15 Probing Questions to Help You Bust Through Limiting Beliefs
You have great intentions, but you don’t follow through.
You tell yourself you want change, but you're too afraid to take action.
You want a passionate life, but you meet roadblocks at every turn.
At the heart of this failure to launch is a cluster of limiting beliefs and negative thoughts residing in your psyche and holding you back. You're really just one or two thoughts away from the ability to make many positive changes in your life.
When you learn to mentally and emotionally disengage from those thoughts, you will catapult your potential to do just about anything you want to do.
This may sound like an outlandish claim, but you have no idea of the power and control limiting beliefs have over you and how dramatically your life can change as a result of extinguishing them.
In fact, I'd be willing to bet 90% of your goals and dreams could be accomplished — if it weren’t for limiting beliefs and the incredibly powerful feelings that fuel these beliefs.
You've nourished these feelings over many years through patterns of negative thinking, worry, and self-doubt. As a child and teenager, you likely experienced situations with your family and peers that impacted your confidence and self-esteem. You’ve had years for those thoughts and feelings to brew and percolate.
So much of who we are now and how we perceive the world is shaped by our early childhood experiences. This is particularly true when it comes to our beliefs about our potential for success and happiness, as well as our faith that we're deserving and capable of living a passionate life.
Even in the most stable families, as a child grows older, goes to school, and interacts with peers, the carefree passion that was once natural and easy is now tempered by social or peer expectations, subtle shaming, and criticisms. As a child moves into adolescence, he may begin to believe the negative feelings he has about himself.
Sometimes we aren’t even conscious of our limiting beliefs around these early issues. We just respond in the way that feels automatic and safe, even if our beliefs and responses are severely limiting us.
Over time these beliefs carve deep grooves in your brain circuitry. The longer we hold on to a belief or fear, the more ingrained it is in our minds. Our adult lives have further added layers of responsibilities, stresses, and disappointments to foster limiting beliefs about ourselves.
Consider what life would be like if all of your ancient limiting beliefs simply disappeared. You are now a blank slate where all possibilities are valid options. There’s nothing holding you back from being or trying anything.
Perhaps there was a time when certain things were true for you -- or least felt true. Maybe you weren’t the smartest or most popular. Your parents were critical or not supportive of your dreams. But you're an adult now. Your parents, teachers, and peers no longer make the rules.
They don’t define you or your abilities. They have no real power over you anymore (unless, of course, you give it to them). You’ve done a lot of living, growing, and learning since then. Isn’t it time to let go of your outdated beliefs and self-imposed limitations?
You can eliminate many limiting beliefs and manage others so they aren't as powerful or debilitating. As you cut the legs out from under these beliefs, they will begin to loosen their hold over you. Once you do this, you can reclaim the enthusiasm and energy to recreate your life.
- You will do things you never thought possible.
- You will take actions that make things happen.
- You will find passion in life and seize every opportunity.
- You will have the ability to push through fear to achieve big things.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you need years of therapy and navel gazing (although therapy is sometimes necessary for traumatic or deeply painful past events). You don’t have to explore every dimension of your tortured childhood or your ruinous marriage.
You can begin by asking yourself a series of probing questions to unhinge your psyche from the beliefs holding you back and train your brain to see yourself in a different light. Go grab a pen and paper, and write down the answers to the following questions:
1. What is your most debilitating limiting belief?
We all have many limiting beliefs, but isolate one that really interferes with your growth or impacts your ability to take action. You don’t feel good enough? You don’t make enough money? You’re not smart? You aren’t pretty enough? You aren’t lovable?
2. Why do you have this limiting belief?
This is a question you should ask until you run out of answers. Write down every reason you can think of, starting with the main one that probably occurred when you were small. Write these reasons down so you don’t forget them.
3. What evidence do you have that undermines your limiting belief?
You might feel a certain way about yourself, but that doesn’t make it true. And even if there were truth in the original belief and feelings, you have lived a lot of life since then. There are hundreds of reasons why you are smart, lovable, attractive, etc. Write those down too.
4. In what ways are you not fully alive and engaged in life?
How has your limiting belief held you back from the fullness and joy of life? Write down all of the possible situations you can think of.
5. How does it make you feel to have missed engaging in life in the ways you listed above?
Pay attention to the feelings you have knowing what life should be like for you and the ways your belief has prevented you from experiencing it fully. Write down your feelings.
6. What would you do with your life if you no longer had this limiting belief?
Imagine the belief disappeared instantly. How would this change your perceptions of what you can do and how you can change your life? What goals would you set for yourself?
7. Is there any current truth to this limiting belief?
What actual circumstances have happened in the last year or currently that support any truth in your limiting belief?
8. What can you do to correct or change the circumstances you listed in your answer to question 7?
Many of the negative events, problems, or perceived failures we encounter that support our limiting beliefs can be addressed and corrected allowing us to see we aren't so limited after all.
9. What is the situation or outcome you fear most tied to this limiting belief?
For example, you might fear being humiliated, rejected, unloved, etc. What is the worst thing that could happen if you take action to make change?
10. What do you think the odds are of the worst things happening?
If you release this limiting belief and take action on the things you would do with your life (as you answered in question 6), how likely is it that you would encounter the worst outcome?
11. How comfortable are you with the ambiguity of feeling fear and uncertainty but taking action anyway?
All change involves risk, even when you calculate the possible outcomes and odds. You must take risks in order to grow and create a better life. Can you get comfortable with the presence of ambiguity and uncertainty?
12. How is your limiting belief impacting your relationships now or in the past?
Often we compromise our relationships when we remain stuck in a false belief. Can you see how any of your close relationships have been impacted?
13. Would you be willing to write down your limiting belief on a small piece of paper and seal it in an envelope for a week?
Could you operate in your life by putting this belief "on hold" for a week and act "as if" it didn't exist? Write it down on a piece of paper and assign a number to it between 1-10, with 10 being "extremely limiting" and 1 being "not very limiting" based on how you feel about the belief now.
14. What is the most pressing or compelling goal you listed in your answer to question 6?
Of all of the things you've wanted to achieve but avoided due to your limiting belief, which one stands out as the first you'd like to work toward?
15. What are 3-5 small, manageable actions you could take on your goal this week while your limiting belief is sealed in an envelope?
Acting "as if" you have no limiting belief around your goal, create a few actions you will commit to take in the direction of your goal and write them on a calendar.
Now that your limiting belief is isolated, undermined, and locked in an envelope, use this time of freedom from the belief to take action. Commit to the actions you outlined and marked on your calendar.
You will likely see how taking these actions further loosens the grip of this belief. Open your envelop and assign a number to the belief again as you did in question 13. How has it changed for you?
Consider extending the envelope isolation time for your belief for another week of two, until the power of the belief is almost totally diminished. Or go through this exercise for another limiting belief.
Continue working through your limiting beliefs this way, addressing and undermining them and taking forward action in the direction of your dreams.
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