We’re all looking for success in our lives, so what’s the single biggest factor that stops us achieving it? When did you last use “I can’t….”? Do you hear yourself thinking or making statements like these – I can’t make the time to exercise, I don’t have enough money to enjoy myself, I just don’t feel happy, I can’t stop smoking, I don’t believe I can get this job, I wish I was more confident, I’m not a good enough presenter, I don’t believe that diet would work for me? So when did you decide to hold yourself back from achieving your dreams?
All those statements are limiting beliefs about yourself and for many people the single biggest thing holding them back in life is their own thoughts. Limiting beliefs are all those nagging doubts you have about yourself – the ones you have 24/7 100% of the time. As William Shakespeare put it in Measure for Measure “Our doubts are traitors, And make us lose the good we oft might win, By fearing to attempt.” Any statement you make or thought you think where you say – I’m not…., I can’t…., I don’t …., is likely a limiting belief. Any belief that you have about yourself that’s not constructive is a limiting belief. And remember those smaller ones – I can’t make enough money, I can’t get promoted – may all link back to one big doozie of a limiting belief such as, I don’t believe in myself, I’m not good enough, I don’t trust myself or other people, I don’t deserve it, or I don’t love myself.
But where do these limiting beliefs come from? Are they gifted to us by our parents, our family, our friends or our teachers and mentors? Were they wrapped up in shiny paper underneath the Christmas tree for us to find? No, I thought not. A limiting belief is always preceded by a limiting decision that you’ve made in your own mind for whatever reason. So if you decided it, then you can undecided it, right? Remember “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” (Eleanor Roosevelt) and without you making a decision to believe it. Believing in yourself is a choice – the choice of what you believe is up to you. At the top of my blog the first thing you see is a quote from Charles Inge – “You can do what you want if you don’t think you can’t, so don’t think you can’t think you can.” If you believe something is possible, you’ll act as if it’s possible and do whatever is necessary to meet your goal. If you don’t believe it’s possible, you simply won’t do what’s necessary and it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Back around 15 years ago I started presenting at conferences – I was a timid presenter, incredibly nervous before I got up, literally knees knocking behind the lectern when I did and totally panicked in a cold sweat at the thought of forgetting my ‘lines’. I’d lie awake for nights before I had to present and felt the whole thing hung like a leaden cloud over my head. I presented because my job required it, but my decision and belief was that I was a poor presenter whose nerves always won the day. I’ve seen data in the past that in many countries fear of public speaking is greater than even fear of death. (If anyone happens to know where I can find those studies then please do let me know.)
So a few years ago I was travelling, on my way to present in the US and as usual was passing time browsing in a book shop at Heathrow, when I came upon a book called Brilliant Presentations. As you can imagine I’d read it cover to cover by the time I got to the US and I’ve since given it or recommended it to many people, good and not so good presenters alike. That book made me question my own limiting decisions and the related beliefs I had about myself as a presenter. Not only did I ask myself when did I decide that? But also for what purpose did I have those beliefs? What was I actually frightened of – if anything? How would the audience even know if I ‘forgot my lines’ – if I knew my stuff I’d be able to talk off the cuff. And yes it was one of those light bulb moments – actually a collection of them – that lead to me making a new decision and therefore installing a new belief in myself, that I was entirely capable of being the very best presenter, the type that audiences clap with real enthusiasm and talk about long after a conference is over.
Perhaps you’ll have to ask my audiences now if that’s true, but I certainly believe it is and really enjoy every opportunity I have for public speaking. Each time I walk down from the stage I just yearn to get back up there and do it again.
So for today I’m going to leave you with one simple question – what would you be able to accomplish if you got rid of all your limiting decisions and the resulting limiting beliefs? Ask yourself – when did I decide that? Give up saying “I can’t”, give up saying “I wish” and commit yourself to “I can”.
“If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.” William Arthur Ward
© Jacqui Gatehouse and NLP THIRTEEN, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jacqui Gatehouse and NLP THIRTEEN with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.