Change a Limiting Belief

How to Change a Belief That’s Holding You Back

Changing a belief that is standing between you and your success is the subject of this discussion; here’s how to do it.

Step 1: Become Aware of the Limiting Belief

I started by writing down several limiting beliefs I had about myself.

1) I’m lazy.
2) I’m an underachiever.
3) I’ll never achieve beyond mediocrity.
4) The odds are a million to one that a book I wrote would be a success.
5) I lose interest in things and don’t complete them.
6) I’m just an average salesman.
7) If I quit smoking I’ll start again.
8) Enough is good enough.
9) I’m not worthy of success.
10) To feel proud is vain.

Step 2: Validate or Discredit the Belief

Next I asked myself these questions about each belief.

1) Is it accurate? What evidence is there to validate or discredit this belief?
2) Is it serving any beneficial purpose?
3) What do I need to do to change it?

Step 3: Pain and Pleasure Associations

Finally, I brought to the forefront of my awareness the pain I would continue to experience by not changing a belief and the pleasure of ridding myself of it.

1) What is it costing me? How much pain am I experiencing because of this belief?
2) What will it cost me in the future if I don’t change it?
3) What do I stand to gain if I change/eliminate this limiting belief?

Let’s analyze limiting belief #1, “I’m lazy” beginning with Step 2 above.

1) Is it accurate?

What evidence is there to validate or discredit this belief?
Aside from an occasional 1-hour nap on Sundays I’m always moving. I have a home on 8 acres with dogs that need walking, cats and horses that need feeding, hundreds of feet of board fencing to keep up , 2 1/2 acres of lawn to mow, music to play and books to write. And I’m expected to be a car salesman 50+ hours a week, too. Watching TV with my wife for an hour or two a few nights a week does not qualify for “lazy”.

2) Is it serving any beneficial purpose?

Absolutely not.

3) What do I need to do to change it?

By the time I’d answered the first question I’d discovered the irrationality of this belief and cast it from my “opinion of self” warehouse. Answering questions 2 through 4 simply reinforced the need to rid myself of the belief.

Some of the others were not so easy to remove from the shelves. Let’s look at #2, “I’m an underachiever.”

1) It’s somewhat accurate. I demand excellence in nearly everything I do, whether it’s cooking a hamburger, learning a new bass line or getting a dog to sit on command. I typically achieve whatever I put my mind to with one exception; my job as a salesman. The difference? Aside from paying the bills I really place no value on being a good salesman.

2) Actually, yes. “I’m an underachiever” is an example of a seemingly disempowering belief serving a real purpose. It is the small pebble in my shoe that reminds me that I have a job to do and the annoyance isn’t going away until I do it. Nevertheless, it is an annoyance that I would like to make disappear. The ramifications of doing so are enormous.

3) The only way I can change the belief is to do what I must do—which is what I’m doing right now.

Now I gain some leverage over the belief by listing some of the painful things that I’ll experience if I don’t get rid of it, and the good stuff that will happen if I do. Here were some comments from my notes:

1) What is it costing me? How much pain am I experiencing because of this belief?
The pain of being a salesman is a dull yet persistent ache. Since I’m not very good at it )a limiting belief that needs attention?) and I don’t enjoy it my self esteem suffers. There’s the further discomfort of the constant nagging from an inner voice that tells me I was put here to do something else.

2) What will it cost me in the future if I don’t change it?
The cost will be more of the same self-dissatisfaction and the guilt and frustration that accompany it.

3) What do I stand to gain if I change/eliminate this limiting belief?
The joy that comes from creating something beautiful and beneficial using the gifts bestowed on me by a loving God. Peace of mind. Relief from all the things listed in 1 and 2 above.

Seeing these beliefs in print was like looking in the mirror and noticing that my face had turned pea-soup green and was covered with boils.

 There was a living, breathing being behind the ugliness but it would take major surgery to restore him to his former countenance. The initial incision was in the guise of awareness; just seeing the absurdity of some of my beliefs was enough to exorcise them. Others would require amputation and replacement with prosthesis in the form of an equally empowering belief. Here are my initial diagnoses of each belief.

I’ll never achieve beyond mediocrity.
If I continue to ignore the pleas of my inner nature that is likely to be true.

The odds are a million to one that a book I wrote would be a success.
“The book” is my mission in life. Odds are irrelevant; I must try and have faith that the end will justify the means.

I lose interest in things and don’t complete them.
Rarely; and only if they are unimportant to me.

I’m just an average salesman.
Guilty. My attempting to excel as a salesman would be akin to a chicken trying to excel as a chicken hawk. Close, but no cigar.

If I quit smoking I’ll start again.
Possibly; if I don’t quit it may kill me. (Update: I quit cold turkey on 7/2/2007)

Enough is good enough.
Only if I deem it unimportant but necessary.

I’m not worthy of success.
That’s just ludicrous!

To feel proud is vain.
Gotta get over that one!

Changing a belief held for decades will not happen over night; my recovery will take time. I’ll replace doubt with faith and confidence and raise my battered self image. But having learned the power of beliefs to define my reality, initiate my actions and determine my outcomes, I vow to stand vigil until the patient enjoys a full recovery.


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