How to Overcome Limiting Beliefs and Grow Your Business
You want to grow your business. You’ve got big plans, ambitions and goals, am I right?
When you think of them, you get that fluttery feeling in your stomach and a broad smile appears on your face. Maybe, just maybe, it’s all going to work out. You sigh a contented sigh and sit down to plan it all out.
But before you can blink, in strolls your inner critic, bold as brass. She plonks herself down next to you on your metaphorical sofa, puts her feet up and makes herself at home. She hasn’t even bought a box of your favourite biscuits or a bunch of your favourite flowers.
Before long, she’s spouting her usual crap. You know the stuff. How are you going to be successful? What makes you think this idea’s going to work? Haven’t you tried before and failed?
Soon those big ideas you had, those goals and ambitions, they float away. Those fluttery feelings in your stomach are replaced with a sense of sickening realisation. She’s right.
What on earth makes you think you can do this?
The Power of Limiting Beliefs
Hold up there, sister! What you’re experiencing is totally normal. We’ve all been there. But the good news is, you don’t have to put up with it.
Thoughts like this are called limiting beliefs or assumptions. Many of them start in childhood and are impacted by society, our families and even films/television.
In her book, ‘Time to Think’, Nancy Kline suggests there are three main causes of limiting beliefs or assumptions:
- A Fact – e.g. I failed GCSE maths
- A Possible-Fact – e.g. People might laugh at me or think I’m stupid
- A Bedrock Assumption – either about the self, e.g. I’m stupid, or about life, e.g. It’s not okay to make mistakes.
The question to ask yourself then is: which of these best describes my limiting belief?
If it’s ground in fact, it can be a hard pill to swallow – but you can still do something about it. If it’s based in fiction, i.e. the last two in the list, it’s something you’ve convinced yourself is true. Just by the power of thought.
But you can change the way you think – hurrah!
How Can Limiting Beliefs Affect You?
Taking on the world as a small business owner is tough. Not like a bit tough. But the toughest tough there is… and then a bit more toughness sprinkled on top, just for good measure.
You have to show up every day and do the work. You need gallons of courage and a big dollop of growth mindset.
But limiting beliefs can stop you in your tracks. Steven Pressfield calls them ‘resistance’. Listening to them and believing them is all it takes for you to:
- Never start that business you’ve been dreaming of
- Stop yourself from hitting ‘publish’ on that article you wrote
- Refrain from clicking ‘send’ on that email, pitching your idea to an investor
Limiting beliefs keep you stuck where you are, happily snoozing in your comfort zone. Goodbye growth, hello stagnation.
Can you imagine how many other Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfreys and James Dysons there have been over the years, but we’ve never heard of them? How many potential thought leaders, female CEOs and entrepreneurs are out there, destined for success, but are stuck where they are, too afraid to launch themselves into the stratosphere, courtesy of their limiting beliefs?
You don’t want to be one of them, do you? You want to get your message, your business, your non-profit out into the world, right? Of course you do.
Positive Reframing Limiting Beliefs
Luckily for you there are solutions. You can throw out that inner critic and put her ass back onto the street.
It’s going to take work, my darling. But you knew that. Nothing is ever that easy. But you’ll grow and become so much more confident, so it’s bloody worth it.
Ask a Question
Imagine you’ve got a ‘bedrock assumption’ – here’s an example to look at together.
You often say to yourself, ‘I’m terrible at writing. If I wrote a book, no one would bother to read it.’
Your ambition to write a book for your niche sits unloved on your laptop. Forever destined to be a blank page.
Right away we know this isn’t a fact. It’s an opinion. Yes, okay, your writing could improve, but there are courses a-plenty to enhance your skills, should you wish to. And really? Nobody would buy it? Not one single person? Not even your mother, your sister, your husband or your friend?
It appears that this is a mixture of Nancy Kline’s Possible-Facts and her Bedrock Assumptions. Yes, it’s possible no one will buy your book, but it’s not a fact. You’ve just convinced yourself it is.
First, ask yourself:
- What am I assuming?
In the example above, you’re assuming that you’re a terrible writer and that no one will buy your book.
Now, turn your thinking on its head and ask:
- What’s the ‘positive opposite’ of this assumption?
Your positive opposite might be, ‘I’m a confident, capable writer and lots of people will buy my book.’
Finally ask the ‘If I knew’ question:
- If I knew I was a confident, capable writer and that lots of people would buy my book, how would I begin my writing journey today?
You’re taking that negative assumption, turning it on its head and asking a positive question instead. Nancy Kline calls this the ‘incisive question’.
Grab a large piece of paper for this activity – turn it so it’s landscape.
- Draw a circle in the centre of your paper and write your name inside.
- Create a spider diagram of all your limiting beliefs – comments that your inner critic just loves to tell you or things you’ve believed for a long time.
- Once complete, circle 1-3 limiting beliefs that have the most impact on you.
- Using Nancy’s idea, look at each one and decide if it’s a fact, possible-fact or a bedrock assumption.
- If it’s a fact – what could you do to improve that skill or situation? Seek advice, go on a course etc…
- If (and this is far more likely) it’s a possible-fact or a bedrock assumption, look at ways to positively reframe your belief.
Positive reframing means taking a negative assumption or limiting belief, and turning it on its head.
If I took the limiting belief from above and positively reframed it, it might look like this:
- I’m a terrible writer becomes I’m a writer who’s learning the craft and improving as I practise.
- No one will buy my book becomes I know that people interested in [your niche] will buy my book.
It’s true, positivity is the way forward. It’s the only weapon you have to defeat your inner critic on a consistent basis. She’s afraid of positivity like the Wicked Witch is afraid of water.
To defeat your inner critic, shower your brain with positive thoughts and actions. By doing so, you create new neural pathways. Instead of falling into the habit of believing your old limiting beliefs, your brain becomes wired to look to the positive reframing affirmations instead.
Your brain literally believes what you tell it. If you say you’re awful at something, it will take that as fact. Begin to tell it a different story and you’ll soon see the changes.
It does take work, and you will find that inner critic storming her way into your house more often than feels manageable. She’s won’t give up her spot on the sofa without a fight.
So be kind to yourself. If you find those limiting beliefs coming back, that’s okay. It’s all part of the journey.
Just endeavour to catch yourself and positively reframe your negative assumptions as often as you can. Keep asking yourself the reframing questions too.
And as Nancy Kline says:
‘The human mind thinks for itself best when making a positive philosophical choice about the self and about how life works.’
So, go out there and turn on that positivity. Kick those limiting beliefs to the kerb.
It’ll make all the difference, I promise.
Coaching can help you manage your limiting beliefs – I’ve got a few spots open, so head on over to my coaching page and let’s work together.