Limiting Beliefs – What are they and how to overcome them.

Limiting beliefs are real!

We live in a world where lots of things are going on around us. These inputs enter our body through one of our seven senses, and we make a conscious or subconscious decision to act on them or not.

For example,

I am sitting in a coffee shop writing this article. I am wearing a polo shirt, and I feel a bit cold. I decide that either I am OK with being a bit chilled, or I reach for my jumper or coat. This decision is based on an experience that I have had previously. I may have experienced a time when this ‘type of cold’ moved me to shiver (which I don’t like), and therefore the reaction to this thought is to reach for my additional layer to stop me from feeling cold.

This belief is helping me to make sense of only one of the 6000 or so inputs that we have throughout our waking hours each day. That is a lot of thinking and deciding.

The impact of the brain on limiting beliefs

Our Pre Frontal Cortex (PFC) is the part of the brain that helps with this. The PFC acts as a programmable filter and helps us make automatic decisions – like reaching for the jumper or coat.

Being programmable means that we must have a programmer. That is us. We react to situations around us either as a pleasurable or unliked experience. It could be something that ‘rewards’ us or that ‘protects’ us from an unpleasant experience.

Some of us react to heights because we know that if we fall off a height, this is likely to hurt or perhaps have a worse outcome. This morning, a dog jumped up at me as I was out for a walk – that will make me aware of dogs in the near future.

We form these programs to safeguard pleasure and protect us from pain.

If we expand this into the personal or business space, we can understand that some of our beliefs may not serve us well.

  • We see this in implementing a change program, where some people are sceptical of the benefits of change – they have tried doing something like this before.
  • We see this in the reaction to setting targets, perhaps in a sales function. If the target is too stretched, meaning on the extreme of achievable, a sales team may react to that target due to the impact that this may have on reduced commission payments. OK, there can also be a lot more going on in this space as salespeople are interesting (I know, I was one).
  • We can sometimes be nervous about asking groups for feedback. Generally, we receive excellent feedback, but occasionally we get hypercritical feedback. We forget to take this in the context that this is a one-off but we become fixated on how terrible we must be.

So, how do you get rid of limiting beliefs?

Reframing to overcome self limiting beliefs

I remember many years ago in a coach training. We were talking about a journey on the M6 motorway and that when we passed Birmingham, we always and I mean always got stuck in slow-moving or stationary traffic.

Really – always?

We were asked to remember a time that this didn’t happen and we could all remember a smooth journey with no delay. The ‘always’ was challenged. This impacted the way we thought about the M6 and Birmingham.

A useful reframe could therefore be – sometimes we get stuck in traffic in Birmingham on the M6 but the majority of the time it is fine.

In this example, it is about a mind shift. We explore the area that perhaps was the challenge and ask for an experience where this has not happened in the past.

As soon as this is realised – Kapow – the limiting belief that was set in stone is removed. All we did was to challenge limiting beliefs

The ABC(DE) model

A model that can be used to help in removing this obstacle is gleaned from Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. The ABCDE model takes us through a sequence of thinking that takes us from a position of limiting beliefs to empowering beliefs.

This is an involved and advanced model that I would recommend completing with a coach due to its impact on psychological processing.

Making time to overcome blockers

For many, time is always going to be an obstacle. We have a certain number of seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour etc. We understand from our experiences, that plants tend to grow in the Spring, flower in the Summer and fall in the fall. We have created a construct around us to describe these particular patterns.

What if we were to challenge this construct for some aspects of our life?

When reading about high performance business leaders, we can identify that many are going to the gym, meditating or exercising before they go into work. They talk about this time being a time of quiet reflection where they can get their thoughts in order for the day. They don’t recognise the alarm going off at 5am as particularly early, and just get into their routine. They have altered their construct and manage this differently to others.

Perhaps setting the alarm a bit earlier each day could help break that habit and insert something similar into your thinking.

Adapting our Behaviour to Social Media

Let’s just accept that most people post on social media to get noticed.

Perhaps they are sharing the latest holiday or something that has been proudly achieved. Whilst this can be gratifying for the poster, for some – the post(s) reinforce a failure or a not good enough emotion.

A critical insight  suggests

While social media may help to cultivate friendships and reduce loneliness, evidence suggests that excessive use negatively impacts self-esteem and life satisfaction.

If we accept that Social Media has an impact on our wellbeing, then why do we crave it. According to the Addiction Centre

“self-disclosure on social networking sites lights up the same part of the brain that also ignites when taking an addictive substance. The reward area in the brain and its chemical messenger pathways affect decisions and sensations. When someone experiences something rewarding or uses an addictive substance, neurons in the principal dopamine-producing areas in the brain are activated and dopamine levels rise. Therefore, the brain receives a “reward” and associates the drug or activity with positive reinforcement.”

We crave it because we are rewarded by it.

How we break this cycle of dependency is therefore a conscious act. We need to go cold turkey and switch off areas that do us no good. For some, this could be the complete removal of a social network or perhaps less nuclear could be the removal of people that are sharing content that causes us to feel less worthy.

For me, the nuclear option of withdrawal would be difficult because I also see some social networks as a great source of information – to satisfy another one of my habits of being a lifelong learner. Selective muting or booting, therefore, works occasionally.

The whole aspect of social media and how we could build our own social media strategy is an important consideration in what we do and how we show up.

We can start to understand that we need to deal with unhelpful beliefs at a deep level. Taking decisions like those above may not be easy, but can help to move you forward. If this has been a useful read, then it is now time to start to identify your limiting beliefs and build forward your coping strategy.

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