Are your beliefs holding you back?

Last night on a rare occasion I decided to watch some TV and came across BBC4’s The Cursed Valley of the Pyramids. The film centres on the Lambeyeque valley in Northern Peru where the ruins of 250 pyramids lie. It tells the story of why the Lambeyeque were obsessed with building pyramids and unearthed a culture with strong beliefs and rituals that eventually led to human sacrifice and the disappearance of their civilisation.

ThinkingAs a coach, I witness first hand how beliefs and assumptions impact on how we see ourselves and others. Beliefs are those convictions that we hold to be true and are usually not based on any evidence. They are assumptions that we make about ourselves and others from our exposure to the people around us, from what we see, hear, experience, read and think about. They become embedded in our thinking, opinions and are demonstrated through our behaviours, attitudes, feelings, perceptions and affect our performance.

For example, Sally one of my clients applied for a director’s post, was shortlisted, attended the interview and was unsuccessful. When another position came up, Sally is reluctant to apply as she believes that she was not good enough the first time round and will be unsuccessful again based on her past experience.  Emotionally, she is also reluctant to try again for the fear of being rejected so she plays it safe by convincing herself that she will never get the job anyway.

Holding unto such beliefs and assumptions will stop Sally from moving forward. She may never progress her career for the fear of rejection and not being good enough.

Albert Ellis, founder of REBT, developed a way to teach people how their beliefs cause their emotional and behavioural responses. You may have had a ‘bad’ experience from which you dwell on the negatives aspects. These negative thoughts are played over and over in your mind until they become beliefs. Whenever placed in such situations, the feelings of anxiety and nervousness emerge. It is not being interviewed that causes those feelings it is the beliefs that you have associated with them.

An example of a limiting belief is the need for approval from others. ‘If I am unsuccessful everyone will think less of me, I am not good enough, I have failed …’

Voicing our thoughts to someone else gives us the opportunity to get their perspective on what they are observing and hearing.

One of the fundamental aspects of coaching is to challenge assumptions and limiting beliefs to reshape patterns of thinking and the emotional connections to those thoughts.  This shift in mindset and emotional framing of reality helps the client to move forward, opens up opportunities and possibilities that would not have existed before. Coaches work with clients over a period of to enable new learning, thinking and behaviour to be embedded.

2 tips you can use if you are not working with a coach

1. Question some of the habitual things that you do and some of the beliefs that you have

Ask yourself:

  • Why do I keep on doing X, Y, Z  
  • How did I get to this assumption or belief?
  • How do I know that this assumption or belief is true?  
  • What evidence do I have?
  • What would happen if I chose to think differently?

2. Replace negative beliefs with positive performance enhancing ones. For example,  ‘I realise that my belief is unrealistic and keeps me stuck. The only way I’m going to progress is by going to interviews.  If I am rejected, it is important for me to distinguish between me being rejected and me rejecting myself because I was unsuccessful’

What beliefs do you have that are holding you back?

What strategies have you used that have helped you to banish limiting beliefs

This blog is part of the NaBloPoMo challenge of writing a blog everyday in November

Image courtesy of  Digitalart at

Vera in 2012I’m a professional coach (MA in Coaching & Mentoring) working with women and aspiring leaders to build their confidence and know how to progress, make successful changes, leverage their influence, impact, presence and communication. I am a part time lecturer in leadership and work within organisations to develop high performing teams, mentoring schemes and facilitate skills training in leadership and management development.


About verawoodhead

I'm an executive coach, leadership facilitator and learning & development consultant working with managers and leaders to develop the skills and behaviours to inspire performance and drive results; achieve promotion ; make successful career changes, be resilient and thrive at work. Within organisations, I help to facilitate better conversations, design learning interventions which deliver practical and lasting solutions aligned to business strategy and goals. Connect with me on Twitter @verawoodhead
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One Response to Are your beliefs holding you back?

  1. Pingback: The Correction of a Simple False Assumption Moved the Human Race Forward | Become Empowered

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