This issue is rather complicated and one post is clearly not enough to shed some light on all the factors that determine the success of our endeavours. However, one of the main roadblocks that drives a wedge between you and what you want is your own limiting thoughts about success and failure.
Let’s take a closer look at how you can identify and overcome the limiting beliefs that hold you back from achieving your dreams.
Generally speaking, a limiting belief is any thought, idea or opinion that prevents us from setting goals, living according to our values and achieving our dreams. These beliefs, that usually appear during childhood, are the result of too much criticism from our parents, teachers or caregivers. If someone has constantly told you that “You’re not good enough” or that “You’ll never make it”, you’ll most likely end up doubting your potential for greatness.
Limiting beliefs that are gained at an early age will remain in a state of idleness; hidden somewhere deep beneath the layers of your conscious mind. It is only when we prepare ourselves for something amazing (like a personal project or a new business) that these thoughts make their presence noticed by generating doubt, anxiety or even fear.
As a result, no matter how hard you try, you never seem to muster the courage to make that extra effort or go that extra mile which might get you closer to your dream. In fact, one of the reasons why you choose to believe your limiting thoughts is because they sound surprisingly “real” and “logical”. Constantly reinforced by criticism, past failures and too much negativity, these beliefs became your personal creed, a “sacred” code that dictates how you perceive success and failure.
But dysfunctional (or limiting) beliefs don’t just affect our perception of success and failure. A study conducted by Cheie & Miu (2016) revealed that functional and dysfunctional beliefs are the underlying mechanism that can boost or harm a person’s HRQOL (health-related quality of life). For those of you who are not familiar with the terminology, HRQOL is a coefficient that measures a person’s overall sense of wellbeing.
To put it in simple words, limiting beliefs not only affect our career, business or relationships, but also our physical health. This of course can negatively impact other areas of our life too.
As you probably figured out, the effects of your limiting beliefs are not always obvious, so to prevent them from interfering with the achievement of your dreams, first you need to learn how to spot them.
Limiting beliefs usually come in the form of universal laws or dogma. These rigid and seemingly-logical mental constructs are the reason why your dreams and future plans often appear as “impossible” or “unachievable”.
To recognise your limiting beliefs, first you have to become aware of their existence and the only way to do this is by thinking about your dreams and how you plan to achieve them. See what thoughts pop into your head and analyze them. From a linguistic perspective, your limiting thoughts will appear in the form of “but’s” and “what if’s”. For example: “I want to start a new business, but I don’t know if I’m ready” or “My plan seems solid, but what if something unexpected happens?”
In addition, limiting beliefs usually have a negative vibe, so as long as you can put aside everything for a moment and focus exclusively on what goes on inside your head, you’ll most definitely recognise the thoughts that prevent you from chasing your dreams.
Don’t have time to check into to a Tibetan monastic retreat? well here’s a quick cheat-list on how to overcome the thoughts that hold you back and limit your dreams.
As mentioned before, thought awareness is the first step towards overcoming whatever it is that prevents you from reaching your goals. You cannot take action against something that you’re not aware of, so make sure you identify your limiting thoughts first.
There’s a good reason why most experts recommend this strategy as an effective way to tackle major projects. Since limiting beliefs tend to manifest whenever you contemplate the idea of achieving something great, breaking a big dream into smaller, more achievable goals is the best way to avoid the fear and doubt associated with tackling a huge project. Great achievements don’t just happen overnight. You need to adopt a step-by-step approach that will get you closer to your dream each day and allow you tackle any possible obstacles one at a time.
Mental imagery is a simple and highly effective technique that boosts your motivation by showing you the image of success. According to a study by Renner, Schwarz, Peters, & Marcus J.H. Huibers (2014), people who used mental imagery to envision a better version of themselves experienced “higher positive mood ratings and higher positive affect compared to participants in the control condition.” Although there seems to be no direct link between mental imagery and dysfunctional beliefs, the fact that our mood and emotions gain a positive twist as a result of practicing this technique can in turn influence the achievement of our dreams. All you have to do is find a comfortable position and think about the moment when you will accomplish your biggest dream. Try to add as much details as possible. How would you feel? How would your life change? How would your friends/family react? What would you do afterwards?
Don’t let your limiting beliefs hold you back from achieving what you want. Be mindful of your thoughts, control them, and envision a better future.
Done that? well look at you.You’re almost all the way there!
References: Cheie, L., & Miu, A. (2016). Functional and dysfunctional beliefs in relation to adolescent health-related quality of life. Personality and Individual Differences, 173–177.
Renner, F., Schwarz, P., Peters, M., & Marcus J.H. Huibers, M. (2014). Effects of a best-possible-self mental imagery exercise on mood and dysfunctional attitudes. Psychiatry Research, 105–110.
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