’t because …”

Start recognizing what it is you repeatedly tell yourself that you are bad at or can’t do. This limiting belief, your glass barrier, may be holding you back from success right now.

 Our limiting beliefs are so entwined with our fear of failure and yet failures can teach us far more that our successes can. Look at Walt Disney who was fired from a newspaper for lacking creativity, Thomas Edison who took 99 attempts before perfecting the light bulb, or Michael Jordan who was dropped from his high school basketball team … and the list continues. If these people had decided to stop trying or had never tried in the first place because they believed they weren’t creative enough, clever enough or talented enough, they would never have achieved their dreams or goals.

 If we could reframe our thoughts and feelings about failure from fear to an opportunity to learn then we could potentially have already removed one hurdle.

Which goal or desired outcome could your limiting belief and those little voices in your head be preventing you from attaining?

 Try and find one example in your life that shows your belief may not be true. If you battle with this, picture your best friend coming to you and sharing their limiting belief with you – what would you say to them? I’m sure you would be empathetic and supportive, and give them reasons why their belief is not true! So now turn that empathy inward.

 What would happen if you could switch your viewing point of yourself to a more positive point of view? Focus on what you’re good at rather than what you ‘think’ you’re not good at. This is where our optimism becomes so important as we increase our pool of choices. Changing how we even state our aims can help e.g.: instead of saying, “I wish I wasn’t so scared and nervous”, reframe it to say “I am going to be more courageous and brave”.

Aerodynamically, the bumble bee shouldn’t be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn’t know it so it goes on flying anyway. [Mary Kay Ash]

It is also important to look at the consequences of holding onto your limiting beliefs.

What is holding onto this particular belief costing you right now?

What would your life look like if this limiting belief did not exist in you or if you could remove that glass barrier?

I believe it is critical that we channel our energy into what is within our control: our thoughts and feelings, and change these to support our ability to grow and change. Once we recognize patterns that are holding us back, we can step out and look for opportunities that may be there that we’ve previously ignored because of the limiting beliefs that we held.

 You are smart enough, talented enough, and work hard enough to keep swimming until you make it to the other side of the tank. Don’t be a victim of Pike Syndrome. As Denis Waitly stated …

“The greatest limitations you ever face will be those that you place on yourself.”