Are limiting beliefs holding you back?

“If you think you can, you can. And if you think you can’t, you’re right.”

While many have been credited with some variation of this quote, the central idea remains the same. Our Thoughts and beliefs shape our actions; ultimately, they shape our reality.

Beliefs either work for or against us. But of course, things rarely are as simple as that. Many beliefs live below the surface; they fly under the radar.

The majority of our deep-seated beliefs are “installed” at an early age and are a composite of the world around us; we form them by way of observation, interpretation, and imitation.

Holding positive, affirming beliefs helps us move forward in life. But when we have limiting beliefs, they tend to get in the way and hold us back.

Limiting beliefs can be difficult to expose. Most often they’re disguised as logical thinking, prudent decision making, or err on the side of caution.

Most of us carry around some limiting beliefs. They come from a variety of sources, including our interpretation and modeling of the world around us. After all, this is how we learn.

But unfortunately, learning by way of osmosis is not always accurate.

Sometimes we take on the limiting beliefs of others; beliefs of family, teachers, and friends. And other times, what we see in the media, eventually tries to pass as our own belief.

Occasionally, “borrowed beliefs” serve us just fine. But more often than not, they act like speed bumps slowing down progress.

Limiting Beliefs About…

It’s no surprise, the majority of limiting beliefs center around success, confidence, abundance, and just what’s possible in life.

Some of these limiting beliefs are strong and include ideas like:

  • Life is hard, and success is difficult to achieve.
  • Money is wrong, if not altogether evil.
  • Rich people are not to be trusted; they take advantage of others.

At this point, you’re probably thinking: “I don’t think like that; I don’t believe any of that!” And you’re right.

Consciously, most of us don’t think like that…

But when you stop and look, you find the themes repeated over and over again: in the movies, the media, and stories passed on between generations. And it’s a though influence to escape!

Unwillingly, many of us end up internalizing some version of the various themes. And over time, through repeated exposure, they seep into our belief system.

So how might limiting beliefs show up in your professional life? They could show up in countless ways…

Example One:

Perhaps you’ve wanted to start a practice, but instead of sticking to your start date, you continuously adjust it.

  • The first time you pushed back the date, you didn’t feel ready and needed a bit more time.
  • The second time, you felt it was bad timing because you had too much going on at work and home.
  • The third time, you couldn’t decide about signing the lease for your office or waiting a bit longer. Because you waited too long, you finally lost the space to someone else.

What’s going on here?

First off, there is nothing wrong with changing your mind or feeling unsure about starting a practice. After all, it’s a big step, and you better be 99% sure that starting a practice is the right thing for you.

However, if there are continuous delays, it should raise a red flag. Perhaps it’s time to ask some questions…

  • Has someone close to you started a business and failed?
  • In the past, have you started a business that didn’t work out?
  • What are your core values? Do you value security or freedom?
  • How do you really feel about leaving behind your secure job and stepping into the role of self-employed Nurse Practitioner?
  • Do you believe there is too much risk in running your own practice?
  • Are you surrounded by “Nay-sayers?”
  • Have you bought into their beliefs about working for yourself?
  • Do they and now you believe that starting a business is:
  • Too hard?
  • Takes too much money?
  • Takes too much time?
  • Or is too risky?

Example Two:

You’ve been in your own practice for the past three years; things are going well. You’ve even played with the idea of expanding.

And while you’d love to move to a bigger space and hire additional staff, deep down you’re convinced you wouldn’t be able to find the money to finance the growth. So much so, that you haven’t even looked into applying for a loan!

But here’s the thing…

Assuming, that the practice is generating positive cash flow and your personal finances are in acceptable condition, why couldn’t you apply for a business loan?

Is it your belief about money that’s holding you back, or is it something grounded in reality?

Many are convinced it’s difficult to get a loan or secure financing. And while this may be the case, nothing is holding you back from looking for funding favorable for your business.

Don’t allow limiting beliefs to hold you back or keep from trying in the first place.

Remember, your beliefs color your perception of the world and your experiences. And so many of our beliefs are true only because we believe them to be.

Replace A Belief

So, if your beliefs aren’t in line with what you want out of your business (and of life), it’s unlikely you’ll realize your goals in the long run, which makes your beliefs a logical place to start making changes.

Start by doing this…

  • Challenge the belief. Suppose you hold the belief that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Where did the belief originate? What was the source? Did you read it or experience it first-hand? Was it something you learned from a parent, teacher, or friend?
    • Is the source reliable? Has this source been wrong about other things in the past? Is this person an expert regarding the belief? After all, you wouldn’t take long-term relationship advice from someone who’s been divorced multiple.
    • Do you have proof that your belief is accurate, or could the opposite be true?
    • What if your belief is wrong? How would this realization change your life?
  1. Examine the belief. Ask yourself if the belief has limited or harmed you in the past? List all the times this belief has steered you in the wrong direction or stopped you. And, step back in time and re-experience any pain or disappointment this belief has created.
  2. Create a new, positive belief. It’s not enough to let go of a limiting belief; you must replace it with a new perspective. What is a more useful alternative to your current belief? For the above example, you might choose the belief, “Anyone can attract wealth and abundance.” 
    • Make a list of alternative beliefs and choose the one that feels the most empowering.
    • Search for evidence of your new belief. Do you know of wealthy people that started with little money? Look for examples of successful people that came from humble beginnings.
    • Visualize yourself living the new belief. How would it impact your life? How would it make you feel? What would you attempt and set out to accomplish because of it?
    • And finally, reinforce your new belief; it’s all too easy to slip back into old patterns of thinking. Reinforcing can be accomplished in different ways.
      • Write it down every day for 100 repetitions over 30 days, or until you feel the new belief has been successfully installed.
      • Verbally repeat the belief to yourself, 100 times each day, until the new belief is solid.
      • Visualize; create a movie in your mind that features your new belief. Again, do this daily until the belief has been successfully installed.

In Summary

Your beliefs shape your actions, your results, and your future.

If you’re dissatisfied with some aspects of your life, begin by questioning your beliefs. Do they serve you or hold you back?

New beliefs are easy to install. Just think how easy it was to install your previously held beliefs, accomplished without any intention on your part.

The key to success is identifying beliefs that limit you and replace them with the ones that don’t hold you back.


Are you aware of any limiting beliefs you may have? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.


By Johanna Hofmann, MBA, LAc; regular contributor to the NPBusiness blog and author of “Smart Business Planning for Clinicians.

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