Over the past few years, much has been written about “discovering the why behind what we do.” And while I believe that understanding our motivations is core to what inspires us to persevere in the face of opposition, I also believe there’s an opposite force at work that’s equally as powerful: self-limiting beliefs.
President Theodore Roosevelt framed this concept very eloquently when he said: “If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your troubles, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”
So why are we so often responsible for “kicking ourselves in the pants,” killing our dreams, and focusing on what could go wrong instead of what may go right?
In my experience as a serial entrepreneur and now as an executive coach, I am more convinced than ever that we are conditioned from birth to find the negative in almost every situation. Allow me to illustrate:
Your child is playing basketball for the first time in a different town. You arrive there an hour before the game but don’t know where the high school gym is located. Your GPS is on the fritz, so you pull into a convenience store and ask the person behind the counter for directions. They say, “Just go down Main Street for three blocks and turn left at the red light.”
Think about that. Why is the light always red? Have you ever had someone tell you, “Go down to the green light and turn”? No? How come? Obviously, the light is green sometimes, or traffic would never move through it.
The answer is that we are trained to mainly pay attention to the things that stop us. Things like red lights, criticism, pain, anger, conflict, loss, fatigue, and on and on.
So, how can we reverse some of these ingrained negative perceptions and behaviors to allow our best ideas and motivations to drive us forward in life?
Here is what I believe:
Get real: Before we can determine just how much negative thinking we are prone to, we have to admit to ourselves that it is real and really slowing us down. President James Garfield once said, “The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.” Getting our heads around the fact that not acknowledging the truth about our own negativity is already making us miserable can help kick-start the process toward real self-awareness.
Get over it: Recognizing that we harbor many kinds of self-limiting beliefs takes a lot of courage. Partly because it feels like failure and often because we think no one else is noticing. But once we step out of our comfort zone and begin taking ownership of the things that are holding us back, we come to realize that we are the last to know what others already see about us. They have just not found an acceptable way to make us aware of it.
Get help: Self-awareness will only take us so far in finding practical solutions and work-arounds for overcoming our self-limiting beliefs. This is one of the main reasons I chose to gain expertise as a professional executive coach – to walk alongside of other leaders and entrepreneurs who want to accelerate their personal and professional growth. As these smart, talented and motivated leaders uncover issues and behaviors that are sabotaging their effectiveness, new opportunities and outcomes literally flood into their lives. The results of these collaborations between coach and client ripple through their family relationships, businesses and the community.
Get going: Before we can get anywhere, we have to start somewhere. And we should not be confused about who has to make the first move – it is always us. If we lead an organization, we often find ourselves reacting to the problems and opportunities others bring to us. But when it comes to confronting our own self-limiting beliefs, we must take the initiative. Again, finding a coach, mentor, pastor, counselor or friend who will provide a safe, non-judgmental setting for us to explore our fears and perceived limitations is a wise way to get going.
Get out there: Once we identify some of the issues, ideas and habits that have been holding us back, we must act on our new learning. The excitement, freedom and enthusiasm we feel as we let go and get going is infectious. It will cause the people around us to notice a very positive change that will encourage them to follow our example. In many ways, it is a new start for getting what we really want out of life – and it builds its own momentum as we share it with others.
Taking all of these things into consideration, here is my question to you: What is holding you back?
If already you know, allow me to encourage you to step boldly into a process that will help you move past it into a more positive and productive life.
If you don’t know, please contact me, and I will help you find the right person to help figure it out.
Either way, remember that there are a lot of folks praying and cheering for your success – including me!
Tony Ford is an award-winning entrepreneur with a history of starting and growing industry-leading companies. He now helps other businesses grow and sell their companies and was program director for the 2017 and 2018 FW Inc. Entrepreneur of Excellence awards program. He writes this column for each issue of FW Inc. [email protected]