Challenging Our Self-Limiting Beliefs About Success
“A leader in any place must ask himself who he identifies with, with which values, and towards what goals.” —Tzipi Livni
Welcome back, class!
Joe here, taking the tag from Jordan. In the last lesson, we learned how to use CBT to combat shame. In this lesson, we will learn how to challenge the self-limiting beliefs that prevent us from achieving success.
A Simple Experiment
Before we dig into our beliefs, it might help to do a simple experiment. Imagine someone who is successful at whatever you hope to be. For example, let’s say that you want to be wealthy. Do a simple word-association test to see what you think about this type of person. Read the sentences below out loud and fill in the blank spaces with whatever comes to your mind:
Wealthy people are __________.
Wealthy people got that way by __________.
If I were wealthy, people would think I __________.
Don’t think too much before filling in the blanks. Just read the questions and quickly say (then write down) whatever comes to mind.
Now, look over your answers. Are you describing traits or experiences that you want to have? You might have said that wealthy people are “smart” or “hard-working.” That’s great. You probably want to be smart and hard-working, and you want those traits to help you become wealthy. You might also have said that wealthy people are “lucky” or “cheaters.” That’s not so great. You don’t want to just be lucky, and you probably don’t want to be a cheater. Whatever comes to your mind quickly, before your internal censor has a chance to clean things up, is a clue about how you really feel—in this case, how you really feel about wealthy people.
What Does Your Unconscious Want for You?
These responses are important because you have values that shape what you want to do and who you want to become. Small setbacks are not going to keep you down for long if you are moving in a direction that makes you feel better about yourself, what you are trying to achieve, and who you are trying to become.
But what if moving toward your goal is setting up a conflict with your values? Your unconscious does not want you to be associated with something that conflicts with your basic values, even if it means reaching your goals.
You should examine your responses to the fill-in-the-blanks exercise carefully. Understand why you responded as you did and how your responses might affect your motivation. If you have too many negative associations with the end result, then those associations will likely block you from achieving your goals. You need to go through each association and understand how much it really reflects your underlying values. Are these just surface associations based on popular opinion, or do they genuinely reflect your own deep values?
Reconciling Your Conscious Goals and Unconscious Values
If you have a conflict between your (conscious) goals and your (unconscious) values, then you need to resolve it before trying to achieve what you want. As long as this conflict is in place, your unconscious mind will work against you, sabotaging your efforts.
You can explicate this conflict from several directions. Starting from a goal, you can ask if those negative beliefs are necessary. For example, does someone really have to cheat in order to become wealthy? Starting with your answers, you can ask yourself why you have those impressions. In this case, why do you feel negative about wealthy people or how they became wealthy? You might also try reversing either the statement or the answer and seeing where that leads you.
Once you understand what is causing the conflict—how your conscious goals disagree with your unconscious values and where your unconscious values might prevent you from achieving your conscious goals—then you can decide what has to change. Be aware that changing your unconscious values is usually much harder than changing your conscious ones.
Align Your Beliefs with Your Goals
By teasing out how you unconsciously apply values to your goals, you are making these connections conscious. If a goal is truly in conflict with your values, then maybe it is not the right goal for you. However, if your values are being applied in an overly general (or incorrect) way, then you should refine your thinking to remove the conflict. Don’t let your unconscious associations block you from reaching your goals.
After a few days, try the fill-in-the-blank exercise again to see if your associations have improved. If you decide that “wealthy people are hard-working,” then your unconscious mind will likely want you to become hard-working because it also wants to be wealthy. Can you bring all of your goals into alignment with your values? Likewise, can you employ all your values to pull you toward your various goals?
1. Open your bounce back journal. Create example sentences, like those in this lesson, tailored to your specific goals. Try to create three or four sentences for each goal.
2. Follow the same steps as the experiment that started this lesson: Write quick answers for your sentences, possibly several for each sentence. Don’t think—just write!
3. Review your answers, and consider what they mean for your unconscious. How are those answers helping (or hindering) you reaching that goal? Write your conclusions and any recommendations for improving your thinking into your bounce back journal. You might need to come back a day or two later and review these notes to make sure you have surfaced all your unconscious assumptions and attitudes.
In our next lesson, we will discuss how to manage our failed relationships and achieve happiness in life by excising the most toxic people from it.
Joe and Jordan
Share with friends