Making Allies Out of Limiting Beliefs
by Dave Veale, PCC
When I was twenty years old (half a life-time ago !) I took a first year Psychology course and I have a vivid memory of learning about the confirmation bias. A confirmation bias, according to Wikipedia, is 'a tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs'. I was fascinated as I read of experiments describing how people often test hypotheses in a biased way by searching for evidence consistent with their current beliefs.
The concept of a confirmation bias was a catalyst in opening my mind to how I was thinking about the world. I realized that I had many confirmation biases - some had positively impacted my life while others were very limiting. The idea that some of my beliefs about myself were limiting my growth and potential was, as you can imagine, very unnerving. At the same time, this awareness was incredibly liberating. As I started to focus on my limiting beliefs I also started to notice the evidence I was gathering that helped to 'confirm' them.
One example of this was my belief about my ability to express myself through writing. I held a belief - one that was confirmed by my complete inability to string together two sentences on paper - that I could not write. I had mountains of evidence (which I will save for another article) about why I could not write. Not surprisingly, I also had zero confidence in this very important area. Talk about limiting! I can still recall spending hours one night trying to write a simple, but important, thank you letter.
So, how did I turn a limiting belief like this into an ally? Below are some strategies that worked for me.
- I acknowledged that this was, in fact, a limiting belief. I got VERY clear on how limiting it was to my life and my future.
- With some help from a mentor, I decided to fire my inner critic. I made a conscious decision to catch my negative self-talk and replace it with positive thoughts.
- I focused on what would be different in my life when (not 'if') I became more confident in my writing ability.
- I made a point of creating situations that forced me to learn and practice (e.g. an academic writing course & daily journaling) writing. Deliberate practice is a very powerful way to building skills.
Slowly but surely I started to overcome my limiting belief. I have no allusion, or interest, in becoming a best selling author but I am proud of the fact that I can communicate freely and confidently through text. To my own surprise, two years ago I became a business columnist for the Telegraph Journal (a provincial newspaper in New Brunswick, Canada). I think this is the strongest evidence that I have overcome this particular limiting belief!
I would love to hear your strategies for overcoming limiting beliefs. Please e-mail me at [email protected].
Share and grow,
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