Advertising
Advertising

Find & Replace Limiting Beliefs, Part 1: Search Techniques

Find & Replace Limiting Beliefs, Part 1: Search Techniques


    Are you guilty of failing at your goals time and time again, only to ask “what’s wrong with the world?” and keep on trying to succeed with the same strategies and tactics?

    It may be time for an introspective examination of yourself. When success is hard to find, it’s not always the world that’s playing hide and seek. Sometimes, the problem is within our noggins, and we’re preventing ourselves from getting where we want to go. We are defined by the way we see the world.

    Another way of stating “the way we see the world” is “assumptions about reality” or worldview. Our worldview will consist of a combination of beliefs that are limiting and beliefs that are enabling—though always skewed to one end of the spectrum or the other.

    In true Lifehack spirit, we’re going to look at this using computer analogies. After all, the term “life hacks” comes from applying programming techniques to life. In this article we’ll be looking at search techniques—finding limiting beliefs—and in the next one, we’ll be looking at replacing them. Find & Replace—just like in Word!

    Questioning Your Assumptions About Reality

    We can only act in accordance with the boundaries of reality that we—or others—have set for ourselves.

    We cannot exceed those boundaries without first changing them. It’s a literal impossibility, or they aren’t really beliefs; if we can exceed them, we don’t really believe in them. Beliefs are a framework that thought and action cannot exist outside of without first expanding, changing or removing certain beliefs.

    Advertising

    To make it harder to identify which beliefs are limiting you in some way, it’s not only those we currently hold that can affect our behavior and thinking—it’s also the beliefs we’ve held in the past, especially those that you were brought up with as a child. Even if your perception of reality has flipped to the opposite end of the spectrum, the effects of those earlier beliefs can stick with you for a lifetime.

    For instance, as Tim Ferriss mentions in The 4-Hour Workweek, your limiting belief may be that more time and effort spent equals greater productivity (or ‘hard work is good work’), hence making you hopelessly unproductive.

    What we are talking about here is examining and altering components of our worldview in order to effect a paradigm shift.

    Finding Limiting Beliefs

    Limiting beliefs are simply assumptions about reality that are not true. In order for our actions to have the greatest positive effect, we need to have beliefs that are as close to the reality as possible—deceiving ourselves will take us further from the goal. So, a limiting belief, when it comes down to it, is a belief that isn’t true.

    Since human perception and reality are fundamentally two different things, we will always have limiting beliefs. It is impossible to ever eliminate all of them. But, through observation, openness to new information, and trial, we can at least begin the process of closing the gap between reality and our perception of it.

    1. Observation

    Observe the world to see what works and what doesn’t work. Look at things different ways—for example, try being cynical or try being naive when you observe—you’ll see different things, and it’s likely that some of your limiting beliefs derive from being overly cynical or overly naive and trusting. There are many other viewpoints you can try.

    Advertising

    What is observation? I always assumed that people would automatically know what I mean when I tell them to observe. In personal development, it is necessary to “observe” without having a specific target in mind. It’s a required state of mind to find both new ideas and bad habits. The other day I was talking about this concept of limiting beliefs and observation with a friend who said, “What do I observe?” and since then it has been obvious to me that it’s not an entirely intuitive practice.

    “Observe always that everything is the result of a change, and get used to thinking that there is nothing Nature loves so well as to change existing forms and to make new ones like them.” – Marcus Aurelius

    Aurelius was most definitely correct, but that only points us in the right direction—it gives us some idea of why we should observe reality instead of just taking the word of a friend, philosopher, minister or news anchor.

    The truth is that there’s no magic bullet that’ll automatically get you to mindfully observe your surroundings. It takes practice. Instead of living day-to-day in a passive “shutters-on” mode, you need to cultivate an active awareness of mind. Take note of your surroundings and be aware of them, instead of just existing in them. It’s not difficult to teach yourself this, in terms of the skill and knowledge required to do it, but it does take time and discipline before you’ll habitually stay in that mindful zone.

    What you’re doing is not only training yourself to observe everything throughout your day, but to spot disconnects more readily. Our default mode is to ignore disconnects in reality or accept them, thanks to beliefs that are out of line with objective reality. So, by cultivating this constant mindfulness and observation of everything we encounter, we’re overriding that default mode and telling our brain not to ignore those disconnects, but bring them to our attention. This allows us to determine where our ideas need tweaking.

    You’ll still be seeing reality through the lens of your current beliefs, but a lens can only distort an image, not present a totally different one (unless you’re really psychologically sick!), so with practice you’ll be able to determine (through pattern recognition) how your assumptions and ideas are distorting the perception of reality.

    In other words, you’re observing the world not to see more of it, but to see how your worldview ‘lens’ takes different concepts and distorts them in similar ways. By spotting the similarities in your perceptions of totally different things you’ll know that they’re artificial impositions on reality kicking in, and not objective truth itself. This gives you a better idea of what internal beliefs must change.

    Advertising

    When you successfully do this for the first time, it’s a pretty enlightening moment—like seeing something with absolute clarity for the first time; like taking your sunglasses off and finally seeing all the color and depth of your environment.

    2. Openness to New Information

    Openness to new information is very important to seeking your own limiting beliefs and replacing them. If you’re open, you’ll allow yourself to see the way someone else does or sees things. Using the experience and beliefs of others to test your own is a massive shortcut to the process of finding and replacing limiting beliefs.

    This works best when others have fought their battles hard to find the optimal belief in an area, and you no longer have to because you’ve been open to their ideas. If you want to quit smoking, read about how other people have successfully removed harmful habits from their life and apply the beliefs that enabled them. The belief that it’s impossible to quit is usually the one that keeps people addicted.

    Essentially, being open to new ideas is a belief in itself, but this is one of the enabling beliefs. While some belief systems, especially the institutionalized ones, are very closed to new ideas—and hence, I might add, suffering for it—it is of absolute importance that you be open to new ideas if you ever want to improve and develop yourself. If close-mindedness is a part of your belief system, then change it immediately, or stagnate forever. If you don’t change that, there’s no point to be wasting time reading stuff like this—go be productive!

    Most people think they are open to new ideas, if “being open” means: when you find a good idea, be open to using it yourself. But this is not where the concept of openness stops; it hasn’t even begun. Being open is hardly about the ideas you think are good to begin with. It’s about the ones that you don’t like.

    Like the idea that if you never watched, listened to or read the news again, your life wouldn’t fall apart and you wouldn’t miss out on anything you need to know.

    Advertising

    Cultivate a curiosity in both ideas that seem comfortable and wonderful, and ideas that seem uncomfortable and scary. The latter are the ones that will help you the most.

    And remember that being open doesn’t mean accepting all new ideas; once you’ve objectively entertained an idea, you can always reject it. Accepting every idea the world throws at you is a practice known as stupidity.

    3. Trialling New Information (or, Trial & Error)

    You can observe and be open, but you’ll never really find your own limiting beliefs until you actually try some new ones on for size.

    When you’ve found some areas of your belief system that you think need touching up, implement the proposed improvements and see if you’re doing better with or without them. You need to do this for at least seven to 30 days; the longer the better. If you “try it on” for a few hours or a day or two, you’ll never really know if the idea was good—all you’ll really discover is that it was uncomfortable to try something you weren’t used to. It takes time to get over the comfort hump, so take that into account.

    Set that time limit before you begin. Never, ever set it after. Stick to it.

    While you might not make it past the comfort hump of your trial, it’s also possible the opposite will happen: you’ll enjoy the fact of change itself, the act of doing (or thinking) something different for once, and you’ll mistake the source of that positive feeling as being the new beliefs. It could be a step backward, but because you finally got to find out how it feels to think differently and look at something in a new light, you’re oblivious to it.

    If you have any doubts at the end of your trial period, you should stop for a few days and go back to your usual operating mode and evaluate the difference from an objective distance. They keyword here is objective. It’s really important, especially when it comes to beliefs and perception of reality, that you find some level of objectivity (even though you’ll still be seeing the world from a skewed point of view, I know, I know). In this case objectivity is derived from detaching your emotions from your analysis.

    Next time: you’ve found your limiting belief of the day and want to exchange it for a new one. We’ll look at how to make this daunting goal a reality.

    More by this author

    Joel Falconer

    Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

    Mastering the Art of Prioritization The Importance of Scheduling Downtime How to Make Decisions Under Pressure 11 Free Mind Mapping Applications & Web Services How to Use Parkinson’s Law to Your Advantage

    Trending in Featured

    1 Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide) 2 How To Start a Conversation with Anyone 3 Where Am I Going? How to Put Your Life in Context 4 How to Become an Early Riser and Stay Energetic Throughout the Day 5 5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on August 20, 2019

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

    Advertising

    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

    Advertising

    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

    Advertising

    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

    Advertising

    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

    More About Self-Learning

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

    Read Next