Any extra new things you would like to give a go this year? 

You may already have decided what you would like to achieve for yourself next year, and maybe you’ve done lots of reading during the holiday break and researched it all for yourself. All that needs to happen now is ….. take that next step – the action bit! Or do you find yourself wanting to ‘re-think’ it a bit, talk it through with your nearest and dearest? Or are you thinking you will actually ‘do’ it when you have sorted out your time?  

If this sounds familiar, this post is for you. 

I am sharing what often stops people from moving on to the ‘doing’ bit, only causing greater frustration.

Often, just when we decide to go for our goals, mind gremlins as I call them, interfere: we find reasons to postpone our goals and put our dreams on hold.

Having a limiting belief about yourself or your abilities is often at the root of not moving forward as you would like to. Both positive and negative beliefs are created during childhood and were passed on from the generations before us. They’re part of our family, our environment, and even the mindset and culture around us at that time. They helped us form a template of what is “good” and “bad”, “wrong” and “right” to make sense of our reality at that moment. So, we did not question them as children and often equally not in adulthood.

Positive as well as negative beliefs inform our decision-making and will accordingly either lead to a positive or a negative outcome. The more we act from this belief – whether positive or negative – the more it will reinforce our outcomes. However, it is the limiting beliefs — or more negative beliefs of ourselves — that this is about.

Limiting beliefs are often just a story you hold to be true about yourself, when in fact it may not be true at all. Except for you. It is limiting you. You didn’t form them, they’re not specific to you, but they do form who you are and how you view yourself.

‘Your view of yourself can determine everything.’   Carol Dweck (Dweck, 2007)

The life story of limiting beliefs

Limiting beliefs are, more often than not, formed in childhood when a child’s brain does not yet have all the ‘filters’ to decide whether something is “right” or “wrong”, “bad” or “good”. You may have overheard adults in your environment saying things that you took to be the absolute truth. These can include being called “stupid” by a teacher when you couldn’t answer that maths question quickly enough. The shame and embarrassment you felt at the time may still surface in your adult life every time a person in authority asks you a question in a meeting and you battle to react calmly – and correctly. Hence, you’re not keen or able to stand up in front of everyone and take the lead in a discussion, either.

Limiting beliefs we have of ourselves are connected to negative emotions we feel again and again. They include first and foremost words such as can’t/I don’t have/I’m not.

Their stories have morphed and become your ‘truth’ which we seldomly question. A few examples for most people are often beliefs such as I’m too old / I’m too fat / I’m stupid / I’m a failure / I can’t learn / study / my circumstances limit me too much / I’m not worthy’. They impact on all of your actions. Your response is often all about what you can’t do, can’t be or don’t have. Hence, they influence how you see things, think about, or even do them. They live mainly in your subconscious mind – which can’t distinguish between right or wrong, true or false. The subconscious’ main job is to protect you and keep you mentally safe.

These beliefs are completely embedded in your thinking to the point that you don’t even notice them. They might even have served you in your childhood but not in your adult life.

Limiting beliefs also have their benefits

It sounds odd, but maintaining limiting beliefs makes us feel safe – a state of mind that all humans need to feel. Limiting beliefs provide consistency, seeing that they already influence most of our decisions, and hence actions. They reinforce the belief we have that ‘this is right’, as well as feeling safe.

The beliefs we have determine how we feel about ourselves. Whenever you want to feel differently, you’re made aware of these beliefs again and they keep your ‘feet on the ground’. They’re so well known to you that you don’t have to challenge yourself or your decisions. It’s all known territory, no stress, and life is fine.

You may also feel empowered by your limiting beliefs – whenever you need to stretch yourself mentally it’s just easier to say to yourself that others ‘don’t really get you’ and therefore you can remain in your comfort zone. It’s just easier to believe the limited belief. This false sense of empowerment may be an excuse that stops you from growing and moving forward.

What is holding you back from ‘doing’ what you want to do?

Fear of the unknown is one of the biggest obstacles to doing the new ‘doing’ bit. This can range from doing something completely new, doing something for yourself for the first time in years, or just breaking out into a sweat that this may not work out/be a success/is the right thing for you to do right now. Your critical self-talk will play its role in reminding you of what you can’t do instead of what you can do, what you’re not good at, have never succeeded in. It can influence you more than you realise. Some of these statements may sound familiar when your self-talk starts answering back with remarks such as “you have never finished something like this before” or “it is not your thing”, or “you are going to make a fool of yourself trying out something new”.

What else?

Limiting beliefs form the basis of many decisions we have already made. Hence they affected the actions we also took. Later in life, you may notice all the times you were tempted to explore a different route in your career or life but never acted on it. Because of some of these beliefs you hold to be true of yourself, you may not have noticed when certain opportunities were presented to you. Maybe you did and were curious to follow up on it, but eventually sidestepped the opportunity. It could be that you realised it when it was too late and then felt even more frustrated, wondering why you did this to yourself?

What can life look and feel when you flip these beliefs?

Your life is your gift. It’s yours. It’s also your choice how you want to live it. Our behaviour and consequently our actions have a direct effect on our lives. Preceding our behaviour is what we believe and think of ourselves.

1. Become aware of your limiting beliefs. At first, you may not even notice how they limit your decisions about yourself and your life.

2. Reclaim responsibility for yourself and your life. It’s a choice to surrender your one precious life over to Limited Beliefs.

3. Challenge that one limited belief that kicks in whenever a new opportunity or challenge comes your way. Is it true that you’re stupid? What have you tried or achieved that proves differently?

4. Notice your mindset. Do you believe that your abilities and strengths are limited and ‘fixed’ or that they can improve and lead to different choices? The research of Dr Carol Dweck on fixed and growth mindsets has proven that personality and intelligence can develop and are not absolutely cast in stone.

5. Switch to a growth mindset. This changes how we see growth, effort, challenges, obstacles and even criticism. You can develop a growth mindset that leads you to new insights. Some examples include: learning from constructive feedback instead of ignoring or even avoiding them altogether OR putting in effort as a route to master something versus seeing it as a fruitless endeavour OR persisting when you experience obstacles instead of just giving up and acknowledging beliefs that tell you ‘I can’t do this’ / ‘I can’t do this because I’m so stupid’.

How limiting beliefs can impact your life and future

If a certain belief you have of yourself is not truthfully your mental property, but belongs to the beliefs of others it may limit the decisions you take for yourself.

What works better?

By becoming aware of your limiting beliefs and challenging them consistently, you will also notice what your true beliefs are of yourself, how you can improve on them. A greater sense of alignment between what you truly believe of yourself and what you desire for yourself will make it easier to let go of those feelings of feeling stuck.

1. More personal growth. Actually taking action based on a new belief that is more in line with what you want to achieve for yourself.

2. Greater motivation, and even excitement about moving forward. All add to feeling more energised by your goals and dreams.

At the end of the day

It’s powerful to realise you can change your thoughts and limiting beliefs. You stop wasting time doing the things you need to do for yourself, your goals and life. Letting go of beliefs that keep you stuck creates space and energy for all the ‘new’ you want for yourself.
How will you confront your one negative belief now when deciding on the one thing you would like to achieve for yourself this new year?
Write this one belief down and alongside it the evidence of its ‘truth’. Then move on and get into action!

What a way to start a New Year!



Dweck, C. S., 2007. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Ballantine Books.