5 ways to break free from self-imposed limitations

Your experiences and outcomes in life are a mural painted on the wall of your beliefs. In other words, your beliefs provide the substrate upon which your life is built. Beliefs are perspectives that we have adopted about ourselves and about the world. And perspective is often stronger than reality. Once we adopt a belief it determines what we accept and what we reject. It shapes how we interpret the events of everyday life. Beliefs exist in our minds and create the reality that we experience.

Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of beliefs: empowering beliefs and limiting beliefs. Empowering beliefs help us move ahead. Limiting beliefs hold us back.

Most of the time our beliefs are formed by others – by the media, parents, peers and people we interact with. These influences shape our beliefs mostly by experience and suggestion. For instance when a child is often told that he/she is good for nothing, over time, the child will start to believe it and will start acting like it.

Beliefs exist in our minds and create the reality that we experience. Once we adopt a belief it determines what we accept and what we reject. It shapes how we interpret the events of everyday life. Click To Tweet

When we entertain a thought for a long time it becomes a belief that shapes our lives. That’s why we must make conscious efforts to think empowering thoughts because our thoughts shape our beliefs which in turn affect our actions, choices and decisions thus determining our outcomes in life.

There are lots of beliefs we can have. And every one of them contributes to who we become. Let me give you one practical example from my life.

I grew up believing that ladies who wear trousers were wayward and lacked proper upbringing. Imagine that! If you grew up in the very conservative setting that I emerged from you would understand what I’m talking about. How did I come by that belief? It’s the picture that was painted by the people closest to me and the society I grew up in. But thank God I overcame it. Otherwise I would have missed out on many high-impact relationships.

How do we overcome limiting beliefs?

The first step is to recognise them. You cannot change what you don’t admit. Every time you’re taking an action or making a decision, think about the belief behind that decision. If it’s a belief that holds you back, consciously reverse it. I have outlined some practical advice to get you started.

Push your boundaries

Extend yourself beyond what you’re used to. Remember the example I gave earlier? I used to believe that ladies in trousers were not well brought up, especially when that dressing is complemented with make-up and jewelries. Acting from that belief, my default mode was to avoid any lady that fits that description. But once I recognised it as a limiting belief I pushed the boundaries and decided to assess people on the basis of character rather than my personal bias about physical appearance.

Once I made that mental shift, my relationships took a new turn and life became richer. I found that it is not the dress that makes the person, it is the person that makes the dress. Now, that’s replacing a limiting belief with an empowering belief! But I wouldn’t have achieved that if I hadn’t questioned my assumptions and pushed my boundaries beyond what I was culturally exposed to.

Now, it’s important to recognise that pushing your boundaries is not the same as breaking natural laws, disregarding basic standards of propriety or engaging in destructive behaviour. Pushing your boundaries is about setting a challenging goal for yourself and taking the necessary actions to realise that goal. It’s about doing something different, entering a new terrain, challenging assumptions that hold you back and discarding beliefs that no longer serve you. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t look like a big deal. As long as you have recognised it as something holding you back, be honest with yourself and deal with it.

Pushing your boundaries is not about breaking natural laws or disregarding basic standards of propriety. It's about setting a challenging goal for yourself and taking the necessary actions to realise that goal. Click To Tweet

Listen to your heart more than what people think

Regardless of what you do or what you don’t, people will always have opinions about you. Don’t let their opinions form your beliefs or shape your life. Your intuition is a much better guide in determining who you truly are.

I like the way Steve Jobs put it: “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” Eleanor Roosevelt offers further perspective: “Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”

You can use people’s opinions as a form of feedback to improve your life but you shouldn’t passively hand over the reins and allow them to shape your life. What people think or say about you is important but it is not that important. The same people who celebrate you today may condemn you tomorrow. The reverse is also true.

How you handle people's opinions has a direct impact on your success and fulfilment in life. Treat opinions not as authoritative verdicts but as feedback to improve your life. Know what to accept and what to discard. Click To Tweet

The idea is to have a detached assessment of people’s opinions and determine how to handle each one. Know what to work on, what to run with and what to discard. But never let anyone shape your life. Let your actions and decisions be an active response from the core of your being instead of a passive reaction to societal expectations and subjective opinions.

“Set your course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship.” – Omar N. Bradley”

Build resilience

Most people are limited in life not because they don’t have what it takes to advance but because they give up too soon. When you’re doing something and you’re not getting the desired results, don’t quit so fast. Determine to rise every time you fall. Look for new ways to approach the issue and don’t let the thought of failure hold you back.

Make up your mind to bounce higher every time you fall. To achieve this, when things happen don’t think of them as good or bad. Just accept every situation as a learning experience and something that is designed to eventually work for your good. As you adopt this perspective you will begin to see things you did not see before. You will open up new possibilities that empower you to overcome limiting beliefs.

Replace limiting beliefs with empowering beliefs

You may not be able to literally change limiting beliefs but you can replace them. It starts by consciously holding in your mind the thought of your desired outcome and speaking it to yourself as often as you can. At first it will look unnatural but keep at it until it becomes normal.

Have a mental image of your desired outcome and act out that image. Don’t confuse this with the popular advice: “Fake it till you make it.” What I’m saying is that you should believe it until you become it.

Beliefs operate from the subconscious level. So you need to keep holding the thought of your outcome in your mind until it gets into your subconscious. Do everything necessary to make it real. Change your environment if necessary. Use affirmations, paste reminders in conspicuous places.

Have a mental image of your desired outcome and act out that image. Don’t confuse this with the popular advice: “Fake it till you make it.” What I’m saying is that you should believe it until you become it. If you truly believe it, you will act like it and in the process of acting like it, you will find that you have become what you believed.

Consciously choose your response

The power of beliefs is in their capacity to drive action. Limiting beliefs are powerful in their ability to hold us back because they move us to act by default. To overcome these limiting beliefs we must deliberately refuse the default response and consciously act in line with our newfound empowering beliefs. No matter how empowering a belief is, it will not do anything for you until you act on it.

Growing up, I believed that I came from a poor family. I wrote my first book as a primary school boy and in the author’s bio I wrote that I was from a poor family. That’s a limiting belief. It had the appearance of truth but it really wasn’t true. My mum was deeply pained when she read it. She sat me down and explained that things would not go on like that forever.

Well, I heard her but did not really believe that. My actions and decisions continued to proceed from the belief that we were poor. Over time, I recognised that this belief was limiting me. So I started to take action, first by reading on how to be wealthy. This changed my mindset and I suddenly started seeing opportunities that I hadn’t seen all along.

One of the things that happened was teaming up with a friend and classmate to start a toy television company. We would make toy televisions from matchboxes, cardboards and pictures cut out from calendars and magazines. Then we would sell them to other pupils. Business got so good that we employed two of our classmates and started paying them daily wages. Imagine that!

Empowering beliefs are only powerful to the extent that you act in line with them. Click To Tweet

Can you see how I made the transition from being poor to becoming rich by adopting a rich mindset and acting it out? That was in Primary Four and it continued into secondary school. Some of the books I read in that period include Think and Grow Rich, Rich Dad Poor Dad, The Richest Man in Babylon, Breaking Financial Hardship and a book about starting a business with other people’s money. I don’t remember the exact title of that last one but I remember reading it in my school library.

My beliefs about money changed. I started to understand the difference between assets and liabilities and started learning how to multiply money instead of merely spending it. I made the shift from a scarcity mindset and adopted the empowering beliefs that come with having an abundance mindset. I am not a billionaire yet, in terms of my physical assets, but I am 100 percent certain that I will be.

That’s because I am already a billionaire on the inside and what is on the inside will eventually manifest on the outside as long as I continue to act in line with it. I am not struggling to believe it. It is already a reality in my mind. I am only waiting for outer circumstances to catch up with that inner reality, much in the same way that a pregnant woman joyfully expects the manifestation of her baby.

What next?

As you consciously review and re-engineer your beliefs, it will reflect in your choices, decisions and actions, which will ultimately culminate in the realisation of your desired outcome. Once you follow this process, adapting it to your peculiar situation, you can rest assured of predictable success.

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