How to overcome limiting beliefs
You are in a situation you find frustrating, you feel boxed in and without choices. What can you do? Your options are both internal and external – you can try to change the circumstance (stay/leave), or the people in the circumstance (convince/negotiate)… most of which in coaching we would call behavioural interventions (“have you tried this… have you tried that?”)
In the end, having tried everything you can think of, you are tempted to give up – be passive, accept your fate. This is certainly the circumstance of someone in prison, or a POW camp. There is nothing in their control to change externally. That prisoner has only one thing left to them – their experience and their reactions in the circumstance, which are both internal to themselves and within their control.
What is driving their experience? What sits behind their behaviour? Mohandas K. Gandhi articulated some useful logic on this matter, pointing out that behaviours stem from values (our beliefs and ideals). Someone who demonstrates the behaviour of complaining at work may in fact be reacting to a situation where their expectations (informed by their values and beliefs), are being challenged by their experience of the situation.
So, when frustrated by “what’s going on”, we may always move to examine our internal landscape – to understand ourselves and what, in us, might be creating our experience, which will then lead us to discover what choices we have about our reactions. To follow Gandhi then… you have to know what your beliefs are… you have to examine the usefulness of those beliefs in your current circumstance and make a selection about your course of action. You have a few choices…
Let’s consider an example. A life coach is terrified of her upcoming mentored triad (a situation where she will be examined by another). She hates being watched and hates being examined. She experiences significant anxiety as a result, which causes her performance to deteriorate. When exploring her experience (anxiety) and her circumstance (examination) there was little she could change. But she realised that she carried an underlying belief – that she was the victim, or in her own words “I am like a prey animal”. Rather than spend time discovering where that came from, or why she held that belief, or even how that belief was made up… in that moment she also realised that her belief could be swapped out for something else…
She asked herself, “What if, in this circumstance, I was actually the predator? What if I was the one hunting (a good grade) and scavenging (to find a new client) and was not the victim but the perpetrator (of my own success)?” In that instant, her experience of the triad changed. She brightened up, smiled and went on to coach with confidence and ease. She had exchanged a limiting belief for an empowering belief and as a result, her behaviour, and her experience of the circumstance, changed in a moment.