Limiting beliefs and decisions: have we just stopped noticing them?

I am very fortunate that the variety of my work leads me to work with the young, the old and everyone in between, and something I notice far too frequently is decisions we make about ourselves, and beliefs we hold about ourselves. It’s all too easy isn’t it, to make our minds up about something we feel we’re good at, or not good at, or things we believe we can achieve or will never achieve. We’re giving ourselves messages all the time. We’re telling ourselves things in our minds all the time. And this can be good or perhaps it can be holding us back. Henry Ford is quoted to have said, “Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right.” Let’s just think about that for a minute…

Of course, he’s absolutely right. Whether we believe we can do a thing or not, we are right, simply because if we tell ourselves we can do something, our mind is helping us to do it, but if we tell ourselves we can’t, we’re stopping ourselves. Our minds are so powerful, they can help and hinder us, so we need to be using them to help us.
So often when I’m working with a child, they’ll say something like, “I can’t do maths,” Or, “I can’t come up with a story in English.” So many adults I work with say things like, “I wish I could do that, but I never could…” Or, “I won’t ever be able to…” Someone actually said to me recently, “Sometimes we just have to accept that we’ll never achieve everything we might want.” Do we? Do we really? What’s wrong with these sentences? What’s wrong is the power they have. They are decisions. A person who says, “I can’t do maths” has decided that they cannot do maths. Why would we want to decide that about ourselves? Why would we want to make a decision that we can’t do something? By deciding we can’t do something, what we’re essentially doing is deciding we won’t do it, because we simply won’t be able to while we’re telling ourselves we can’t. It’s so simple, but so powerful.

If I’m working with a young person, or any person who has made a similar decision about themselves, I always ask them to think of Olympic athletes, or mountain climbers. These are people who have pushed their bodies to the limit! The first person who climbed Mount Everest, or trekked to the North Pole put their bodies through the harshest conditions on the planet. Athletes who win gold medals at the Olympics did so by pushing their bodies as far as they would go. Their bodies worked as hard as it was possible for them to work, but their minds had to play a part too. Do you think you could push your body that hard if you were telling yourself you couldn’t do it? Could you walk outside now, then sprint 100m while telling yourself you can’t run? Of course not. These people, athletes, mountain climbers, trekkers, anyone who has achieved almost anything did not do so while telling themselves they’d never make it. We need to do 2 things to achieve something, we need to want to, but we also need to believe that we can. Listen to a medal winning athlete talk, and you will hear the self-belief. You never hear them say during an interview after a winning performance, “Well… I’m not very good at this but…” They can’t think like that, because if they did, they wouldn’t be where they are now.

Now, let’s look at this from one more angle. Let’s go right back to when we’re babies. A baby doesn’t know how to do anything when they’re born. A baby has to learn to walk and talk and learn everything there is to learn about the world, but when you’re a baby, you don’t have any thoughts holding you back. A baby doesn’t think, “I’ll never be able to walk!” A baby doesn’t have self-doubt. A baby will pull themselves up and try and try and try until they’re walking. They never give up after the first time they try and walk and fall over, and think, “That’s it, I can’t walk! I’m rubbish at walking!” They just keep trying until they’re walking around. So unless of course there’s a physical disability, all babies learn to walk and talk and all those things that we learn in those first couple of years before thought kicks in and we start doubting ourselves. If that’s not enough to convince you of the importance of how we’re thinking, I don’t know what will do it!

I’ve gone on far too long now, so just listen to how you think from now on. Listen to these sentences that come out of your mouth or even that go on inside. Just notice if you’re saying something like the examples here, and change those words. Don’t hold yourself back with these decisions, make decisions that work for you. Remember, whether you think you can do a thing or not, you’re right. So be right. Decide you can do whatever it is you want to do, and you’ll be right.