Overcoming Beliefs That Limit You

Often what holds us back isn’t our circumstances, but rather our beliefs about our circumstances. Get-It-Done Guy has the steps to find the beliefs that hold you back and learn to move past them.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #259

Overcoming Beliefs That Limit You

by Stever Robbins

People say “If you believe something hard enough, it will come true.” As a kid, I believed that. They told me in science class that solid matter is mostly empty space. It seemed reasonable to me that this meant I should be able to walk through walls.  Several painful months later, I decided that if you believe something hard enough, you’ll just smash your nose against the wall, seriously damaging your mating prospects for life. And that’s how I stopped believing that if I believe something hard enough, it will come true.

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But still, our beliefs do create our reality. Your beliefs determine what you’ll try to do and your beliefs determine how you’ll interpret the world. You hear your boss has taken over stalled project X. If you believe bossy-boss is a political, power hungry corporate climber, you’ll think, “That devious tool is trying to consolidate power.” If you believe your boss is competent and concerned with the company’s future, you’ll think, “Thank goodness someone competent is going to make project X profitable!”

Same action, totally different interpretations.

Some beliefs make you happy, others make you miserable.

Your beliefs make you happy or miserable. They’ll motivate or demotivate you. Some beliefs get you experimenting and learning, while others make you hunker down and preserve the status quo. But these beliefs aren’t real. What is real is what you do because of your beliefs.

Challenge Beliefs by Reconsidering Them

Your brain naturally tries to interpret the world as being consistent with your pre-existing beliefs. If you want to get past beliefs that limit you, you need to challenge them consciously.

Let’s challenge the belief that your boss is a scheming, power-hungry corporate climber. Ask yourself, “Is this true?” Of course you believe it, but really reconsider. Is it true? Well, I think so. Can you be absolutely sure? Not really. That’s one interpretation, but there may be others. Maybe my boss really just wants project X to succeed.

Notice the Belief’s Effect on Your Actions

Now ask, “When I believe my boss is a power hungry climber, how do I act?” Well, I don’t really cooperate. I wear a false smile and pretend to go along with the current plans. I resent my job and look for little ways to screw things up.

Now ask yourself “How would I deal with the same boss without this belief?” If I didn’t believe that he was a power-hungry villain, I’d be calm and happy. I wouldn’t care what my boss did; it wouldn’t affect me…except maybe provide an opportunity if he needs help running project X.

See the difference? With the belief, you get vindictive bitterness. Without the belief, you get calmness and maybe even opportunity. But you wouldn’t know it without examining the belief’s effects on your life.

Which reality do you want? The one where you complain and moan, or the one where you’re calm, with a possible opportunity headed your way? You can’t tell the future, but your belief affects how you feel about it now. This one belief is the difference between acting on opportunity or missing it entirely and developing an ulcer.

Now that you’ve seen what the belief does to your life, explore the opposite belief. The opposite of “Your boss is a power-hungry climber” could be “Your boss is a good manager.” Could that be true? Find 3 examples, however small:

  1. Your boss is trying to rescue a money-losing project.

  2. Your boss asked for your ideas last week, which could bring your ideas to the attention of upper management.

  3. Your boss just hired a new salesperson, which could bring in more money.

At this point, you may still believe your original belief. But often, you’ll have found many new ways to understand what’s happening—including opportunities for promotion.

This is the most powerful belief examination technique I’ve ever found. It’s called The Work of Byron Katie, and you can learn about it in detail for free at http://www.TheWork.com.

Now that you can expand your beliefs, how do you find the beliefs worth expanding?

Change Beliefs About What’s Possible

Your most limiting beliefs are beliefs about what is and isn’t possible for you. In 2010, my friend Joel and I were discussing my book, Get-it-Done Guy’s 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More. I quipped, “Wouldn’t it be great if I had a one-man musical based on the book about personal productivity, zombies, and Oreo ice cream cake that I could perform as a business keynote?” I was kidding. It turned out that Joel is a musical theater composer—who knew? He said “Let’s do it.” I just knew that I wasn’t the sort of person who could act, sing in front of an audience, memorize an entire show, or co-write(!) a play, for that matter.

Nevertheless, I examined those beliefs and confronted them. Lo and behold, two years later I performed two previews of the show, and only forgot my lyrics once, in a mind-numbingly horrifying moment from which I recovered without missing a beat.

Challenge Your Own Limits

What are you not doing because it’s so outside your range of what’s possible that you haven’t even considered it?

Grab a piece of paper and write: “I’m not the sort of person who could ever…” Then complete the sentence in as many ways as you can. List the dreams you’ve abandoned, list what you believe keeps you stuck in your current circumstances. Every completion is a belief you can examine if you think it will matter. “I’m not the sort of person who could ever…” (1) start my own company, (2) speak up at meetings, (3) run a project, (4) learn to sing, (5) develop the drive to be successful.

Examine these beliefs one by one. For each one, ask if it’s true and really think about the answer. Then ask what effect it has on your life and what life would be like without the belief. Finally, find proof—however small—that the opposite of the belief could be true. You’ll often find this exercise will help you go far beyond your existing beliefs in totally new ways. You could develop an entirely new relationship with Oreo ice cream cake, zombies, and personal productivity, for example.

Beliefs about yourself are only one kind of belief worth examining. In a future episode, we’ll explore other areas where finding and revising outmoded beliefs can boost your results, your happiness, and your life.

This is Stever Robbins. I help people who want to save the world identify and overcome the beliefs that are holding them back. If you want to know more, visit http://www.SteverRobbins.com.

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!

Angry Boss image from Shutterstock

About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.