One of the main precepts I teach my clients is that your business is only going to grow as fast and as far as you do. Growth, both personal and professional, requires two things:
* Self evaluation
* An ability to change (Notice I didn’t say “willingness.” You can make these changes kicking and screaming as far as I’m concerned. The key is just to make them.)
Taking inventory of your beliefs, and letting go of the ones that are not moving you forward, is going to make the difference between success and struggle.
So, let me ask you, “How is your business supported (or not) by your beliefs?”
First, a little bit of general explanation about beliefs might be in order here. The dictionary defines “belief” as: the confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof. In other words, beliefs are essentially evaluations and judgments about ourselves, about others and about the world. Or, as I like to say, beliefs are opinions masquerading as reality.
Beliefs are only “true” as long as we say they are. Most of the time, we forget that. We are so immersed in our own reality we don’t think to question it, even when it may be limiting us. And it can even be a bit threatening to realize that something we’ve accepted as reality is, in fact, simply our reality.
Before May 6, 1954, it was assumed to be physically impossible for a human being to run a mile in under four minutes. No one had ever come close. After Roger Bannister did it, within the next nine years nearly two hundred others had broken the once seemingly impenetrable barrier because they now believed it was possible.
Our thoughts are primarily controlled by our subconscious, which is largely formed by life decisions and beliefs determined before the age of 6. According to Emmanuel Donchin, director of the Laboratory for Cognitive Psychophysiology at the University of Illinois, “As much as 99 percent of cognitive activity may be non-conscious.”
The fact is, as adults, we spend most of our time subconsciously responding to life rather than consciously creating it. And to top it off, we’re often responding based on information recorded and analyzed by our pre-school self. (Perhaps not the best orchestrator of an adult life, hmm?)
So, back to the original question: How do your beliefs impact your business success?
We all have beliefs that serve as resources, as well as beliefs that limit us in some way. It’s the limiting ones, of course, that we want to deal with. Beliefs like:
* It takes lots of hard work to be successful
* Money is for others, not people like me
* Being successful means I have to sacrifice my freedom
* I’m not worthy of success
* Life is a struggle – it’s impossible to get ahead
* You have to be perfect to be successful
Any of these sound (feel) familiar?
I’m not saying that you don’t have reason to believe any of those statements. I am suggesting that the mind is a very powerful tool, and that the reality you may be operating from is a reaction to your subconscious beliefs, rather than the other way around.
Start from the premise that the experiences you are having that appear to corroborate your limiting beliefs are reflections of the belief, not the cause of the belief.
Then add to that the understanding that beliefs are opinions. Strongly held, to be sure, but opinions nonetheless. And opinions can be changed. You can let go of those beliefs which don’t support your growth, business or otherwise.
The non-conscious mind is sort of like the automatic pilot mechanism on a boat or plane. Once set, you can relax and forget about it. But if it’s been set erroneously, you’re not going to end up where you wanted to go. You could take the steering wheel and manually turn in the right direction, but as soon as you let go, the wheel will go back to the default setting.
You can change course in one of two ways-
1. Constant effort and vigilance to override the auto pilot program OR
2. Adjust the auto pilot settings outright
The same is true with our beliefs. So, let’s look at how to adjust your settings for success. Then you can sit back and relax, knowing you’re going in the right direction.
The first step is identifying those beliefs which are not useful to you. It can be challenging sometimes to do a thorough job of this, because since our beliefs are “true” we often don’t see them for what they are. It doesn’t occur to us that that idea is a limiting belief because it’s “the truth.” (Of course I can’t be more successful than my brother. I’m the baby!)
It can be useful to work with a good coach or other partner on this since they don’t have our same scotomas, or blind spots, but if you’re working solo, try this exercise. Allow yourself to think about the different areas of your business, one at a time. As you do, notice what thoughts/feelings come up; notice where there is some discomfort; notice any internal discussion that starts up. (You know, that Little Voice that always has so much to say.) Don’t work at it, just allow your mind to reveal any areas of conflict, insecurity, confusion, etc. Those are where you’ll find beliefs that are limiting your performance.
You can also use this check list I’ve complied as a way to begin identifying your limiting beliefs about success (and money, since it’s such a metaphor for success in our culture). Success & Money Beliefs Checklist
Now, here’s your homework – Once you’ve identified as many limiting beliefs as you can, pick the one that you’d like to change first. If you’re up for it, choose the really “big” one that seems to be at the core of what’s holding you back. If your limiting beliefs were a cluster of grapes, this belief would be the main stem. (It will most likely be a very basic idea in the unsophisticated language of a child, since that’s when you developed it, like- I’m not good enough.)
First, recognize that at one time you had a good reason for deciding this belief was true. I don’t mean to say that it ever was true, just that from your perspective at the time, it made sense for you to believe this. It served you in some way- kept you safe, avoided criticism or failure, allowed you to stay connected to someone. So acknowledge that part of the young you that was attempting to make sense of your world.
Now, imagine your future 5-, 10-, 20 years from now, still stubbornly holding on to this limiting belief. Really see yourself in that future, how you look, how you act, your internal conversation, the people you’re with, what your business looks like, and any other aspect of your life that’s impacted by this belief. Is this what you want for yourself and your business?
Then, decide on an empowering belief that would serve you better at this point in your life. Incorporate into this revised version the positive intention (staying safe, connected, etc.) that was being met by the limiting belief. Keep the language simple so it appeals to that part of you that first dealt with this issue. (Not many 5-year-olds would decide, “Knowing that all humans are created equal, I now affirm that I am truly praiseworthy and inferior to none.”) Since you’re going to be holding on to this belief for the next 30-40 years, take some time to make it fit well.
Again, imagine your future 5-, 10-, 20 years from now, this time with your new empowering belief. See your facial expressions, hear your internal dialog, notice what your business is like, observe your relationships, and all the other areas of life that are affected by this new belief.
Lastly, choose which future you want to actually live out. (I can make a pretty good guess.)