Your beliefs are the lens through which you experience the world around you. They are the operating system of your life and the filter through which you interpret your reality.
They are thoughts and assumptions that act as our mental map for how things are, what’s possible and not possible.
Beliefs also determine the meaning we give to our circumstances and the events of our lives.
In other words, beliefs are the stories we tell ourselves about our lives. Needless to say, they're pretty important.
What are limiting beliefs?
Limiting beliefs are those specific stories that hold us back in some way from becoming who we truly want to be. Often, they are unquestioned and/or unconscious.
Here's an example of a general limiting belief:
"I am a victim of my circumstances."
If we want to create lasting change in our lives, we need to let go of our limiting beliefs and cultivate empowering beliefs that support our growth. In other words, we need to tell better stories.
Here's an example of an empowering belief:
"My circumstances are opportunities to grow and create meaning in my life."
How limiting beliefs affect your life
Let’s say you believe that everyone is out to take advantage of you. That belief will be the lens through which you view all your interactions. You brain will constantly be looking for and finding evidence that supports this belief because that is how the human brain is wired.
But let’s turn it around. Let’s say you truly believe that people are good-natured, kind, and generally want to help you. This belief will then be the lens through which you view your interactions and relationships. Your brain will constantly be looking for and finding evidence that supports this belief. And so, this is the kind of reality you will tend to experience.
With both beliefs, the people you interact with might not be any different. What will be different is the way you interpret their behavior. Your brain will attach a different meaning to the same behavior depending on your beliefs.
In computer language, beliefs are like a piece of code that programs your brain to think about things in a certain way.
This is just one simplistic example of how a single belief can dramatically affect your daily life. Consider the fact that you have hundreds, even thousands of beliefs, all working to create your version of the world as you see it.
This is not to say that you can simply say to yourself, “People are kind,” and they will magically become kind. That is not an example of a belief. That is an example of wishful thinking.
A belief happens when your perspective shifts—when you actually experience a different neural connection in your brain. I like to call this a Mindset Shift.
How do I identify my limiting beliefs?
There are a variety of ways to experience a Mindset Shift when it comes to identifying limiting beliefs. I’ll be giving you many of them in the upcoming Mindset Shifts Masterclass, which will be open for registration September 3rd – 10th. For now, I want to tell you about two methods that have helped me.
1. The Out-of-Body Method
It’s often easier to recognize limiting beliefs in others than it is to recognize our own. At least, that’s often been the case for me.
For example, I have a friend who moonlights as a freelance graphic designer. He is extremely talented, always booked and makes great money from his craft. Yet, he continues to hold down a 9-5 day job he doesn’t like. Why?
Here are some of my thoughts as to why this might be...
He comes from a small, blue-collar town where the mentality is: “A good job with benefits is all you need” and “Traveling the world and catching up on work from his laptop is something snobby rich people do on vacation, not something you make a career out of.”
Doing graphic design full-time would afford him a lifestyle very different from that of his family, friends and co-workers. Given his background, it’s likely that on some level, he believes he doesn’t deserve that opportunity.
Or, maybe he believes making such a career move would cause tension in his relationships. So instead, he continues to play it safe and straddle the fence even though he says he wants to commit to his passion full-time.
These are just guesses. But here’s the point: You can use this objective approach on yourself. Often, we are so close to a situation that we can’t see how we’re tripping ourself up. It’s only when someone else points it out that it becomes obvious.
If you don’t know what your underlying beliefs are about a particular area of your life, try this:
Choose a problem, or an area of your life where you feel "stuck." If you are going to uncover limiting beliefs, you first need a specific situation to work with. Think of an area of your life you want to change.
i.e. "I can't quit my job," "My relationship is draining but I can't leave"
Once you’ve done this, step outside yourself and try looking at your situation from a third party point of view. Be the observer of your situation rather than a participant in it.
Think of possible reasons this "other person" would have this problem. Why would they be stuck in this situation?
Write down what comes to mind.
Do these beliefs ring true? If not, dig deeper until you find ones that do. Think about your values, your assumptions and your unique life experiences. Are any of these contributing to unconscious limiting beliefs?
2. The Fill-In-The-Blank Method
This is a simple but super effective way to uncover limiting beliefs. Here's how it works:
Describe a situation you’re struggling with (e.g. “I can’t start a business”) and add the word “because” at the end of it, then finish the sentence out loud.
I can’t start a business because _________________.
Complete this sentence out loud and don’t judge your answer. What you say after the word “because” will give you a clue as to what your underlying limiting beliefs are.
Do this several times for the same topic and write down your answer each time. Record the first thing that comes to mind. If you do this without overthinking, it can help you uncover your unconscious beliefs surrounding the chosen subject.
I can't start a business because I don't have enough money.
In this statement, the limiting belief is "I don't have enough money."
In my upcoming Mindset Shifts Masterclass, I'll be giving you many more clear and practical strategies for identifying limiting beliefs and also showing you how to create new empowering beliefs that support your success.
Registration for the Masterclass will open up September 3rd – 10th. Sign up here to get notified when registration opens and to receive an early bird discount on the course.