How to Overcome Limiting Beliefs That Hold You Back from Success


Beliefs are like road signs that point you in the right direction. Without beliefs to guide, it would be impossible to know how to act.

But there’s a catch.

The right direction is always the one that supports the belief. Personal beliefs are chronic self-fulfilling prophecies. This is a good thing when your beliefs are positive, as you’re likely to create a positive upward spiral that lifts you toward success.

However, you need to learn how to overcome limiting beliefs when they are negative because they’ll drag you down.

How Limiting Beliefs Hold You Back from Success

Most of the time, we’re unaware of limiting beliefs. It’s like driving down roads with invisible signs that you’re compelled to follow.

If you don’t know how to overcome limiting beliefs, you’ll find yourself suddenly hitting the brakes, yielding when you shouldn’t, or turning down obscure roads that lead nowhere.

It’s frustrating to spend time and effort trying to get somewhere, only to end up further from the goal. At the end of such a day, you’re likely to conclude that you are:

  • Undeserving
  • Weak-willed
  • Worthless
  • Incompetent
  • A failure

These conclusions are limiting beliefs, but are they the only ones to deal with?

The above list and similar conclusions are destinations, not directives. It will also be helpful to find the unconscious road signs that guide you toward your destination throughout the day. I call these directive beliefs.

The Two Kinds of Limiting Beliefs

So we have two kinds of limiting beliefs, destination beliefs and directive beliefs.

Destination beliefs are conclusions. Directive beliefs are the road signs that guide you toward the destination.

Imagine that you have a destination belief that you are an outcast. You believe that you don’t fit in. Your destination is lonely place in which you feel disconnected or “on the outside, looking in.”

Directive beliefs are the road signs that get you to the outcast destination. As you go through your day, directive beliefs will tell you what to do and what to avoid.

You walk into the office and could say hello to a colleague, but a directive pops up and says, “No, he’s busy. He doesn’t want to talk to you! Just go to your desk.”

Seeing a few colleagues gathered around the water cooler, you think of joining in but the directive comes, “No way! You’re not part of that group. Just walk by like you don’t care.”

At lunch, someone smiles at you. You could start a friendly conversation. Then you hear that inner voice, “No, no. You’ll make a fool of yourself. Avoid eye contact!”

At home, your partner wants to know how your day went. You could tell the truth, but a directive interferes, “Just say it was fine. No one cares anyway.”

And then you sink into a lonely despair. I just don’t belong anywhere or to anyone. No one understands me. I’m a true outcast. You’ve arrived at your destination.

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What You Must Know About Overcoming Limiting Beliefs

Now, for the nearly unfathomable concept that will teach you how to overcome limiting beliefs naturally.

To the unconscious mind, familiar destinations are the right places to be.

Consciously, the person in our example above may hate feeling lonely.

Unconsciously, loneliness is the right destination. To the unconscious mind, loneliness is desirable. It may not feel good, but it does feel familiar and often strangely appropriate. If we pay close attention, we may even feel a subtle satisfaction upon landing in the familiar rut.

People consistently choose the familiar over other options. I often say that:

We would choose a familiar misery over a foreign happiness every time.

Familiarity is safe.

Deep down, we prefer to stick with the devil we know rather than venture out and risk encountering the devil that could be our total undoing.

Attachment to the familiar – whether positive or negative – could be a function of the amygdala, which controls fear and pleasure.

Familiarity is safe (pleasurable) to the amygdala because it’s only concerned with immediate survival. Deep inside your limbic system, if you know you can survive a familiar problem, that might look like a better option than venturing down unfamiliar roads (not safe).

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Recap: Familiar destinations, even unhappy ones, are the right destinations to the unconscious mind.

Get Your Conscious Mind Around It

To some part of you, arriving at a miserable yet familiar place is a good thing.

You may consciously complain and resist and want to bang your head against the wall, but that doesn’t change anything, does it? You’ll still be driven toward the unconsciously desirable destination, finding yourself doing the exact opposite of what might make you happy.

Happiness is not the real goal in this case! This is self-sabotage; a supremely frustrating attachment to familiar negativity.

Overcome Limiting Beliefs by Owning Them

Knowing how to overcome limiting beliefs so you can move forward with your life is all about accepting things about yourself that you’ve resisted for a lifetime. This is why limiting beliefs are so pervasive and long-lasting. Very few of us want to do that.

To make matters worse, overcoming limiting beliefs involves accepting that not only do we hold limiting beliefs, but that those beliefs involve a preference for the very thing we fear the most – failure.

It helps tremendously to realize that the conscious you doesn’t hold these beliefs, but an unconscious part of you does.

Which one of the following is easier to grasp?

  • I am driven toward failure.
  • A part of me is driven toward failure.

When you accept that part of you is holding onto limiting beliefs that guide you toward failure, you’re finally in a position to do something about it.

What to Do Every Day to Crush Limiting Beliefs

As odd as this might sound, you need to acknowledge your unconscious drive. By doing so, something magical happens. The unconscious belief becomes conscious, in the realm of conscious choice.

If you don’t make the belief conscious, it will continue to guide you on autopilot. The best option is to bring it to the surface where you can exercise more control.

3 Steps to Take

  1. At the start of the day, acknowledge that a part of you will be actively seeking that familiar, miserable destination you’ve been arriving at for so many years.
  2. Determine to watch for the directive beliefs that will attempt to guide you there.
  3. When you run into a directive belief, acknowledge and challenge it.
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Here’s what that could look like:

You could say good morning to a co-worker but a directive belief pops up and says, “No, he’s busy. Go to your desk.”

Immediately, you acknowledge that this directive wants to take you to that familiar destination, feeling like an outcast. You marvel, a part of me wants to feel like an outcast!

At that point, you have a choice. You can disobey this particular road sign and say hello to your coworker. If you don’t manage to do that. Then you can still remain conscious of the directive and destination beliefs by saying to yourself:

Part of me wants to feel like an outcast and just directed me to avoid saying hello and I obeyed this part of me.

Final Thoughts

Every single time you go through this simple process, you will get stronger. Don’t worry about whether you obey or disobey the directives. What matters more is that you’re raising consciousness and becoming aware of deeper drives within your psyche.

You can’t make conscious choices about that which lies outside conscious awareness. Becoming conscious is the first and most important step.

Before long, the destinations you consciously want to arrive at, with the appropriate directives, will settle into place. You’ll realize that at some point in your life, you didn’t have a choice about ending up in an unhappy place. You couldn’t help but get used to that destination and even believe it was right for you.

Yet, in the light of adult conscious awareness, all this will change. Every time you recognize a directive toward unhappiness, you’ll be able to question it. The results will surprise you.

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Featured photo credit: Jake Melara via unsplash.com


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