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Insights: Banish Limiting Beliefs
November 10, 2009

Banish Limiting Beliefs

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This week, Bill looks at the issue of limiting beliefs, or beliefs that hold us back, preventing us from achieving what we want to achieve. He explains how these beliefs develop and how we can eradicate them and replace them with more empowering beliefs that serve us.

One of the biggest (and most exciting) challenges that any life coach faces is helping his or her client to replace deeply ingrained beliefs, that don't serve them well, with more liberating and empowering beliefs.

It starts with a thought

As we chart our way through the rugged terrain that is life, we do a lot of thinking.

In our early lives that thinking, still untainted by numerous experiences or interactions with others, tends to be more imaginary or visionary. Seemingly anything is possible. Our wings are unclipped. We were born to fly!

As life progresses, our unfettered minds slowly become overwhelmed with more 'down to earth' external inputs. Our parents, schoolteachers, newsreaders, various authorities and even our peers, continually broadcast their opinions and attitudes about things - and about us.

We take in and process all of this information along with our own related experiences and, as we do so, our thoughts on certain issues become more regimented and often more stereotyped.

Developing theories

We start to develop hypotheses about things in our life and, human behaviour being what it is, we frantically search for information that corroborates, rather than contradicts, those hypotheses.

Once sufficient supporting information is available to back a hypothesis, the thought becomes a belief. Our search for information continues and the more ammunition we can gather to back up the belief, the more entrenched it becomes and the more we close our minds to information and stimuli that would contradict it.

The story of Caitlin

Let me illustrate what I mean with an example drawn from real life (the name has been changed to respect the client):

Caitlin as a young girl, blessed with a canary-like voice, dreams of becoming a celebrity singer one day. She imagines herself, in a few years, standing on stage singing to thousands of people who have travelled to the park specially to see her and listen to her beautiful voice.

As Caitlin reaches her teenage years her dream starts to fade as her friends, jealous of her obvious vocal talents, constantly taunt her about her shy disposition, telling her she'd never have the courage to stand on stage in front of an audience. She begins to worry about a character trait that most people love about her - her rather quiet and unassuming nature.

Every music video she watches seems to reinforce her concern. Every celebrity singer she sees looks confident, outgoing and self assured on stage. Her parents try to assure her that her somewhat reserved manner is an attractive characteristic and one that many well-known singers possess, but these comments simply reinforce her opinion that she lacks sufficient confidence.

On her sixteenth birthday, Caitlin receives a book written about one of her favourite singers, as a gift. As she pages through it, certain words the the author uses to describe her idol stand out above others - "she is the ultimate extrovert who never shies away from the bright lights - she could never have done it without her confident nature." That piece of information finally sets in stone a limiting belief that Caitlin has been slowly cultivating over the years:

"I'll never be a celebrity singer because I'm too shy and I lack confidence."

Limiting beliefs like Caitlin's are often rather obstinate challenges because the client has invested many years in gathering evidence to support the belief - and has thus become wedded to their conviction.

Eating away at the evidence

For the life coach, the secret lies in eating away at the evidence that props up the belief. Chip away at the pillars on which the belief is built and eventually the whole belief structure will collapse.

In Caitlin's case there are two elements of the belief that is holding her back. The first is her certainty that she is shy and lacks sufficient confidence to perform on stage. The second is her conviction that all celebrity singers are confident, outgoing extroverts.

The coach will target one or both elements of this belief, working with Caitlin to dig up clear-cut evidence from her past and present to contradict - and ultimately shatter - the convictions that impede her from reaching for her dream.

A universal problem

We all struggle with limiting beliefs:

"I'm not good enough, not tall enough, not big enough, not slim enough, not clever enough, not wealthy enough, not loved enough, not good looking enough, not hard enough, not soft enough, not fast enough, not old enough, not young enough, not fit enough..."

You get the point!

The issue is that many people, like Caitlin before she saw a coach, allow limiting beliefs to destroy any chance they may have of achieving their goals, living their dreams and fulfilling their true potential.

Could that be true for you?

Take the challenge

If you think so - and you're up for a challenge that brings rich rewards – I invite you to confront what you believe is your most inhibiting belief. Write it down in black and white so you understand, with complete clarity, what it is.

Now, start questioning it.

I know, it's difficult. How do you question something that you have proven to yourself to be true, over and over again in your life?

Begin by looking for evidence (no matter how small or flimsy it may at first seem) that contradicts the belief. Then build on that evidence with more and more evidence - events and experiences from your past and present life that would indicate, to an objective observer, the contrary of what you now believe to be true.

After a while of focusing on things that contradict your belief, you'll find the snowball effect will kick in and before you know it you'll be ready to kick that belief into touch and replace it with a more liberating and empowering belief.

Do let me know how you get on!

Till next week...

Warm regards,


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