What Limiting Beliefs Are Holding You Back? 4 Steps To Start Living Your Dream Life
What limiting beliefs are holding you back? I used to think that the biggest prison in my life was a 9-to-5 office job. And that everything and everyone who was holding me back from living a free life, was responsible for how miserable and stuck I felt.
I thought that traveling the world, having loads of money, and working from my laptop on the beach were going to make me feel free.
But I discovered it didn’t. I noticed I could still feel stuck, unhappy, and unfree even though I had all those things.
This is because the biggest prison is not the 4 walls of your home or your office: it’s your mind.
Your thoughts shape your reality
When you’re having a bad day, you will meet unfriendly people everywhere. When you’re looking to buy a new car (or campervan in my case), you suddenly see them everywhere.
I recently searched for a corkscrew in the kitchen drawer of my new place and I couldn’t find it. Two weeks later, I saw there were 2 huge wine openers in that same drawer. I realized that the reason I hadn’t seen them was that I had been looking for a different type of opener. I couldn’t see the corkscrew because of my belief of what this object should look like.
So imagine all the other things you don’t see just because you have a limited lens to look through…
- Seeing only obstacles because you have been taught life is difficult
- Burning yourself out because you believe you can’t be successful if you’re working less
- Never asking for a raise, or look for a better-paying job because you believe you’re not worth more than your current level of income
These types of beliefs, the ones that hold you back from achieving what you want, are called ‘limiting beliefs’.
How your parents f*cked you up
I say this in the most loving way, because it’s not your parents’ fault. They have been raised by their parents or caretakers, and so on. No parent can prevent influencing their kids.
Most of your belief system is formed in your (early) childhood, and it’s mostly subconscious.
If you want to know what limiting beliefs are holding you back, you need to look at your life BEFORE you turned 8. Most of your worldview gets determined before the age of 8 in one of these 4 ways:
- Your environment and education: ‘You can’t make it in life without a degree’
- Experiences: Your parents get divorced so you believe marriages never work
- Evidence: ‘I got bad grades in school so I must be stupid’
- Others’ examples: ‘My mom did it, so I can do it too!’
Often these types of beliefs are based on conclusions you made as a kid, that made a lot of sense back then, but are based on faulty logic (’I got bad grades in school, so I am stupid’).
The problem with these beliefs is that they can be quite sticky. We tend to focus on evidence that confirms our belief, and are blind to the contrary. (’Look at all the other stupid things I do, I must be so stupid!’)
It keeps us in a place of fear (’If I start a business everyone can see how stupid I am’), helplessness (’It’s just not for me, I am too stupid to do that’), and sometimes guilt (’I shouldn’t try to be smarter than my mother because she’ll become jealous’).
4 steps to uncover & change your Limiting Beliefs
1. Identify your biggest dream
Beliefs are only limiting when they hold you back on something you really want. If you don’t want to be rich, you’re staying in a job that doesn’t pay well is not really a problem. You’re not stuck in a belief that you’re not deserving of money, you’re just happy where you are. But if you want to start your own business, and you believe you are not disciplined, smart, or rich enough to do so, things get hard.
What would you do if there were no limitations? What kind of life would you live if you didn’t have to worry about what other people would say? What would you do if life was a computer game you couldn’t lose?
2. Write down all the reasons why you think you can’t do or have that
If you had trouble writing about your wildest dreams in the previous question, it’s probably because your mind came up with all the reasons why this can never become your reality. That’s great! Because it tells you exactly where you have work to do.
So, what limiting beliefs are holding you back? Make a list of all reasons why you think you can’t [start a business / buy an island / become famous].
3. Untangle each belief
Now look at all the statements above and answer the following questions:
1 – What’s the belief behind this statement?
If you wrote down ‘I don’t have the money to buy an island’ the belief behind this is: ‘you need a lot of money to buy an island’, and maybe on a deeper level: ‘I will never be rich’
2 – Is it objectively true or is this an opinion? Can you find proof this is NOT true?
Anything you can’t experience with your 5 senses is a story!
Every statement with vague quantifiers like ‘much’ or ‘a lot of’ are usually questionable. What is a lot? Just a lot compared to what you have?
Every statement with ‘I am XYZ’ or ‘I am not XYZ’ is usually not true either. You can say you’re poor, but someone that lives on 1$ a day might think you’re rich.
3 – Where do you think this belief comes from? Where did you learn this?
Who told you you would never be rich? Was it your family who kept saying how hard and poor life is in your social class? Was it your mom who kept telling you money doesn’t grow on trees? Was it your teacher that told you you were too stupid?
4 – How do you think this belief has served or protected you in the past?
These beliefs might be limiting now, but they used to be helpful to keep you safe in the past.
If you believe you’ll never be rich, it protects you from being disappointed when your expectations are not met. If you believe you’re stupid because your mom didn’t want you to be smarter than you, it protected the relationship with your mom. If you believe you have to work very hard for success because your dad told you, it gave you the respect of your dad, and probably a good amount of success.
5 – How is this belief standing in your way now?
How specifically does this belief show up in your life, and how does it limit you to achieve what you want?
4. Change your beliefs
Changing your beliefs is much easier once you realize where they come from, and how they’re just stories that served us well in the past.
I work with 3 different ways to help you transform your limiting belief. You can use 1 method at a time, or just use all methods.
Method 1 – Change your beliefs through Action
Let’s start off with a good old ‘Fake it till you make it’.
Sometimes, the action comes before the belief. Just start acting like a different person until you become that different person:
- If you believe you are not good at running: go running 5 times a week until you are a good runner.
- If you believe you are not confident: walk and talk like a confident person until you start feeling more confident.
- If you believe you are not disciplined: act like a disciplined person until discipline becomes second nature.
Method 2 – Change your beliefs through Positive Affirmations
Positive affirmations are positive statements, often in the form of ‘I am…’ that can help you transform your limiting beliefs.
They can be used as a mantra (in spoken form), or you can write them down, or you can listen to them.
Although it sounds easy to just flip your limiting belief into an affirmation (’I am not worthy of any money’ becomes ‘I am worthy of money’), your mind won’t really believe it when your affirmation is far far away from the truth (or at least, what your brain THINKS is the truth…)
I personally try to stick with affirmations that are closer to what I currently believe.
Here’s an example of how to create an affirmation from the limiting belief ‘I am not worth any money’:
- ‘My worthiness is defined by my capabilities’
- ‘I am worthy of love and abundance’
- ‘Money is flowing to me effortlessly’
Method 3 – Change your beliefs through Counter-Examples
Ask yourself the following question:
“Is (my belief) true all around the world, through all times, and in every culture?”
Say that you believe you can’t build a business because you didn’t finish high school. Just go to Google and look for people who didn’t finish school and now own million-dollar companies.
I promise you will find counter-examples for every belief that’s holding you back.
I created a free journaling exercise in Notion to find out what limiting beliefs are holding you back. This journaling exercise will help you go through the 4 steps to help you overcome your limiting beliefs. You can download it below.
Download your FREE journaling exercise
What limiting beliefs are holding you back? This free journaling exercise will walk you through the 4 steps to uncover and change your limiting beliefs so you can start living your dream life.