You probably have heard the saying: “What holds us back isn’t who we are, but who we think we are.” Whether we perceive a situation as “failure” or just “feedback,” “obstacle” or “opportunity,” “no” or “not yet” depends largely on our beliefs. Some beliefs give us wings, unleash our creative genius and help us to dig deep when the going gets tough. Others can be the prison walls of our mind, which keep us locked in our imagined limitations.
Don’t you admire those people, who exhibit a relentless drive towards reaching their goals and don’t even blink in the face of a set-back?
Take Russell Wilson as an example. Being only 5’11” he was told that he was too small to be successful player in the National Football League. Yet, he ignored the nay-sayers and continued to focus on pursuing the dream of his life. Last year, after only two years playing professional football, he became one of the youngest – and shortest– quarterbacks to win the Super Bowl with his team. In interviews he often credits his positive outlook, daily visualizations and his unwavering belief that despite his physical limitations he would be able to achieve greatness as the keys to his success.
So if beliefs can make the impossible reachable, why doesn’t everybody use empowering beliefs as leverage to success? On my personal journey and in working with my clients, I found that there are three common obstacles that can make changing limiting beliefs into empowering ones difficult:
We don’t know that we are trapped in a limiting belief
Beliefs are anchored on the level of the subconscious mind and act as filters that shape and usually distort our sense of reality. For example, if you have a belief that “you are a loser” you are more likely to interpret any obstacle in your way as a reason to give up. Or you may believe that “the world is harsh and unfriendly”; as a consequence you take every little criticism as a huge rejection, and ignore those people who love and adore you. If you have been seeing yourself or the world around you through these limiting filters for quite some time, you may not even realize that you are dealing with a warped perception of reality. I often hear people saying, “I don’t have any limiting beliefs; I just know that I can’t have what I want.”
One way of identifying your limiting beliefs is to write down all your negative thoughts in the course of one week. You will notice that most of your thoughts circle around only two or three different topics. Ask yourself what you need to believe about these topics to think so negatively and you will have identified some of your limiting beliefs.
We don’t know how to choose a new belief
As a belief can shape our reality, it can also become our identity. And when you see yourself as a “loser” or the world as a “harsh and unfriendly place” it can be challenging to envision a more positive perspective. If you would choose to believe “I am a winner” or “everyone is friendly and kind” your subconscious mind would probably reject those beliefs as unrealistic fantasies. This is why it can be helpful to gently stretch your belief-system, rather than deflate yourself with too lofty ideas. So instead of calling yourself a “loser” you may decide to consider yourself as a “learner,” who is eager to grow and empower himself. And in regards to your relationship to the world around you, how about believing that “you will be a positive and healing force in it”? The goal is to expand your perception and stretch yourself out of the familiar comfort zone, while feeling motivated and excited to grow into the next bigger version of yourself.
We don’t feed our new beliefs
The greatest obstacle between an idea and its execution is doubt. Although you have decided to focus on a new, more empowering belief, you may doubt the validity of the new belief, while the familiar, limiting perspective of yourself appears still more realistic. The best way to alleviate this doubt is to collect supportive evidence that shows you that you possess the potential and inner resources to truly become the self you envision. For example to reinforce the notion of being a “learner” you can write down ten skills you acquired throughout your life, or ten times you have been facing challenges and what you have learned from dealing with them. In regards to being “a positive force in the world” you could ask the people that know you and care about you, what they love and appreciate about you. In looking for such supporting evidence, you will likely gain a broader, kinder, and more complete perspective of yourself and your potential.
Having said all that, when it comes to changing our limiting beliefs, the single most important step is to accept that that nobody but ourselves can hold us back from growing into our empowered selves.