Follow these simple steps to free yourself from any “limiting belief”

Daniel slammed his hand down in disgust. 

He was so angry with himself. 

He had just found out that he’d lost another client to his main rival. 

All because he couldn’t pick up the phone when the words “Unknown Caller” showed up on his phone. 

He thought to himself, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I get over myself and do the right thing?”

Rationally, he knew it was stupid that he was afraid of picking up the phone.

A big part of his job was sales! And he knew a lot of those unknown numbers were potential clients calling him.

But still, he dreaded the thought of answering his phone.

He didn’t know it at the time, but Daniel suffered from a “limiting belief”. 

Limiting beliefs come in all different shapes and sizes

Some of them hold you back in a big way. Others are less insidious. 

But all of them have the same effect…

Like Daniel, they keep you from fully living and meeting your potential.

Key Takeaway

Limiting Beliefs keep you from fully living life and meeting your potential.

If you think you may be struggling with limiting belief, you’re in luck. 

In this post, we’re going to outline our 3-step system for identifying and deleting ANY negative “limiting beliefs” holding you back.

But before we do that, we need to explain some core concepts of the brain.

Introducing the “Emotional Brain” - AKA the place that stores your limiting beliefs

Psychologists and brain scientists have long-recognized that your mind is composed of two main mental “systems”. 

These two systems have been called a bunch of different names over the years. 

Neuropsychiatrist Dan Siegel refers to them as the “Upstairs Brain” and the “Downstairs Brain”.

Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman calls them “System 1 and System 2”.

Many people call them the Conscious Mind and the Subconscious Mind. Or the Thinking Mind and Feeling Mind.

All of these labels are referring to the same thing:

In very simplistic terms, your brain can be divided into two parts or “systems”. 

For the purpose of this blog post, we’ll refer to these two systems as the “Rational Brain” and the “Emotional Brain.”

Here’s a quick graphic that shows the Rational & Emotional Brain:

Introducing your two brain systems: The Rational & Emotional Brain

NOTE: Going a little deeper in the brain…

The Rational Brain refers to the evolutionarily newer parts of the brain.

This is mainly the neocortex. It’s the part of our brains that make us human and is responsible for our rational, abstract thinking. (Hence the name Rational Brain) 

The Emotional Brain is the “sub-cortical” circuitry (sub-cortical meaning below the cortex). 

This system is evolutionarily much older, and it’s much more responsible for controlling your emotions and behavior.

Here are few important thing to understand about limiting beliefs:

  • Limiting beliefs are created and stored in your Emotional Brain. In the deep recesses of your mind.
  • Your limiting beliefs always trigger the threat response in your body. (Also called the “Fight or Flight” response.)
  • Every limiting belief has a specific set of cues that can cause the threat response to get triggered.

This is how these “cues” work:

Something in the present reminds you of a painful event in the past. 

That brings up the painful “rule” or “lesson” that you learned from that experience.

These cues are sometimes mysterious to us, so you may think your limiting beliefs are “irrational.”

But your limiting beliefs always make sense to the Emotional Brain. They were created to protect you, and they fit some aspect of your past, and. 

If you want to change the limiting belief, you have to change the story. But not just by “thinking differently”.

You have to change the story in those deeper parts of your mind to become truly free.  

In other words, you have to re-program your Emotional Brain… or your limiting beliefs will continue to haunt you.

Alright, now that quick review is done… you’re ready to learn the steps for transforming your limiting beliefs.

The Science of Overcoming Limiting Beliefs

This is such an exciting time to be alive!

Psychologists used to think that it was impossible to get rid of limiting beliefs.

In other words, in “ye olden days” once a limiting belief got created in your mind, you were stuck with it for life.

Now we know better!

The brain can change at any stage of life. No matter how long you’ve lived with a limiting belief, you can still overcome it.

New research on a process called “memory reconsolidation” has given us the keys to the kingdom.

Memory reconsolidation is a process for altering and strengthening your memories.

Each time you bring up a past memory, that memory gets laid down in your brain again--or “reconsolidated”. 

Here’s the crucial part: 

When you consciously bring up an old memory, there’s a brief window of time when that memory becomes “destabilized”...

This means you can update or change the original memory.

In reality, you’re not deleting the memory itself. You’re just deleting the limiting story that got attached to that memory so you can free yourself from it.

This research shows that you can experience deep, life-long change in a very short period of time.

Here’s the good news:

You can overcome any limiting belief quickly… if you know how to do it!

The steps below are what your Emotional Brain needs to delete and re-write an old memory.

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An overview of the steps for overcoming limiting beliefs

Here’s an overview of the three steps to changing limiting beliefs:

Step 1: Identify the limiting belief

Step 2: Find an experiences that “disproves” the limiting belief

Step 3: Dissolve and re-write your limiting belief

Overcoming limiting beliefs - Step 1: Identify the Limiting Belief (Put a name on the sucker!)

Alright, let's dive into Step #1...

This first step is very simple to understand: Your goal is to identify the limiting belief and put words to it.

Even though it’s simple to understand, it’s one of those things that’s “easier said than done.”

That’s because discovering the root cause of a limiting belief can be tricky.

Most of your beliefs are subconscious and out of your everyday awareness. They are what psychologists call “implicit beliefs”. 

But it’s crucial that you become aware of your limiting belief. 

After all, you can’t fight an enemy you can’t see, right? 

In this step, you’re trying to put words to your belief so you can become aware of it. 

You’re trying to move it from the subconscious Emotional Brain up to the conscious Rational Brain.

To be clear: 

You’re not doing this to re-experience the pain all over again. You’re doing it so you can overcome it.

The research shows that even naming your limiting belief helps weaken it.

By the end of Step 1, you should have a complete sentence written out that describes the limiting belief.

What you’re looking for is the “emotional truth” of the belief. You want to understand the story that FEELS true to your Emotional Brain.

NOTE: If you have a history of any kind of trauma, DON’T try to change your limiting beliefs on your own.

Trauma is any experience that is “too big or overwhelming” to bear. So any type of sexual abuse, childhood abuse, death of a loved one or friend, PTSD from war, near death experiences, etc.

You can open up a huge can of worms if you try to heal your trauma on your own. You can re-experience the trauma and put yourself through a lot of unnecessary suffering.

Please seek out the help of a trained mental health professional  specializing in trauma. They can help you resolve it safely and with minimal pain.

In a second, we’ll teach you two simple techniques you can use to put words to your limiting belief.

But first, here are some tips for wording your limiting belief:

Tip #1: Use the strongest language you can.

The Emotional Brain is much simpler in how it views the world than the Rational Brain. It doesn’t beat around the bush.

So when you’re putting words to your limiting belief, don’t try to pretend like it’s not that big a deal. Don’t try to rationalize, sugarcoat, or diminish it in any way.

Use the strongest language possible while still being true to the feeling.

Tip #2: Always put the sentence in the present tense.

It’s important to always write your statement in present tense. 

That’s because your Emotional Brain is always in the present. It doesn’t really have a sense of time.

Your Rational Brain gets time. It knows whether something you’re thinking about is in the past, present, or future.

But your Emotional Brain is always in the present. When it feels an emotion, it experiences it like it’s happening RIGHT NOW.

So even if the experience happened 50 years ago, put your statement in the present tense.

Okay, here are two simple techniques you can use to discover your limiting beliefs...

Two simple techniques for discovery:

Sentence Completion and Bridge to the Past

Luckily, there are lots of techniques for discovering your limiting beliefs. So you don’t have to be stuck guessing what’s bothering you.

In this post, we’re going to share two simple techniques:

  • Sentence Completion
  • Bridge to the Past

Discovery Technique #1: Sentence Completion

Sentence Completion is one of the simplest techniques for discovering your limiting beliefs.

But don’t let its simplicity fool you! It’s easy to use, but very powerful.

All you have to do is come up with the start of a sentence. Then fill in the blanks with whatever comes into your head.

You’re just finishing a sentence to see what words pop up.

It’s a sneaky way of getting your Emotional Brain to reveal how it really feels.

This technique works so well because your subconscious mind can’t resist the temptation to finish the sentence.

Here’s a few sentence fragments to get you started:

I CAN’T…

Use this sentence to figure out what your Emotional Brain is afraid will happen if you do something.

For example: “I can’t pick up the phone when I don’t recognize the number because…”

IF THIS HAPPENS, THEN…

This is similar to the “I can’t” sentence above. You just create a quick If/Then sentence that describes your fear.

Ex. “If I make a mistake, they’ll laugh at me and think I’m stupid.”

THAT MEANS…

This is a great sentence fragment to use if you know which past event might be behind the limiting belief… but you don’t know how your Emotional Brain interpreted this event.

Just tell the fact of what happened and finish the sentence with: “And that means…”

Ex. “I got fired from my job, and that means… they don’t see my value.”

“My boyfriend dumped me and that means… I can never love someone again.”

Two Tips for Using Sentence Completion:

Here are a couple tips to keep in mind when you’re using the Sentence Completion technique:

Tip #1: Keep it Simple

Make sure you use very simple sentence patterns like the examples above.

You’re not looking to write a novel about how you feel. You’re just trying to find the belief that represents how your Emotional Brain REALLY feels.

If you create a long, complex sentence you’ll give your Feeling Mind too much to think about.

Here’s the rule of thumb with Sentence Completion:

The simpler the sentence, the better the results you’ll get.

Tip #2: Repeat the sentence at least 3-5 times

Say the sentence out loud at least 3-5 times.

Usually, the first couple of answers are the most obvious.  But they may not be the emotional truth.

Keep finishing the sentence until you hit on words that feel true. You’ll know because you’ll feel a surge of emotion inside your body.

Let’s look at how our client Daniel used sentence completion:

“If I pick up the phone with an unknown caller, I won’t know what to say.”

“If I pick up the phone with an unknown caller, I’ll have an unpleasant conversation.“

“If I pick up the phone with an unknown caller, they’ll be angry with me and threaten me.“

This last statement felt true to him. He finally hit on the belief that was making him so uncomfortable.

His Emotional Brain was remembering the times when he owed the bank a bunch of money… and the debt collectors were calling him almost daily from unknown numbers! 

Let’s take a look at how Josh used sentence completion to discover one of his limiting beliefs.

Discovery Technique #2: Bridge to the Past Technique

This technique is a little trickier to pull off because it takes some self-awareness. But it can give you amazing insight into your limiting belief.

The goal is to get in touch with how your body feels first. That’s because your feelings always show up in your body.  Feelings are the language of the body.

It’s hard to figure out your limiting belief by trying to think your way there.

With this technique, your body will give you the clue to your limiting belief.

Here are the steps:

Step 1. Do a body scan

The first step is simple. Take in a few deep breaths. Then scan your body for any tension or pain.

Describe how your body feels.

“It feels like a fist gripping my chest.”

OR 

“My neck is stiff as a board.”

Step 2. Tap into images, thoughts, and feelings

Notice what words, thoughts, or images come to mind as you focus on the tension in your body.

“The words ‘you’re not good enough’ popped into my head.”

“I can see my father’s angry face.”

“I’m scared and feel like all hell is breaking loose.”

Step 3. Ask the “bridge” question

Ask the “bridge” question to understand the connection to the past...

The Bridge Question:

What does this feeling or image remind you of from your past? Is there anything familiar about it?

Notice anything that comes up when you ask yourself that question.

You may have an image flash through your mind of some painful event in the past.

Or you may remember something your father or mother said to you once that stuck in your Emotional Brain.

Once you’ve connected with the event, see if you can discover the “lesson” or “rule” you learned about the event.

We’ve used this technique on ourselves and with our clients. You can learn amazing answers from your body.

Sometimes, the limiting belief is completely different than what you thought!

The Bridge to the Past technique is a great way of finding the truth.

Using both Sentence Completion and Bridge to the Past together

You can even use these two techniques together to discover the limiting belief.

If you’re not even sure what the limiting belief is about, start with the Bridge to the Past tool. You can use that to discover the event or root cause that created the belief.

For example, you may notice some anxiety in the pit of your stomach.

Ask your body, “What does this remind me of?”

An image of your father yelling at you for making a mistake as a child flashes into your head.

Then you can use Sentence Completion to discover the story or meaning that got attached to the event.

For example:

“My father is really angry at me for screwing up, and that means…”

“That means it’s not safe to make a mistake.”

“That means I am careless.”

“That means I have to be perfect or else.”

Keep finishing the sentence until you discover the “emotional truth” about the event.

REMEMBER:

The goal of Step 1 is simple.

At the end of Step 1, you should have a sentence that accurately reflects your limiting belief.

This sentence should describe how you REALLY feel deep down.

Overcoming limiting beliefs – Step 2: Find an experience that “disproves” the limiting belief

Remember: When a limiting belief gets triggered, your brain sees something in the present as a threat.

The goal of this whole process is to get your Emotional Brain to see the situation differently. You’re trying to change the story and remove the threat.

You want your Emotional Brain to say, “Huh, it’s not like that. I can calm down now. There’s no danger!”

To do this, you need to FIND or CREATE an experience that updates or completely disproves your belief.

This is important:  You need an EXPERIENCE that disproves it, NOT a bunch of reason, data, statistics, etc.

This is where most approaches to overcoming limiting beliefs fail. They try to use reason and logic to change the Emotional Brain.

It’s why people spend years in “talk therapy” and don’t make much progress. They’re only changing their thoughts on the surface, in their Rational Brain.

They’re not changing the story deep in the Emotional Brain. And this part of the brain doesn’t respond to logic and rationality.

Your limiting belief was created in response to a negative EXPERIENCE.

To “uncreate” it, you have to tap into a positive experience.

Three Ways to Overcome Your Limiting Belief

We’ll show you three different ways you can overcome your limiting belief:

1. Revise the story with new information

2. Disprove it completely

3. Update the story to make it reflect present reality

Let's look at each one a little more...

Option 1. Revising the old story with new information

This is a good approach to use with many childhood limiting beliefs.

We all have had things happen to us in our childhood that were less than ideal. Your parents got angry at you. Maybe they shouted at you.

You may have felt left out or excluded from a group. A kid (or adult) may have acted out of their own pain and tried to bully you.

You can’t go back and change those events to prevent them from happening.

But you can revise the story now so they no longer keep you stuck.

For example, Nita’s father yelled at her when she was a child. A lot.

When she was small, she didn’t understand her father’s anger issues. She thought it was her fault that he was angry.

Now she has revised the story she has about him:

“Yeah, he was angry at me, but it’s only because he had big anger issues. It’s not my fault. I’m not responsible.”  

Revise the story by bringing in information that you hadn’t considered when you formed the limiting belief.

It’s all about telling a more truthful, complete picture of what happened… so your Emotional Brain can let go of the limiting story.

Option 2.  Completely disproving the old story

“It just didn’t even happen like that. That’s not the truth.”

This is the most powerful way to overcome a limiting belief.

This approach works well for a lot of limiting beliefs. It’s especially powerful for strong limiting beliefs about self-esteem or self-image.

For this approach to work, you have to prove that your Emotional Brain is believing a lie.

But again, NOT proof using reason, logic, numbers or anything like that.

Basically, you’re trying to help your Emotional Brain realize, “Oh my gosh! That’s not even true!”

To find an experience, ask your yourself:

“What have I experienced that is different than this limiting belief? Or that disproves it completely?”

Let’s look at how Josh disproved his belief about his coaches hating him:

Option 3. Update the story to make it reflect present reality

“This bad experience is over and in the past. It’s not true anymore.”

This approach is great for limiting beliefs when the threat or pain is over and in the past.

For times when your current reality is truly different than what it used to be… And your Emotional Brain is stuck holding onto the old story.

Find an experience or feeling in your now that is the opposite of your limiting belief.

This is the approach we took to help Daniel overcome his limiting belief:

“All calls from unknown numbers are dangerous. Don’t pick up the phone.”

Overcoming limiting beliefs – Step 3: Dissolve and re-write your limiting belief

Step 3 is all about overcoming your limiting beliefs.

In this step, you’re going to dissolve your limiting belief by using the experience you identified in step 2.

Let’s recap the steps quickly:

In Step 1, you discovered what the limiting belief is about.

Then, in Step 2 you found an experience or feeling you could use to delete that belief.

Now, in Step 3 you’re going to get in touch with how both experiences feel… until your Emotional Brain gives up the limiting belief.

There’s three basic tools we want to share with you in this post.

Start by using Tool 1 first, then Tool 2, then Tool 3 if those two don’t work.

NOTE: There are some advanced brain tools that can help calm down the Threat Response. These tools make overcoming limiting beliefs much faster and more effective. We teach them in our Mindset Mastery Coaching Program.

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Tool 1: Write down your limiting belief & speak it out loud as if it’s the truth

If you’ve done Step 1 well and you have the wording right, then this part is easy.

The easiest way to shift a limiting belief is to say it out loud.

Often saying it out loud is enough to disprove it. That’s because your mind will start looking for information or experiences that don’t match it.

In other words, speaking your limiting belief out loud activates your brain’s “mismatch detectors.”

Notice what comes up when you say it out loud. Notice if your brain already starts looking for evidence to disprove it.

We’ve seen lots of people shift their belief just by saying it out loud. Give it a try yourself.

Tool 2: Write down your limiting belief and the new experience that disproves it

If you don’t start feeling a shift after you say it out loud, give this technique a try.

This is where you write down your limiting belief first… then write down your “mismatch” experience right next to it.

Try to imagine the feelings of both.

So in Josh’s case, he wrote down the idea: “I let them down and they hate me.”

Then he remembered his coach openly praising him to the whole team, telling them how proud he was.

He thought to himself, “How could they hate me and praise me at the same time..?”

And he immediately felt the anxiety and tension calm down in his body.

He also remembered that his coaches gave him the Coaches’ Choice award at the end of the year.  They were honoring his persistence and tenacity.

After all, he had continued wrestling even after experiencing a very traumatic injury.

While he was thinking of these experiences, he had a huge realization:

“They weren’t disappointed IN me, they were disappointed FOR me."

They felt disappointed that he had tried so hard and then got hurt at the last minute.

This realization came like a bolt of lightning and struck down the old limiting belief. 

Now give it a try!

Remember, your options are to:

  • Revise the old story in some way with new information that your Emotional Brain left out
  • Find an experience that completely contradicts the event
  • Convince your Emotional Brain that the experience is over & no longer true

If the feeling doesn’t shift after your first try, write down the statement on a card. Read it once or twice a day.

Josh’s card would have sounded like this:

“I feel like I let down my coaches and they hate me. But they also praised me in front of the whole team and gave me the Coaches Choice award.”

Tool 3: Create an imagined experience that “disproves” your limiting belief

This technique is the hardest to do. It’s a pretty advanced technique, so we won’t explain it in great detail.

Usually you need a trained coach to help you with it because it’s difficult to do on your own.

With this technique, you’re tapping into a unique fact about your Emotional Brain:

It can’t tell the difference between something that’s real and something you imagine.

This is how we helped Daniel overcome his fear of answering unknown calls.



Final Step: Test your limiting belief

This last part of the step is simple. You want to confirm that you have shifted your limiting belief.

Here’s one simple way to tell: Speak your limiting belief out again.

Notice how you feel when you say it. See if it feels true to you still.

If you don’t feel anything when you say it, there’s a good chance you’ve overcome your limiting belief.

The true test is to put yourself back in the situation that usually triggers the limiting belief. See if it flares up again or if you’ve overcome it for good.

Sometimes there are different “layers” with limiting beliefs.

You can resolve one layer only to discover that there’s something deeper that needs to be dealt with.

Just follow the same processes we’ve taught here and you’ll be on the right path!

Recapping the Steps for Overcoming Limiting Beliefs

Alright, we’re going to wrap up this post with a quick video recap of the steps.

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