The Restrictive Power of Limiting Beliefs

by Paul Goodchild on December 4, 2011

Where the Magic HappensBeliefs are stories and ideas that we hold about ourselves and our lives.

Limiting Beliefs restrict what we think.

They restrict what we say, what we do, and in essence who we are.

Clearly, we could do better without the beliefs that limit what we do.

How do I identify limiting beliefs?

Identifying limiting beliefs isn’t as tricky as it sounds, and gets easier with practice.

By examining the reasons/excuses you make when you tell yourself you cannot do or cannot be something, you discover beliefs that limit you. They form a barrier between where you are, and where you want to be.

Like comfort zones they’re seriously detrimental to our growth – and like comfort zones, it’s the presence of one or more fears that holds us back and traps us.

Once you start to discover your limiting beliefs, you’ll be amazed at just how many you have.

I’ll give one such belief of mine as an example – one that I wouldn’t normally care to admit publicly. You heard it here first.

Something that has remained practically throughout my life but varies with degree of intensity is the belief that:

Socially, I’m unimportant/expendable

It would take a few articles to explain the root of this, but in short it stems from a fear of exclusion; that I’m missing out on something, and ultimately a fear of rejection.

I recognised it long ago, and that’s what counts.

When this belief has taken hold, it has had huge effects on my life. It can completely destroy any social confidence I have and ultimately brings about the effect of which I’m so afraid at the time – social exclusion.

Right now I feel that I’ve mastered this particular problem. So how did I do that?

‘A Christmas Carol’ – How to remove a limiting belief from your life

Limiting beliefs are usually hard to shift.

You can repeat mantras over and over that are the antithesis of the belief, but the long term effect is usually pathetic.

Recently, I’ve been listening to some Anthony Robbins  and one technique that stood out for me was the “Christmas Carol” approach for getting rid of limiting beliefs.

It’s quite simple and it works.

Taking a step back, “A Christmas Carol” is a famous children’s story about an old, bitter and resentful man. He is visited on Christmas Eve by 3 spirits:

  • The Ghost of Christmas Past,
  • The Ghost of Christmas Present, and
  • The Ghost of Christmas Future

Each of these 3 spirits highlight to the old man the cost of living the way he does today. The price he has paid in the past, the price he’s paying now, and the price he will come to pay.

In the same way, Anthony Robbins walks us through taking an existing limiting belief you hold today, and asking you to live through the consequences it in all its intensity.

You begin by imagining the consequences of holding this limiting belief for 5 years…

Picture the hurt you will feel for all those years. The pain, the isolation, the cost to your confidence, the type of life you will lead, the job you’ll have, the type of family life you will have. Everything.

This isn’t pretty. But it is one of the best ways to get leverage on yourself.

Once you’ve deeply felt what it would be like to hold this limiting belief for 5 years, you need to extend that to 10 years.

Imagine all the effects that holding this limiting belief will have on you for such a long period of time.

Imagine the people you will know, or wont have ever gotten to know; where you work and the way you work; do you have loving friends and family, are you confident or miserable, do you seek out new experiences and adventures, or suffer the same droll life watching crappy t.v., and rarely venturing beyond your own 4 walls.

Feel it.

That’s critical. You need to build the scene and feel everything that there is to feel.

I normally experience some serious emotions doing this. If you can’t feel it, you wont change.

After 10 years of holding this limiting belief, what age are you? What do you hope you would have achieved 10 years from now? Did you achieve it when you imagined your life then?

Now go 20 years into the future while holding this same limiting belief. Life hasn’t miraculously changed, has it?

Just as you did with 5 & 10 years you need to imagine all those things you have missed and what you have gained, albeit somehow limited depending on the belief in question.

Again, really try to feel it. Picture your life 20 years from now and feel the loss of everything you have never gained.

If you haven’t worked it out yet, emotion is the key here. You must feel the need to change this belief at your core, and realise that holding to it would be utterly painful and destructive. Knowing all the while that, if you don’t change this belief, you have your imagined future ahead of you.

Why wait to change it?

Once you feel emotionally charged enough and you’re convinced this is not the life and future you want, the next step is to replace this belief with a new one.

Write down, in a single sentence or two, a new empowering belief. It should be a few words that are succinct and to the point, and worded in the positive.

Taking the example I gave earlier of my limiting belief, the following example is not a good example of a replacement belief.

I am not socially unimportant

That’s crap.

There’s nothing to get excited about here and it’s worded in the negative.

How about something like this instead?

I have a lot to offer in my friendships and relationships, that it’s in the best interests of my friends and myself to share who I am with them.

…for example.

What beliefs are holding YOU back?

Perhaps this might all sound a little wishy-washy, and you’re too good for this nonsense.

Maybe you don’t have any limiting beliefs!  That’s a nice place to be.

For everyone else, give it a shot – you have nothing to lose.

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