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Rethink Your Limiting Beliefs

“I don’t have time”

“I don’t have the resources”

“I’m too busy”

“I don’t know enough”

“I’m not good enough”

Do any of these thoughts sound familiar? Well, they are all examples of limiting beliefs, which are those thoughts that keep us from accomplishing our goals. The one thing that all of these beliefs have in common is that they are simply beliefs and not truths. They have been learned throughout our lives, shaped by our experiences and reinforced over time. To make a comparison, we are given a name at birth but there is no truth to this name. I believe that my name is Ryan because that’s what I’ve been called my entire life, but I could just as easily believe my name to be John if that’s what my parents had chosen to call me. The only thing that is true is that I am called by a name.

Beliefs that keep us stuck and prevent us from pursuing our dreams are no different. Perhaps a failure in early childhood planted a seed of doubt. So, the next time a similar situation was faced, doubt was already present, which possibly led to another unsuccessful attempt. Rinse and repeat enough times and voila, there exists the belief that failure is awaiting just around the corner. But the only truth here is that attempts thus far have been unsuccessful, not that failure is a certainty. And it is likely that the beliefs we carry into an experience have more influence over our success or failure than our ability, as we are all capable beings.

Why is it then that we allow these limiting beliefs to persist? The brain has an amazing ability to undergo structural changes in response to an experience by creating new neural connections. And each time this experience occurs, these neural connections are strengthened, thus reinforcing our belief in the experience. Unfortunately, self-limiting beliefs have been shown to negatively impact brain coordination, the ability to process thoughts, problem solving, creativity, and mood. It turns out that our beliefs really are more influential than our ability when it comes to success and failure.

I can think of far too many instances in my life where I have allowed limiting beliefs to prevent me from accomplishing my goals. I will be just about to cross the finish line and then decide to quit. And I’m talking about ambitions into which I had invested significant amounts of time and money, such as becoming a helicopter pilot. I spent 6 years and $70k on flight school only to quit right before obtaining the final certification needed to get my first job as a professional pilot. My ex-wife and I were in the midst of a separation and I used this event as a reason to step away from my training. At first, I told myself that I was under too much emotional distress to fly, after all, a pilot needs to be free from mental distractions. Then I told myself that it was no longer financially practical since my household income had just been drastically reduced. But the reality is really these were just excuses made to hide that fact that I was scared because I told myself that I didn’t have what it takes to do this professionally.

However, this belief couldn’t have been further from the truth, as I had consistently demonstrated a strong proficiency in the cockpit. Not only had I earned a commercial helicopter pilot’s license along with an instrument rating, meaning I could rely solely on instruments to pilot the aircraft, I had also met all of the requirements to become a certified flight instructor which would have allowed me to teach others to fly. Clearly it wasn’t a lack of ability holding me back.

So how do we eliminate these limiting beliefs that prevent us from accomplishing our goals?

  • Recognize when our thoughts are attempting to hold us back and identify the limiting belief. This might require you to be brutally honest with yourself, which can be difficult, but it’s necessary for growth. The first step in fixing any problem is to recognize that there is a problem.

  • Realize that this is only a belief and not real truth. After my separation, I chose to believe that I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to continue flying. But I knew that to be untrue so I quickly replaced that with the belief that I could no longer afford to fly. In reality, I was at the point where I was about to actually start making money. Granted it wouldn’t have been a lot of money starting out and finances would have been tight for sure, but I certainly could have made it work. What these beliefs really served to do was protect me from the fear of failure.

  • Take on a new belief that aligns with your goal. Instead of telling myself that my finances would no longer allow me to fly, I might have tried telling myself that I didn’t require a lot of money in order to have an exciting career that would allow me to show up each day to a job I loved.

  • Put this belief into action. Since you have already been willing to treat your limiting beliefs as if they were true, why not do the same for your new belief and begin approaching situations as such? Doing so will begin to reinforce these positive beliefs, even if we don’t initially achieve our desired outcomes. For me, practicing my new belief did not lead me back to flying helicopters, but it did bring me to a place where showing up to help people on their journey to wellness was far greater than any financial reward.

Here’s a simple technique that I’ve found to be extremely helpful in overcoming limiting beliefs: the moment a thought telling you why you can’t do something enters your mind, immediately stop and take a deep breath. Continue to take several deep breaths while reciting a simple mantra such as “I am enough” or simply the word “Yes.” Or you could try counting your breath backwards from 5 or even 10. Experiment with what works best for you, but the idea is to interrupt the thought telling you that you can’t and replace it with a thought telling you that you can. By coupling this with deep breaths, you will enter a relaxed state and become more receptive to your new empowering beliefs.

Cheers to accomplishing your goals in 2021!

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