What are Limiting Beliefs

One of the main components of breaking through inability to change in an employee or client is what is called a limiting belief.

What are Limiting Beliefs?

Limiting beliefs are a set of subconscious, ingrained beliefs that were generally formed when a person is a child. They form based on our environment, what we’re told and how we learn to keep ourselves safe.

Limiting beliefs are underlying commitments that the person is ultimately hitching themselves to. Which is not serving them, but instead holding them back from achieving their goals. This can be incredibly frustrating for the person because they know what they ‘should’ do, but their actions are choosing otherwise.

Why should I Care what Limiting Beliefs are?

Limiting beliefs are at the core of why an employee or coaching client is running into habitual patterns where they are unable to reach their goals. Often, they will appear ‘stuck’. Although it’s a coach’s job to remain supportive and walk alongside the individual, these patterns can be frustrating and confusing to coach. As you partner with your employee or client, it’s crucial to understand what this limiting belief is and how to approach it so that your client or employee has a breakthrough and can experience lasting change to achieve their goals.

Before I became a coach, I would encounter people unable to change and responded with, “JUST STOP IT!” To other people on the outside of the issue, it can be very apparent what this person needs to do. However, their ability to do it is a belief that is very deeply ingrained and must be challenged and addressed in order to experience lasting change.

What is an Example of a Limiting Belief in Coaching?

If you are sitting with a coachee and they have a goal of being more assertive, but they continually come back to you with reasons why they couldn’t assert themselves in a meeting, chances are there is a limiting belief that is holding them back.

How does a Limiting Belief Connect with DISC Personalities?

Often a limiting belief can be tied into a person’s strengths and weaknesses on the DISC personalities assessment. You can use the report to gain a better understanding and evoke awareness in the person you are coaching. It can serve as a tool to help your client, especially if they are unsure of what is causing them to act in that way.

DISC Personalities Self Awareness Exercise

Sit down with your coachee and have them look at this chart. Have them underline everything that is true about themselves:

DISC and limiting beliefs

Once you’ve done that, have them answer these questions:

  1. What is your goal?
  2. What are you doing or not doing instead?
  3. What’s your hidden or competing commitment?

Example of Limiting Beliefs in a Coaching Conversation

You sit down with Jeremy. He is an employee that works closely with a small team of people. He would love to move up in the company and develop his assertiveness skills. Specifically, he is finding it difficult in meetings to advocate what he thinks is the best solution.

His DISC Personality type is an S/C, “Thinker”.

He has underlined:

Strengths: Loyal, flexible, Good with Routine, Empathetic, Detailed, Self-Disciplined, Process-driven

Challenges: Dislike Conflict, Fear Offending Others, Poor Planner, Dislikes Delegation, Get bogged Down in Detail.

Finding the Limiting Belief

By choosing not to speak up in these meetings, he is committing to inaction due to a belief that he has about the world. Often these are subconscious.

Take the challenges he underlined and show it to him.

Ask him, “In the moment, what personality challenges are showing up for you?”

In this case, he may choose, “Dislike Conflict and Fear Offending Others”

Subsequently, you can dig deeper into what’s causing the dissociation between his goal of being assertive, not speaking up in meetings and the conflict/fear that he’s feeling about it.

He may have been demoted earlier in his career when he spoke up during a meeting and it was a painful experience. He may be committed to the belief that conflict means rejection

Limiting beliefs exercise

Moving from Limiting Beliefs to Achieving the Goal

Half of the battle is uncovering what a person is committed to! Once they have identified their commitment, the next step is to ask questions surrounding ways that they can overcome their belief. Usually, these are incremental.

“What is the personality type of the person you are asserting yourself with?” ie. If they their coworker is a Dominant personality style, chances are they won’t blink at the assertiveness!

“What is one small step you could take to assert yourself at your next meeting?”

“What other areas of your life can you assert yourself?” “What’s different?” “What do you feel when you assert yourself?”

“What does assertiveness look like to you?”

“Is it true that assertiveness = conflict?”

“What does conflict mean to you?” “Is it really conflict?”

It’s your job to explore that belief and create accountability around achieving the outcome of being more assertive.

Reframing the Limiting Belief

A great exercise to overcoming limiting beliefs is by reframing them. This looks like taking an out of control statement, ie. “I will be demoted if I speak up” to one of control, ie. “I have the power to transition into a new job or another role within the company because I am capable and respected within the organization.” This gives the coachee confidence to change their actions!

The next step is creating accountability to change the limiting belief by choosing small steps to overcome the actions and gain confidence. This can look like:

  1. Sitting up straight in the chair instead of slouching (choosing body language that builds confidence)
  2. Shaking head ‘no’ when you disagree
  3. Going to the person after the meeting to discuss other ideas
  4. Speaking up in the actual meeting

FAQ of Limiting Beliefs

How do I get Rid of My Limiting Beliefs

I highly recommend working with a coach or mentor who can be a sounding board to your limiting beliefs. Often these become so ingrained that they become second nature! It’s hard to see for yourself. However, if you would like to identify these on your own, you can also self-coach. Take the steps above and apply it to your own challenges.

What is a Core Limiting Belief

It’s something that is ‘core’ to your being. Something that you believe to be fundamentally true, but is holding you back from good progress. Often, as children, we establish these for survival. For example, if you are told by your Grandma that eating her food makes her feel loved then you will associate eating other people’s food as showing love. That belief can hinder you from losing weight if you believe it subconsciously and have frequent dinner parties!

How to Overcome Limiting Beliefs

The first step is identifying what they are. The next step is to reframe the belief! For example, if you struggle with assertiveness because you believe that conflict=demotion, it’s reframing to say “Conflict is a necessary part of relationship and feeling uncomfortable is ok. If demotion happens, I am in control and capable to find a new job/ask for a transfer.” It’s giving control back to the person who is feeling the limiting belief.

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