Limiting Beliefs

Beliefs are the way that we view the world. They're lenses through which to look at decisions with, to decide whether a given choice is right or not. I'm talking about the beliefs about yourself, as well as beliefs held about the world. Beliefs are beneficial a lot of the time, but often they are not. They're often instilled into you when you're young (though not always) and are usually over generalisations of previous lessons learned, or are the wrong lessons learned from a situation.

Consider the following beliefs:
  • If I work hard, I'll get more done and progress towards my goals.
  • If I treat others well, they'll treat me well in return.
  • Overall, the world is a happy place.
  • I know I can achieve my goals with time.
  • Exercise can be exciting.
  • I'm a happy person who enjoys the little things in life.
  • Healthy foods taste great.
  • If I make a mistake, then it's an opportunity to learn.

And now, consider these beliefs:
  • I'm not smart enough to understand this topic.
  • I'm a boring person.
  • I'm a failure.
  • If I try and reach a goal, It'll likely end in failure, which is bad.
  • If I were more honest, people would think less of me.
  • I have no value.
  • Exercise is boring.
  • Healthy foods taste awful.
  • The world is a horrible place full of things that can only go wrong.
  • If I had to give a speech to 100 people, I wouldn't be able to provide any value.
  • If I make a mistake, then I'll be judged negatively.
  • If I asked that person out, then I'd get rejected, so there's no point.
It should be clear as day which set of beliefs is positive and which is negative. Having beliefs from the first set will make you take more action, be kinder to others, and be more optimistic. Having beliefs from the second set will drag you down, make you feel worthless, and inspire little action in your life.

The second set of beliefs are called 'Limiting Beliefs' and should be avoided where possible. If you believe that healthy foods inherently taste bad, then you're less likely to eat healthy foods. But if you think that healthy foods taste great, then you're way more likely to substitute unhealthy foods for healthy alternatives. If you believe that you aren't smart enough to solve a given problem, you won't try, even if it turns out that you could have.

Having limiting beliefs is useful in some cases, if you believe that you can't fight a tiger, then you're going to try and avoid them — which is generally a sensible thing to do. However, most limiting beliefs in the modern world are not a case of life and death but are cases of possible embarrassment, wasting time, or loss of money. As a child, having beliefs about what is dangerous and what isn't is vital to development. But as an adult, when you're more conscious and have more decisions to make, many of these beliefs are irrational.

If I believed that I couldn't provide value to others, that I would get negatively judged, and that people don't want to be helped, then I wouldn't have started this blog. If I believed that healthy foods tasted terrible, then I'd much prefer to eat cookies and doughnuts. If Bill Gates thought that he couldn't create a successful company, then he wouldn't have tried. Understanding that your beliefs may be holding you back is the key to making progress.

Challenging beliefs

Identifying your limiting beliefs is the first step. They may be any of the things listed in the second set above, but there are infinitely many more as well. An excellent way to find limiting beliefs is to look at your actions or lack thereof. Most of limiting beliefs are unconscious, so it can be challenging to find them. If you believe earning money online is difficult and that there's too much competition, then you won't try. If you think you're fat because of your 'fat genes', then you will be less inclined to adjust to a new diet. If you believe you can't be happy because of past events, your current state, or lack of a desirable future, then you won't be content.

The next step is to replace your limiting belief with a positive one consciously. Notice when your subconscious raises your limiting belief to the surface, and replace it with your new, conscious belief. When deciding whether to buy a chocolate bar, think whether it's your unconscious belief of thinking that it's a good purchase or if you should decide against it because it's unhealthy. Notice when you're procrastinating, and realise that you subconsciously believe that you want to be doing other things at that time.

Once you start to replace these unconscious, limiting beliefs with conscious, encouraging beliefs, then the conscious beliefs will automatically start to override your unconscious beliefs until they become unconscious themselves. They'll happen on autopilot, without the need for the exertion of willpower, and you'll be making better decisions much more often.

Limiting beliefs are often the main thing holding you back in any given area of your life. It might sound odd or contrary to your beliefs themselves. If you don't recognise these beliefs and strive to challenge them, then progress will seem incredibly difficult, and motivation will wane.

Challenging beliefs can often be painful, though you'll never know if you don't try. If you think that changing your beliefs is difficult and unattainable; then do you realise that that's a limiting belief itself?