Updated: Jan 14, 2022
What are they and why should you care?
I have a quick question for you:
Do you believe an old dog can learn new tricks?
If you said yes, congratulations - you believe in something called neuroplasticity. This is defined as the concept that anyone at any stage of life can develop new thinking patterns and behaviors to support your goals (the play-doh in your head). If you said no, then carry on with your thoughts.
Thoughts tripping you up?
First you must become an observer of your own thoughts.
“People are disturbed not by things that happen, but by the views in which they take those things.” - Epictetus, a Greek Stoic Philosopher
Meaning, your own thoughts and opinions shape your feelings about AND reactions to an event. If you accept this principle, you accept that each individual takes personal responsibility for their own reaction to a situation.
They also have understanding that another may have their own reaction to the same situation. Thus, everyone’s perception is their reality. In essence, our cognitions influence our behaviors. In order to understand if your approach is supporting or limiting your objectives, ask yourself these three questions:
1. What is my current situation?
(take a good look around)
2. What do I want to happen?
(let’s set some goals)
3. What do I need to do to achieve this?
(get a plan together)
For those of you who don’t know what you just did, this exercise taught an introductory lesson on a concept called “metacognition,” or thinking about thinking. So, what did you think? (Pun intended.) Did you trail off? Did you question your abilities? Did you give up? Did you put it off?
The answers to these questions are limiting beliefs.
For a recent podcast episode, Mark Henderson Leary, of MHL LLC (an EOS Implementer, Speaker, and Coach), asked me to present the dangers of limiting beliefs. These, we will get into in better detail in a few paragraphs - though, the main reason as to why I chose to guest on this podcast was because his slogan is “just win, because losing sucks.”
Listen to this spotlight podcast on Limiting Beliefs here:
At first thought, my reaction to this was “well, that would be cool - but everyone loses at some point.” Upon further reflection, it dawned on me that he was trying to say “no matter what, always have a winning mindset.” Mindset is everything.
Mark and I met through mutual coaching colleagues who were interested in the Organizational Psychology side of my coaching practice. As coaches, they admitted they were focused more on the “fix it” piece of their clients’ issues (which equates to focusing on behavioral changes), but tended not to fully understand how to change their way of thinking in order to create lasting differences.
Thus, most coaches lean more to the side in which they focus on changing behavior (like getting that unorganized manager to implement a system) rather than changing their thought pattern (like helping that manager understand why they should want a system).
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In the podcast, it was understood that coaches are naturally good at motivating people, except the motivation seems to wear off. I expressed that in only changing behaviors, you will always see a “relapse” in the way people operate. Good behavior only lasts so long before old habits start to kick back in, am I right?
So, what do habits have to do with limiting beliefs?
First, let’s explore what habits are:
“Habits are defined as behaviors that are performed with a minimum of cognitive effort. Habits allow for an effective use of our limited cognitive capabilities.” - Jager, W. (2003)
If habits are behaviors, then limiting beliefs must be the automatic thoughts that drive these behaviors. In the podcast, I explained that my goal as a Cognitive Behavioral Coach is to challenge my client’s thoughts and approaches to certain issues, in order to improve their ability of developing new ways of behaving - beneficial to reaching their goals.
Essentially, I explain my whole operation is to figure out what is holding them back -
habits, thoughts, and all.
Cognitive Behavioral Coaches (CBC’s) are taught methods of questioning in order to help our clients develop new ways of thinking and behaving that are more aligned with their objectives. Thus, the “secret sauce” to my practice is none other than asking a purposeful question and being a good listener. (Yes, that’s pretty much all I do.) However, the difference between me and your regular “go-to-confidant” is that my questions are posed in order to extract a limiting belief.
Many of our thinking habits have built up over our lifetime, surprisingly - some reflect beliefs that are not entirely our own. Some of these we pick up from our parents and other influential adults in our youth.
Here’s an example: many people believe a position in senior management cannot be obtained without a college degree. Is this truth? What about Steve Jobs?
Ok, I am sure you tried to justify his success right?
Well, those justifications - my friend - are “thinking errors,” or limiting beliefs.
Limiting beliefs are specific ways in which people develop errors in their perceptions, leading to irrational views and lack of perspective. These thinking errors can lead to unhealthy emotions that ultimately limit our ability to engage in constructive behavior. Even the most logical person can have illogical thoughts sometimes.
Through metacognition, or “thinking about thinking,” we can begin to recognize that our mind deceives us - and through neuroplasticity, we can begin to change it.
Here are a few common categories of limiting beliefs:
1. “All or Nothing” Thinking
(it’s always completely useless)
(it’s not MY fault)
(everything is so awful)
4. Low Frustration Tolerance
(I’ve had enough)
(they should, must, ought to, etc.)
Everyone has limiting beliefs in some form or fashion. Follow this exercise to help you through:
1. Decide if your approach is rational/logical.
2. Investigate empirical evidence for the perspective you are trying to defend.
3. Analyze whether this approach is helpful to your objective of the situation.
Honest challenging of limiting beliefs is the only way to get you from stuck to unstoppable, #inablink.
Mackenzie Childs | MSc
Former educator, realist, and wine enthusiast, Mackenzie comes from a diverse background of behavioral intervention, teaching, and business development strategies. As part of a project within the Klein Independent School District to launch a new behavioral program on several campuses, she found her niche in wanting to help others grow their strengths within their career.
Drawing from experience in several industries, Mackenzie brings thoughtful, visionary, and practical coaching within developing organizations. When the stakes are high for a new or veteran executive, a troubled team needs intervention, or transition needs to take place, she can provide planning for the future while simultaneously improving day-to-day function. Her sensitive insight with tough issues defuses tensions and catalyzes collaboration.