Limiting beliefs refers to a belief system that is self-inhibiting. This system discourages exploration of what we understand as a “wider cognitive space.” The beliefs created and perpetuated in this type of system are strongly held, often due to heavy emotional attachment. (For example, a parent’s faith passed onto a new generation) Interestingly, self-limiting beliefs have been observed in both human beings and animals. Of what importance, though, is the idea of “limited beliefs” to you?
The first question is where limiting beliefs come from. A person’s upbringing and parental stability is an important factor in determining origins of belief. However, other factors such as a person’s own self-image, and their personal perceptions of the world (based on experience and learning) also contribute. Consider some examples of self-limiting beliefs. As you read over them, you will find that these beliefs are not so scientific at all, but very relatable statements that you might hear from friends and acquaintances. (Perhaps even from your own mouth.)
• “This is my destiny. I cannot escape it.”
• “I have to do this, because no one else can.”
• “It’s just what people expect of me.”
• “I’m just like my father and I can’t change that.”
• “If I tell someone the truth, they will take their business elsewhere.”
• “I’ve always gotten this result so anything else is unrealistic.”
All of these statements allude to limiting beliefs that assign specific qualities to the person that cannot be escaped or changed. These qualities could be capabilities, roles, or traits. The person may feel burdened to continue their path (however dangerous or miserable) because of a need to follow this limiting belief. The truth of the matter is that the person is choosing their own path and they cannot fathom having to stop the cycle and think outside this predetermined life.
• “I can’t do it. I know I can’t.”
• “There’s no point in even trying.”
These statements are alluding to limiting beliefs, in which the person decides he or she cannot succeed, and so there is no point in trying. This is not so much a quality of overall cynicism or pessimism; rather, a lack of self-confidence that doesn’t allow the person to broaden their horizons or think of a scenario that involves their success for a change. Does the person’s argument have validity, in that he or she claims under-qualification for a task at hand? In some cases this could be true. For example, if a person with no education or experience fantasizes about becoming a world-renowned scientist. On the other hand, if a person continually sets unrealistic goals, rather than focus on more attainable ones (or ones that could be considered a bit of a stretch), it could strongly indicate a self-limiting belief system that insists on the person’s chronic unhappiness. If you keep doing something the same way you always have done it, you will continue to get the same result, or your results can even go down as time goes on – and you don’t.
“I am very educated on this person. I know more about it than any of you do. This is the way to go. It’s only logical.”
The smarter a person is, the more he or she realizes that there are numerous perspectives and many answers to a particular problem. Unwillingness to compromise, with the assertion that a particular opinion is right, defines these types of statements. Usually, the person that teaches this self-limiting belief is not open to consider other viewpoints and may deny contradictions or stifle any objection or argument. Even if a person is not the creator of the accepted core belief, he or she may still perpetuate it. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not always about maintaining control—sometimes it’s just about a strong, self-limiting faith.
• “This is the only logical conclusion.”
• “This is the way it has to be.”
These statements suggest that a particular action or result is the only way to resolve a problem. Who decides this? Of course, the person who has already formed their own limited belief system and is rejecting any contradictory arguments.
In a way, those who are self-limiting in their beliefs are predestined. However, since they stand resolved to complete a course of action precisely according to their own subconscious plans, they destine themselves for success or for failure.
Of what significance is this to you? Understanding the concept of “limiting beliefs” is important, not only for leadership but also for self-improvement. In order to motivate others you must understand what inspires them, what challenges them and what basic truths form their belief systems. In order to break away from self-limiting beliefs, you must first learn about the psychology of self-inhibiting behavior and what thinking patterns to watch out for. You do have the ability to change your beliefs and your entire life—to become what you envision as a successful human being. You are not predestined. Limiting beliefs have not been proven as involuntary. You are not incapable of change. So, decide today that you are going to be even more open to change so your limiting beliefs won’t impact your success any longer
Through her proven systems, she inspires her clients to stay focused and take action on the highest payoff activities that lead to their ultimate professional and personal success. Professional athletes, celebrities, executives have coaches. Why not you?
By Anne Bachrach
For more information, go to her website at www.AccountabilityCoach.com.