We all wrestle with limiting beliefs. No matter your age, occupation, or role, it’s a universal struggle. A limiting belief is a misunderstanding of the present that shortchanges our future. These might be assumptions we hold about the wider world, about other people, or maybe, hardest of all, beliefs about ourselves.
Some of our limiting beliefs come from previous setbacks or failures. Other beliefs are fueled by the news media, or even social media. And still others come from negative relationships, ranging from friends and coworkers to family and faith communities. Whatever the beliefs are, or wherever they come from, you don’t have to be hemmed in by them. You can trade them for liberating truths. Here are six steps to help you do that.
- Recognize the limiting belief. If a belief reflects black-and-white thinking, it might be a limiting belief. Maybe it’s coming from past work experiences or a relationship. No matter the belief or how true it feels, it’s critical to recognize it’s just an opinion about reality—and it’s most likely wrong.
- Record the belief. This belief might be something like, “I don’t have enough experience,” or, “I’m not good with money,” or even, “I’m not very disciplined.” We all have our own challenges, so it could be anything. Try jotting down the belief word for word. By writing it down you externalize it. You’re then free to evaluate it.
- Review the belief. Is this belief enabling you to accomplish the outcomes you want, or is it holding you back? Is it empowering or draining? Try looking at things objectively. And be honest. Honest evaluation is the key to freedom.
- Reject or reframe the belief. If a limiting belief is false, you can reject it. Sometimes it’s a straight swap, like going from “I don’t have the energy to walk 10,000 steps a day” to “I have the energy to walk 10,000 steps every day.” Reframing a belief requires more. Because limiting beliefs often have a seed of truth to them. But you don’t have to surrender to a limiting belief, even if it’s partly true. You can rewrite the narrative. Maybe you think, I’m not creative. You could just accept that and stall out. Or you could reframe it like this: “I’m not a creative person, but I can always collaborate with someone who is.”
- Revise the belief. This isn’t just about simple affirmations. It’s about reorienting your thinking around a new and liberating truth. For example, you might think, I don’t have the exact experience necessary for that job. Instead you can say, “I have different experiences that will make me a more unique candidate.” The old thinking holds you back, but now you have a foothold for real progress. Be sure to write down the revised belief, too.
- Reorient yourself to the new belief. Begin living into the narrative of this new, liberating truth. You might not fully buy into it. It might even feel like you’re faking it. That’s fine, even normal. But if you keep telling yourself the truth, over time you’ll feel more comfortable in it.
Every time the old belief creeps up, reject or reframe it, and restate the liberating truth. Do it again and again. The key is to start living as if it’s true. Because it probably is. And the more we live into what’s true, the more we bring our experience into alignment with our expectations. What are your limiting beliefs? What are the corresponding liberating truths?