Changing personal limiting beliefs

What are limiting beliefs and how do they form.  We learn our beliefs early in life than model our experiences through life on those beliefs.  Limiting beliefs are the beliefs we hold about ourselves or others that interfere with our ability to excel and succeed in any given part of our lives.

In NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) our personal limiting beliefs are grouped into three categories.  These three categories reflect our belief system that we have formed through life.

Hopelessness – My goal will never be reached under any circumstance.

  • I’m hopeless in social situations.
  • It will never work.
  • I will never succeed.
  • I can’t change-it’s in my genes.
  • I’m just unlucky.
  • I’m no good at…
  • There’s no point in trying.

Helplessness – My goal can be achieved, but I lack the ability to achieve it.

  • Why does this always happen to me?
  • This is a man’s world.
  • I always attract the wrong people.
  • Everyone is out to rip you off.
  • All people are out for themselves.
  • I always get it wrong.

Worthlessness – I don’t deserve to achieve this goal because I’m not good enough.

  • I have no confidence.
  • I’m worthless.
  • No one would be attracted to me.
  • I’m a fraud at work.
  • When I talk, people get bored.

Language patterns, such as those described above, not only reflect limiting beliefs but also serve as reinforcement to those limiting beliefs creating a powerful negative thought cycle.

Joseph O’Connor & John Seymour wrote in their book, Introducing NLP, Beliefs are an important part of our personality, yet they are expressed in extraordinarily simple terms: if I do this… then that will happen. I can… I can’t. And these are translated into: I must… I should… I must not… The words become compelling. How do these words gain their power over us?  Language is an essential part of the process we use to understand the world and express our beliefs.

The good news is that language is also a powerful tool that enables us to change limiting beliefs into empowering ones.   In NLP, this technique is known as reframing. The truth is that the content of any experience is whatever you choose to focus on. The meaning can be whatever you like.

Context Reframing– is a process that requires to you change a negative situation into a positive one by requiring you to consider more of the context. For example, if you are a person that tends to have road rage because you hold the limiting belief that all drivers are idiots, a driver that cuts you off while changing lanes might push you over the edge. In this situation, your focus on the context is placed only on the point at which the incident occurred. If you expand the context and consider the possibility that the driver is in a hurry because a his child is being rushed to the hospital. This changes the context forcing a change in the limiting belief.

Context reframing is very helpful in situations that arise suddenly and are out of your control. Looking at an event from a different perspective can help you stay calm and reduce your stress level. Opening your mind to possibilities other than the one that first pops into your head is the secret to context reframing.

Content Reframing– is a process that can help you become a less negative person in general and can open the door to new experiences.  Politicians are the masters at this, current economic figures can be taken as an isolated example showing up an overall downward trend, or, as an indication of prosperity, depending on which side of the political fence you sit. Similarly, high interest rates are bad for borrowers, and good for savers.

Advertising and sales are two areas where content reframing is pivotal. Products are advertised in the best light possible with the intent that people will associate the product with a particular state. An example is that if you use a particular brand of washing powder it reframes to mean you care for your family.

To enable us to reframe we have to open our minds to new ideas.  An example could be that you hate to exercise then you may have experienced a negative experience in the past, you may have had an accident whilst running and now associate all exercise with that negative belief you created.  To reframe this you need to think of times when you had fun whilst exercising, when you do this it will help to associate a positive rather than negative belief to exercise.

Empowering Actions

Changing limiting beliefs into empowering actions requires the development of self-awareness. The first step is to identify a limiting belief. You may be surprised at how many you have! Don’t try to change all you’re beliefs at once. It does take practice to identify those limiting beliefs then to reframe them to empowering beliefs.  As the old saying goes practice makes perfect, as you practice the exercise of identifying your limiting beliefs you may discover that your are more prone to one of the three(hopelessness, helplessness, or worthlessness), on the other hand you may have beliefs that span all three.

The process of self-awareness and change is not always an easy one.  The benefits that you will gain far outweigh the pain of carrying out the exercise, when you start to experience the benefits of reframing your limiting beliefs to empowering ones.


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