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Last Updated on November 25, 2019

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

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.

The Two Kinds of Limiting Beliefs

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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  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 About Staying Positive

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.

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed, and exhausted. Therefore, if you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, it’s time to do something about it.

Here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm, leaving you calmer, in control, and a lot less stressed at work.

1. Write Everything Down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when work feels overwhelming is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s occupying your thoughts[1].

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind, write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind.”

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will help you stop feeling overwhelmed at work. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have emptied your head, go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. You can learn how to create a more meaningful to-do list here.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago to help when work feels overwhelming. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and we humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take[2]:

When feeling overwhelmed at work, use Parkinson's Law.

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad. It’s more wishful thinking than bad judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage when we’re feeling overwhelmed at work. If you have estimated that to write five important emails will take ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is that you put yourself under a little time pressure, and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time, so it plays tricks on us, and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our team members to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening, and we get more focused and more work done. This will help when work feels overwhelming.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos to avoid getting overwhelmed at work. Schedule time for each task, especially high priority tasks, while also grouping together similar tasks. This will help relieve stress and anxiety in your daily work life.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done, and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer, and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one[3]. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend, or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss or a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away and will only make you feel more overwhelmed at work. You need to make a decision to deal with it, and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved.

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed, and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend about the problem.

    He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem, and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I pay a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first was: don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second: there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we are feeling overwhelmed at work (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

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    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

    It also means that, rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible, and you can make decisions about what to do about them.

    Often, it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be that you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    When work feels overwhelming, it’s not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work. It can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    It’s easy to feel like you have too much on your plate, but there are things you do to make it more manageable. 

    Make a decision, even if it’s just talking to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution.

    When you follow these strategies, you can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Josefa nDiaz via unsplash.com

    Reference

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