Thursday, February 08, 2020

What's Stopping You? (Part 2)

In part 1 of this series, I considered the power and importance of essentially unprovable beliefs in determining people’s actions and outlook. In this part, the focus is on limiting beliefs: those that actively reduce the options open to you in dealing with whatever life brings. Limiting beliefs can block your future and confine your choices. Start by recognizing them and understanding how they work and what they do. Then counteract the effects by broadening your outlook and adding to your strengths. You don’t need these beliefs. Let them go.

Suppose you think that you have no chance of ever living the kind of life you want. Maybe someone in the past told you you would never make anything of yourself—and you believed them. Children are very impressionable. They easily believe what they’re told, especially by parents and others they look up to. You may have been living with this ever since. Something in your head keeps telling you it’s not worth making an effort, because you’ll never succeed.

Stop and ask yourself whether this is true or not. Was it ever true? Has it become a self-fulfilling prophecy? My guess is that it’s true as long as you believe it is. The minute you tell yourself you can do it, you can succeed, that will be true instead. Try it.

Limiting beliefs have power over you only because you treat them as the truth

Remember, a belief is no more than a thought or opinion that’s automatically treated as correct. In reality, they have no greater likelihood of being right than any other thoughts. But once we give them the label “belief,” we convince ourselves they’re different and must not be questioned. Whether they’re our own beliefs, or ones we’ve accepted from others, or the commonly-held beliefs of the society in which we live, they aren’t necessarily true—even if that’s how we’ve come to treat them.

There are at least four distinct sources of limiting beliefs:
  1. Hidden fears. Nearly everyone has a few long-standing, hidden, and irrational fears. My mother was deeply afraid of frogs, though she knew they couldn’t hurt her. For other people, it’s spiders or snakes (not so irrational here in Arizona!), flying or enclosed spaces. The one that’s most likely to block people’s careers is fear of risk. Any change involves risk. Life itself is risky. Beware telling yourself: “I could never do that.” It may be true (I could never be an Olympic athlete), but it may be nothing more than an irrational fear. Check it out. You have nothing to lose. Try kissing a few frogs to see if you can find a prince.

  2. Outdated habits. Outdated habits are like worn-out, shabby clothes. They may be comfortable but they look ridiculous to everyone else. Comfort is more powerful than most people believe. Look at all the people who know they ought to change something in their lives, but keep putting it off because they’re comfortable as they are. The clue is when you notice yourself thinking: “It’s going to be trouble. Probably more than it’s worth.” Ask yourself if you want to stay fat, dumb and happy. I guess many people do.

  3. Mixed-up values. Inner values are much more powerful in people’s lives than they credit. But, like everything else in our world, they sometimes get a little muddled and crazy. People tell themselves they must do something. Why? Because it’s their duty. Because it’s “right.” Because it’s the way to get ahead. Because … whatever. Beware of emotional reactions driven by your values. If your decision is a thoughtful one, that’s fine. If it’s an immediate, instinctive reaction, take care. The world has many shades between “black” and “white” and they’re worth exploring before you settle on a choice.

  4. Untested assumptions. Untested assumptions are caused by mental laziness. There’s no kinder way to put it. People who don’t check out their beliefs and assumptions are the couch potatoes of the mental world. Hey, it’s easier to reach for the mental remote and look for some more entertainment than do the work of weighing choices and checking data seriously.
Until you’re conscious of your limiting beliefs, and how they work against you, you’re powerless to overcome them. Take back your freedom of choice. Don’t let mere opinions call the shots in your life. Look around inside your head. Do some mental “spring-cleaning.” Chase those silly fears and outdated habits out of the dusty corners of your mind. Sort out your values and get them working to help you instead of hinder. And most of all, get off that mental couch, put down the remote and do some serious exercise. If you let your mental muscles get flabby, you’ll pay for it one way or another, believe me.

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Peter Vajda said...

A couple of thoughts:

A belief is a thought that we have thought over and over again and it has become reified or an imprint.

Just about every one of our limiting beliefs we created when we were small, as children AND at that time those beliefs served us. They either (1) garnered mommy and daddy's love, approval, acceptance, recognition, holding, etc., and/or they kept us safe from some type of physical, verbal, emotional or sexual abuse, hurt, wounding, trauma, etc.

For example, the former, the belief that "little boys/girls should be seen and not heard" got us lots of approval when we didn't disturb mommy because she was having a "bad day" or because daddy just got home from a hard day and didn't want to be disturbed. So the belief "I need to be quiet, small, invisible, unseen, etc." served us that time. We were awarded in some way for "playing small", squashing our aliveness, our juice, etc.

However, the dynamic is that we bring this belief with us into adulthood, often unconscious, and it plays out in other ways/thoughts/assumptions and self-images, for example, "I shouldn't speak up at meetings", "I should defer to others to make that decision", "I'm not good enough or smart enough to write my book, my poetry, my play", "I shouldn't be too alive or energetic because I will be "too much" for others", "I can't have or allow my voice", etc.

So, it's important to understand the genesis of these beliefs that, again, served us and/or kept us safe as children; they were "right" and appropriate at that time. The deal is when we unconsciously bring these to adulthood where now as children (emotionally in this case) in adult bodies and in adult clothes, we allow these beliefs to continue to drive our do-ings and be-ings and are more often than not, self-sabotaging, self-limiting and self-destructive.

As a coach, I support folks to bring such unconsciously beliefs to the light of day (awareness and consciousness) so we can digest them and metabolize them and take away their force and power and really be "adult" now in our do-ings and be-ings, in the way we live our life.

10:51 AM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Thanks, Peter. A great comment with some important thoughts.

Keep reading, my friend.

1:52 PM  

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