How to Identify Your Limiting Beliefs & Tap in to your Endless Potential – A Journaling Exercise
In this article, we learnt what limiting beliefs are, how they get planted in our minds and how mindfulness can help us dispel them. Journaling is a great tool to help with our mindfulness practice; writing our thoughts gives us the time and space to examine them objectively before they disappear and are replaced by the next thing that pops into our minds. This exercise will help you to identify and dispel your limiting beliefs, so next time you are observing your thoughts you might be able to notice them as such, and not pay so much attention to them.
Step one - Audit your Life
Grab a pen and paper and make a list of all the areas in your life where you are not satisfied and want things to change. Consider finances, health, relationships, career, hobbies and anything else in life you feel dissatisfied with.
If this turns out to be a huge list, it’s best to pick a few of these to go on to step two with. Pick a few which seem to be the biggest challenge.
Step Two - Idealise
Use these as your headings. Write down what these areas of your life would need to look like for you to feel fully satisfied. What would be different if life had no limits to you reaching full satisfaction and fulfilment?
Step Three - Work Out What's Stopping You
Under each heading, write another list of all of the reasons you haven’t already made these changes and what is stopping you from doing so. Don’t hold back – write as many reasons as you can until you run out. They might be to do with your history, your environment, your finances, about society, about other people – anything you feel is blocking you.
Here is an example of someone who is lacking in confidence and struggling to make a career of being an artist, writing reasons his art career cant take off:
- No one will ever want to buy my paintings
- My paintings aren’t good enough
- No-one will be interested in my art because no one has ever heard of me
- I don’t have any contacts in the art world, and no-one in the art world will like me
Step Four - Challenge Your Sources
For each of these reasons, you need to challenge your sources…how do you know this to be true? For example, how do you know no one will want to buy your paintings? Pay particular attention to generalisations and black and white thinking – for example words like everyone/no one/never… in this example, can it really be true that no-one will ever like his work? How do you know your reasons are true? Really challenge yourself here! Examine your sources – where did you pick up this information (if anywhere!) Can the source be trusted?
When you really start to unpick your beliefs in this way, you might be surprised to see how many of them have very shaky, if any, foundations. You might notice that very few (or even none) of your beliefs were based on expert advice or have strong evidence to back them up.
You have identified the false beliefs that are limiting you from fulfilling your potential.
Step Five (optional) - Dive into the Past
If you really want to challenge yourself here, you can take the opportunity to see if you can work out where your limiting beliefs have come from. Can you scan back through your life and find the experience that started this snowball of thoughts? What could have planted the virus in your mind? What stories did you believe?
If it was from a past experience, pay close attention to the feelings in your body while you are doing this – the body is a great indicator of how you feel and tells us the honest truth more than our mind. When you recall a memory which was the root cause of a limiting belief, you may feel sensations in your body like sickness or unsettling feeling in your belly or tightness or shallowness in your chest. This is a tell-tale signal that this memory is the root cause of your limiting belief and is still causing you to feel negatively about yourself. When you have identified the cause, put your hand on the area of your body where you feel uneasy and breathe deeply, paying attention to your breath, until you feel the feelings dissipate. Use your breath as your anchor to bring you back to the present moment and break the power that memory has on you. Noticing and acknowledging the way we feel, and breathing through the sensations in this way can help to lessen the grip memories and their associated thoughts and feelings have on us.
This stage could feel uncomfortable if you have bad past experiences to deal with. If you don’t feel comfortable with this stage, skip it and go straight to step six.
Step Six - Life without Limits
Next to or under each limiting belief, write down how you think you would act differently if you didn’t believe that story. Ask yourself “If I didn’t believe xxxxxxx, what would I do/how would life be different?”
For example, the struggling artist might start approaching more art galleries if they stopped believing that their paintings weren’t good enough. They might start networking at art events and meeting useful contacts if they stopped believing no one would like them. This might lead to people knowing his name, to him being given an opportunity to be included in an art show…and now that his paintings are out there…one day someone might just buy one!
Step Seven - Create Beliefs that Serve You
Create a new belief that serves you. Look at what you wrote for step six and work out what you would have to believe in order to do this/act like this/change this.
For example: “I am not worthy of love” could be replaced with “Everyone is worthy and deserving of love”
We need to make sure these new beliefs are realistic and rooted in reality. You could look up some supporting evidence to back your new belief up or read stories of people overcoming adversity to support the idea that situations can be turned around!
Step Eight - Practice, Remember & Reinforce to Unlock your Endless Potential
Keep your new beliefs close to hand. Write them in your journal, on your phone or on a card you can keep in your wallet. Limiting beliefs are stubborn and you will need to keep reinforcing your new beliefs to unroot and weed out what is no longer serving you. Your mindfulness practice will help bring awareness to when you get stuck in a negative thought spiral…come back to this exercise and to your new beliefs and challenge yourself to act in line with them. By challenging yourself in this way, you are weeding out the viruses, upgrading the software of your mind machine and unlocking your endless potential.
“Beliefs have the power to create and the power to destroy. Human beings have the awesome ability to take any experience of their lives and create a meaning that disempowers them or one that can literally save their lives.” — Tony Robbins