Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on November 30, 2018

How to Overcome Limiting Beliefs That Hold You Back from Success

How to Overcome Limiting Beliefs That Hold You Back from Success

Beliefs are like road signs that point you in the right direction. Without beliefs to guide, it would be impossible to know how to act.

But there’s a catch.

The right direction is always the one that supports the belief. Personal beliefs are chronic self-fulfilling prophecies. This is a good thing when your beliefs are positive, as you’re likely to create a positive upward spiral that lifts you toward success.

However, you need to learn how to overcome limiting beliefs when they are negative because they’ll drag you down.

How Limiting Beliefs Hold You Back from Success and Happiness

Most of the time, we’re unaware of limiting beliefs. It’s like driving down roads with invisible signs that you’re compelled to follow.

If you don’t know how to overcome limiting beliefs, you’ll find yourself suddenly hitting the brakes, yielding when you shouldn’t, or turning down obscure roads that lead nowhere.

It’s frustrating to spend time and effort trying to get somewhere, only to end up further from the goal. At the end of such a day, you’re likely to conclude that you are:

  • Undeserving
  • Weak-willed
  • Worthless
  • Incompetent
  • A failure

These conclusions are limiting beliefs, but are they the only ones to deal with?

The above list and similar conclusions are destinations, not directives. It will also be helpful to find the unconscious road signs that guide you toward your destination throughout the day. I call these directive beliefs.

Two Kinds of Limiting Beliefs

So we have two kinds of limiting beliefs, destination beliefs and directive beliefs.

Advertising

Destination beliefs are conclusions. Directive beliefs are the road signs that guide you toward the destination.

Imagine that you have a destination belief that you are an outcast. You believe that you don’t fit in. Your destination is lonely place in which you feel disconnected or “on the outside, looking in.”

Directive beliefs are the road signs that get you to the outcast destination. As you go through your day, directive beliefs will tell you what to do and what to avoid.

You walk into the office and could say hello to a colleague, but a directive pops up and says, “No, he’s busy. He doesn’t want to talk to you! Just go to your desk.”

Seeing a few colleagues gathered around the water cooler, you think of joining in but the directive comes, “No way! You’re not part of that group. Just walk by like you don’t care.”

At lunch, someone smiles at you. You could start a friendly conversation. Then you hear that inner voice, “No, no. You’ll make a fool of yourself. Avoid eye contact!”

At home, your partner wants to know how your day went. You could tell the truth, but a directive interferes, “Just say it was fine. No one cares anyway.”

And then you sink into a lonely despair. I just don’t belong anywhere or to anyone. No one understands me. I’m a true outcast. You’ve arrived at your destination.

What You Must Know About Overcoming Limiting Beliefs

Now, for the nearly unfathomable concept that will teach you how to overcome limiting beliefs naturally.

To the unconscious mind, familiar destinations are the right places to be.

Advertising

Consciously, the person in our example above may hate feeling lonely.

Unconsciously, loneliness is the right destination. To the unconscious mind, loneliness is desirable. It may not feel good, but it does feel familiar and often strangely appropriate. If we pay close attention, we may even feel a subtle satisfaction upon landing in the familiar rut.

People consistently choose the familiar over other options. I often say that:

We would choose a familiar misery over a foreign happiness every time.

Familiarity is safe.

Deep down, we prefer to stick with the devil we know rather than venture out and risk encountering the devil that could be our total undoing.

Attachment to the familiar – whether positive or negative – could be a function of the amygdala, which controls fear and pleasure.[1]

Familiarity is safe (pleasurable) to the amygdala because it’s only concerned with immediate survival. Deep inside your limbic system, if you know you can survive a familiar problem, that might look like a better option than venturing down unfamiliar roads (not safe).

Recap: Familiar destinations, even unhappy ones, are the right destinations to the unconscious mind.

Get Your Conscious Mind Around It

To some part of you, arriving at a miserable yet familiar place is a good thing.

Advertising

You may consciously complain and resist and want to bang your head against the wall, but that doesn’t change anything, does it? You’ll still be driven toward the unconsciously desirable destination, finding yourself doing the exact opposite of what might make you happy.

Happiness is not the real goal in this case! This is self-sabotage; a supremely frustrating attachment to familiar negativity.[2]

Overcome Limiting Beliefs by Owning Them

Knowing how to overcome limiting beliefs so you can move forward with your life is all about accepting things about yourself that you’ve resisted for a lifetime. This is why limiting beliefs are so pervasive and long-lasting. Very few of us want to do that.

To make matters worse, overcoming limiting beliefs involves accepting that not only do we hold limiting beliefs, but that those beliefs involve a preference for the very thing we fear the most – failure.

It helps tremendously to realize that the conscious you doesn’t hold these beliefs, but an unconscious part of you does.

Which one of the following is easier to grasp?

  • I am driven toward failure.
  • A part of me is driven toward failure.

When you accept that part of you is holding onto limiting beliefs that guide you toward failure, you’re finally in a position to do something about it.

What to Do Every Day to Crush Limiting Beliefs

As odd as this might sound, you need to acknowledge your unconscious drive. By doing so, something magical happens. The unconscious belief becomes conscious, in the realm of conscious choice.

If you don’t make the belief conscious, it will continue to guide you on autopilot. The best option is to bring it to the surface where you can exercise more control.

3 Steps to Take

Advertising

  1. At the start of the day, acknowledge that a part of you will be actively seeking that familiar, miserable destination you’ve been arriving at for so many years.
  2. Determine to watch for the directive beliefs that will attempt to guide you there.
  3. When you run into a directive belief, acknowledge and challenge it.

Here’s what that could look like:

You could say good morning to a co-worker but a directive belief pops up and says, “No, he’s busy. Go to your desk.”

Immediately, you acknowledge that this directive wants to take you to that familiar destination, feeling like an outcast. You marvel, a part of me wants to feel like an outcast!

At that point, you have a choice. You can disobey this particular road sign and say hello to your coworker. If you don’t manage to do that. Then you can still remain conscious of the directive and destination beliefs by saying to yourself:

Part of me wants to feel like an outcast and just directed me to avoid saying hello and I obeyed this part of me.

Final Thoughts

Every single time you go through this simple process, you will get stronger. Don’t worry about whether you obey or disobey the directives. What matters more is that you’re raising consciousness and becoming aware of deeper drives within your psyche.[3]

You can’t make conscious choices about that which lies outside conscious awareness. Becoming conscious is the first and most important step.

Before long, the destinations you consciously want to arrive at, with the appropriate directives, will settle into place. You’ll realize that at some point in your life, you didn’t have a choice about ending up in an unhappy place. You couldn’t help but get used to that destination and even believe it was right for you.

Yet, in the light of adult conscious awareness, all this will change. Every time you recognize a directive toward unhappiness, you’ll be able to question it. The results will surprise you.

More Resources About Staying Positive and Motivated

Featured photo credit: Jake Melara via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Mike Bundrant

Co-Founder @inlpcenter, which offers NLP training and life coach certification to students in over 70 countries.

12 Most Important Milestones in Life to Grow Through 10 Leadership Goals That Strong Leaders Set for Themselves 8 Ways to Prepare for Change and Live Your Dream Life How to Get Motivated to Go to Work Every Single Day 10 Reasons Personal Growth Is Important No Matter How Old You Are

Trending in Productivity

1 How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated 2 How Self Care Can Help You Live Your Best Life 3 How to Develop Mental Toughness to Help You Stay Strong 4 How to Calm Down When You’re Stressed and Anxious 5 How to Reinvent Yourself And Redefine Your Future

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

Advertising

In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

Advertising

2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

Advertising

When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

Advertising

One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

Read Next