If you’ve read my blog before, you know I love going to the gym. I love CrossFit. I love pushing myself and getting stronger. But recently, I was seriously ready to give up in the gym.
We were finding out how much weight we could lift, our “one-rep max”, for the Clean and Jerk.
I had just matched my previous personal best (or PB) for this move and though I felt pretty good, I thought, “Maybe I should stop.”
Where did this thought come from? Why was I limiting myself?
Turns out, it came from fear.
I feared my age would limit any additional progress. I’m one of the oldest members at my CrossFit gym and knowing that muscle mass declines after the age of 35 or so, I’ve been preparing myself mentally to say goodbye to making new PBs in the future.
While I was about to resign myself to being content with tying my old personal best, one of our trainers, Dudley, had other ideas. He looked me in the eye and said, “Don’t let your mind get in the way of your body. You’re strong.”
I realized he was right! So I put on one more kilogram (~2.2 lbs), channeled Dudley, approached the barbell affirmatively and lifted the weight with no problem. A new PB!
I’m so grateful I didn’t listen to my limiting beliefs.
The power of limiting beliefs
I gained clarity on three things that day.
First, your thoughts and mental attitude make a big difference to your performance.
Second, you can reframe these thoughts and attitudes when you’re conscious of them.
And third, when you successfully reframe your limiting thinking, you’re far more likely to achieve your goals.
The key is to notice when you’re about to give in to a limiting mindset. Or to paraphrase Dudley, when you’re letting your mind get in the way of your possibilities.
Overcoming limiting beliefs
We all have limiting beliefs that keep us playing small. Like, “I only have so many years left – the kids won’t listen to a 70-year old basketball coach.” Or “It’s too late for me to go back to school and change fields.” Or “I’m a bad mother if I don’t go to every recital.” Just to name a few.
But it doesn't have to be that way.
There are plenty of examples of people who have overcome limiting beliefs – their own and those of people around them – to attain their highest potential.
If your limiting belief is that your accent will prevent you from rising in an organization, then think of the example of my former colleague. He turned his Middle Eastern accent into a feature of his global leadership and rose to become President of a Fortune 500 company.
Or if you’ve been brought up in a culture where women are expected to marry rather than have a career, think of female South Korean businesswoman, Sungjoo Kim, who was disowned for taking action toward her career ambitions and ultimately built a multimillion dollar luxury brand business.
If others can overcome limiting beliefs, why not you and me?
How do we overcome our limiting beliefs and free ourselves to play bigger?
Here are five steps that have helped me. Whether your potential is to lead a nation, a company, a team, or your family, these can help you too.
1. Instill self-belief
I start every morning with a routine that clears my mind and infuses me with self-belief. While mine combines breathing, visualization and affirmation, you might prefer meditation, saying your mantra, or listening to your favorite song.
There’s no single “right way” to gain mental clarity, just what works for you.
What daily routine would help you the most?
In the case of my limiting belief about age in the gym, I’ve reframed it as, “I can be stronger today than yesterday.” That makes it no longer about my age, but about incremental progress. And it keeps me from looking too far into the future, which in this case can be helpful!
Reframing is about creating a new way to look at the situation. Finding a new lens or perspective that bypasses or neutralizes the limiting beliefs so you can move forward.
What’s a more energizing way to reframe your limiting beliefs?
I then visualize my end goal. I find it easiest to close my eyes when I do this because when I visualize my future, it’s something I feel as well as see.
For you, it might be a photo, an object, or something combined with a scent. Give yourself the freedom to visualize with all five senses.
What do you see when you visualize success?
4. Schedule it
Once you replace limiting beliefs with self-belief and visualization, it’s time to ensure you take the necessary action to achieve your goals. It’s about putting in place processes, habits and accountability partners that keep you going.
For me, that means scheduling it so it’s included in my day or week. Take working out, for example. When I'm at home, it’s CrossFit on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. When I’m traveling, it’s doing an exercise workout video before breakfast. To do that, I eliminated the limiting belief that “I can’t fit in exercise when I'm away on business.”
What action can you schedule?
To reinforce all this positive behavior, track those activities on a daily basis and write down your wins. For example, I love putting the check mark next to “exercise” on my daily habits list and my family keeps me accountable by asking about my workouts.
Whether it’s a spreadsheet, an app, or a wall calendar where you mark a big red X every day that you’ve taken the positive action, finding a way to measure and reward your progress makes it more likely you’ll keep going.
How will you measure your progress to help you stick to it?
Don’t limit yourself
The world needs you to fulfill your potential, so don’t limit yourself.
Be conscious of the beliefs and attitudes you hold since these play a powerful role in determining what you can achieve.
If limiting beliefs are holding you back, recognize them for what they are and use the five steps to overcome them. You’re going to love breaking free from the thoughts and assumptions that hold you back from being your best self!
Now, I’d love to hear from you:
What limiting belief are you going to change, and how would that make a difference in your life?
Leave a comment and let me know.