I used to be really bad at remembering names. Now I’m not.
I used to hate being in cold water and being cold in general. Now I don’t.
I used to be physically inflexible, I couldn’t even sit cross-legged. Now I can.
I used to be unable to have faith in a God I couldn’t see. Now I do.
If you had asked me about any of these problems back then, I would have told you “that’s just the way I am” or “that’s just how I am wired.” I thought these things were out of my control; that there was nothing I could do to change them. Then, a few years ago, I learned that I was wrong.
I discovered that it was my beliefs about those things that actually made them true for me. Limiting beliefs are the thoughts we have about ourselves that hold us back from living the amazing life we are meant for.
Because I had a limiting belief that my brain just wasn’t wired to remember names, I never made any effort to remember their name when I met someone new. So, moments after meeting them, when I wasn’t sure if it was Mark, or Mike, or maybe Mitch, I just chalked it up to my bad wiring.
My bad memory was a self-fulfilling prophecy. So was my hatred of cold water, and my lack of faith, and my physical inflexibility, and a ton of other things that used to hold me back.
All I had to do in order to start remembering people’s names was start believing that I was great at remembering names, and make an effort to actually remember them. Now, I am a name ninja. I can leave a meeting where I was introduced to a dozen new people and I can say goodbye to each of them by name.
Last year, when I learned to swim in order to compete in the Alcatraz Invitational, I put extra effort into my cold water training. Over the course of my five months of training, it was proven to me that I actually liked cold water. It wasn’t horrible and painful like I used to believe. It was invigorating!
Oh, and I’m not an anomaly by any means. Everybody has limiting beliefs and everybody can change them. As a leadership coach, I help people do this all the time. They identify and change their beliefs, and in the process change their lives.
Here are some of limiting beliefs I have personally seen people overcome. Are yours on the list?
- I’m not creative
- I’m not a good leader
- I’m not strategic
- I can’t dance
- I have a bad memory
- I can’t be successful and work and still have life balance
- I need someone’s permission in order to have what I want
- I’m not artistic
- I can’t sing
- I’m not a good reader
- I’m not a disciplined person
- my work is never good enough unless someone validates it
- I’m not that smart, I’m just a hard worker
- I can’t say no to people because I feel like they will leave
- I’m a perfectionist
- I can’t hold people accountable without looking like an asshole
- I don’t deserve a job I love
- I don’t deserve to be in a loving relationship
- I can’t quit tobacco
- I can’t get in shape
- I’m not a runner
- I’m a critical person
- I’m constantly disappointed by people
- I’m always running late
- I can’t stick to a diet
- I’m not spontaneous
- I’m selfish
- I have a small vocabulary
- I’m bad at small talk
- I’m a creature of habit
- I always come in second
- I’m not good at fixing things
- The people I love just end up leaving me so I just can’t let anybody get too close.
“Bullshit Jeremiah,”you might be thinking. “Most of those things aren’t even beliefs. Everybody is born differently and we have different talents and weaknesses. Why can’t you just accept that?”
To that sentiment, let me add one more limiting belief to the list; maybe the most destructive one of all. I can’t really change who I am. I am stuck for the rest of my life being the person I am today.
The truth is that your limiting beliefs are the only things holding you back. But you don’t have to take my word for this, you can actually test this.
Write out a list of at least five of your limiting beliefs.
Choose one and come up with an intentional plan to change it.
For example, I used to have a limiting belief that I just wasn’t a flexible person. And why would I not believe that? I have always had trouble with my flexibility and couldn’t even clasp my hands behind my back or sit cross-legged on the floor. To disprove that belief, I have been doing mobility and stretching for the last three years, and for the last five months I’ve been practicing yoga. Lo and behold, I am now able to contort myself into all sorts of difficult yoga poses It turns out that I am flexible after all.
Look for evidence to the contrary.
A client of mine was convinced that he wasn’t creative, but when we looked for evidence of his creativity it jumped out at us. He made up games to play with hisson. He he applied a marketing technique from another industry to his current job. But because he believed that he wasn’t creative, he didn’t see the examples of creativity hiding in plain sight. And because he didn’t think he was creative, he passed up opportunities to be creative at work.
Replace the limiting belief with its opposite.
I present to you the “Unlimiting Belief.” For example, when I swam Alcatraz last year, I knew that I would have to get comfortable with being cold. So, I started telling myself and others that I loved being cold. I went out at night in Oklahoma without a coat, I took cold baths and showers in order to reinforce my new belief. It may sound crazy, but it works.
The biggest obstacle standing in between you and the life you want are your limiting beliefs. Don’t let them keep you stuck in patterns that don’t serve you. It takes courage and it takes resolve, but you can change them.
So, what’s the biggest limiting belief holding you back?