Read this thought leadership article on breaking free from beliefs and empowering your mindset for personal transformation.
Thought Leadership

Rewriting Your Narrative: Breaking Free From Limiting Beliefs

Written by Contributing Writer, Will Polston.

In Thailand, people have devised a simple way to control an elephant. When the elephant is a baby, they tie it to a mature tree using a thick rope. Being a wild animal, the elephant tries to escape, but still a baby, it’s not strong enough to snap the rope, and as a result, it is unable to succeed. It doesn’t matter how many times it tries to free itself; the rope won’t break. Eventually, the baby elephant, completely exhausted by its attempts to escape, comes to believe it has no choice but to remain tied to the tree. Its wild spirit is crushed, and it accepts its fate. This learned belief that it can’t escape, no matter what it does, stays in the elephant’s unconscious mind. Even as an adult, when it could easily snap the rope, it doesn’t. The limiting belief is too strong.

What limiting beliefs are holding you back? Are there perceived setbacks from your childhood or early adulthood that still have a hold on you, just like the baby elephant’s rope? Whenever you are reluctant to take on a challenge or do a task, ask yourself whether you’re being held back by a limiting belief or assumption that you’ve carried over from a bad experience or something you were told many years ago. Isn’t it time you broke free from the
imaginary bond of the limiting belief?

A belief is just a feeling of certainty about what something means, but beliefs can be strong enough to control our behaviours. They can be conscious or unconscious, and, as with the elephant, they’ll often stem from something we’ve experienced, seen, heard or felt. The strength of the belief tends to come from an experience with a high level of emotion or repetition, or both. We’ll then repeat that belief to ourselves over and over again, reinforcing our certainty that it must be true. That doesn’t mean a belief is a fact or absolute truth, though. The beliefs that control us can actually be lies; the word ‘lie’ even sits within be-lie-f.

Two types of beliefs.

There are two types of beliefs. Global beliefs are beliefs that, when you believe them, they will affect your whole life. In other words, a global belief is overarching, like a keystone, and other beliefs will be in alignment with your global belief; therefore, global beliefs influence many areas of our life. They often begin with phrases like ‘life is…’, ‘people are…’, ‘men are…’ or ‘women are…’

Another common global belief begins with ‘I am…’ They are generalisations. However, one change of a global belief can completely alter your world.

Secondly, there are rules. Our rules are the beliefs that we have about what has to happen in order for us to feel a certain way, and to have our expectations fulfilled. We use rules in the content of ‘When Then’. ‘When I make lots of money, then I can be happy’ is a rule that I had many years ago. You might have rules that prevent you from achieving your potential, such as: ‘When I achieve more than my parents, then they will be humiliated’ or ‘When I get successful, then people will judge me’. You will have lots of rules, and these rules being met determine if something is right or not right for us.

The problem with this is if there’s only one way for something to be ‘right’ for us, but there are lots of ways for it to be wrong, and you could find yourself unfulfilled the majority of the time. It’s important to understand that you can change your beliefs in a way that has a positive impact on you. You simply need to introduce doubt.

How to change your beliefs

How exactly do you go about changing a belief? There are three steps, and the first is to get leverage. Identify a reason why your life is going to be better when you have a new belief. The second step is to interrupt the pattern. You might ask, ‘What if I can’t?’ Quite simply, you have to find a way; you must find a way. One of the ways to do this is with the Scrooge process. What do you know you’re believing or not believing that’s preventing you from achieving whatever it is that you want? Write down your answers and keep asking ‘What else?’ until you can’t think of anything more. Then arrange for each of your responses to be visited by three ghosts:

Ghost of the past. What has this belief cost you in the past? If you’ve got a belief that you want to change, think for a second what it has cost you to date. What don’t you have? Is there something positive you did have that you don’t have now as a result of this particular belief? What relationships, experiences, and emotions has it cost you? Has it cost you? financially? If so, how much?

Ghost of the present. How is this belief affecting you now? How is it affecting you mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically? What are the consequences you’re experiencing right now as a result of your having this belief?

Ghost of the future. Finally, what’s going to happen in the future if you don’t change this belief? If you carry on with this belief, this way of thinking, what will transpire as a result? Once you have a few answers, then ask yourself what it will mean if XYZ happens. Once you have gained awareness from these questions, what decision are you going to make? If you’ve done the Scrooge process correctly, you’ll decide to change that limiting belief. You will see that it has caused, is causing or will cause you enough pain that you’ll make the decision and act on it.

I’m sure you know someone who has hit rock bottom, and only then have they decided to change. You don’t have to hit rock bottom; you can predict rock bottom in your imagination via the Scrooge process. That in itself can be enough to make you change, which is one of the reasons why I recommend this process.

I want to push you to a point where there’s so much pain attached to continuing with a limiting belief – what will happen, has happened and is happening, as a result, is so bad – that you decide with conviction to make that change. If step one wasn’t enough, not wanting to experience that pain will be the leverage you need.

Finally, step three is to create a new empowering belief, a new pattern of thinking. It’s important that when you get rid of an old belief, you create a new one to replace it. Don’t just leave a void.

Think of a garden that’s got weeds in it. You can chop the weed down, but we both know what will happen – it’ll grow back. You could pull the weed out by the roots so it can’t grow back, but then you’ve just got bare soil there. Eventually, it’s likely another weed is going to grow in the place of the one you uprooted.

Ideally, you want to remove the weed and replace it with a flower, and then maintain the flower. Make sure that if other weeds come through, you pull them out when they’re still small. You make sure to nurture the flower, prune it where it needs to be pruned and enable it to grow into a beautiful flower that makes your garden look wonderful. That’s what you’re doing when you create new empowering beliefs – you’re developing and maintaining the garden of your mind, evolving your belief system. You’re only held back by the limits of your own perception.

About the Author:

Will Polston is one of the UK’s leading business strategists and performance coaches. He works with ambitious people, rapidly transforming their lives by empowering them to master their mindset, productivity and efficiency. He helps people to get absolute clarity, supports them to solve their biggest challenges and holds them accountable on their journey towards their dream life. Using a powerful combination of techniques across multiple disciplines, Will provides people with a unique insight into their behaviour, and proven strategies that can transform their lives