Banish limiting beliefs to progress your career

campus of excellence - martin bauer group

Have you ever been in a situation in which you did not perform as well as you could, leaving your confidence at a low and a reluctance to put yourself in such situations again?

I know that I have and in most cases have plucked up the courage to have another stab at it.  But in a few situations, where the stakes were high, it was much harder because I convinced myself that I will fail again. I refused to put myself in such situations again – in case I failed again!

Sounds familiar?

The downside of this is that it limits new opportunities and possibilities being opened up to you and can have an adverse effect on progressing your career and moving forward.

The beliefs that we form when such events take place 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. Her presentation did not go as planned. She forgot some key messages, became nervous and lost her confidence and composure.

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 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.

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.

Working with clients over a period of time, enables new learning, thinking and behaviour to be embedded.

Change your thinking

Albert Ellis, founder of REBT, developed a way to teach people how their beliefs cause their emotional and behavioural responses.

For example, you dwell on the negatives of a ‘bad’ experience of giving a presentation. These negative thoughts are played over and over in your mind until they become embedded beliefs.

Whenever placed in similar situations, the feelings of anxiety and nervousness emerge. It is not giving a presentation that causes those feelings, it is the beliefs that you have associated with them.

2 techniques  to use when faced with beliefs that hold you back

1. The ABCDE technique

– A (describe the activating event) I messed up in the job interview

– B (belief) I am failure, not good enough to be promoted, worthless

– C (consequence) devastated, sad, others will think I’m a failure, am unworthy

– Dispute those beliefs:  How do I know that this assumption or belief is true? What evidence do I have? Is this true of the bigger picture ? Interpret the situation more realistically and rationally. There is no evidence to show that by not getting promoted, Sally is an unworthy person or a failure. Indeed she has had many successes and accomplishments and is highly regarded by her colleagues.

– Effect : Sally realises that her belief is irrational and is keeping her stuck. To get better at interviewing she enlists the help of colleagues and friends and engages in role playing interview scenarios to build her skills and confidence

2. Visualisation: Image yourself coping with the situation that is stressing you out.

  • Think of a future job interview
  • Write down the specific aspects that are worrying you
  • Brainstorm ways to overcome these problems. Discuss with a trusted colleague or friend for additional insights/ support/ ideas
  • Make a list of the top problems and the strategies that you can use to overcome
  • Visualise yourself in the situation and imagine yourself coping with each problem by using the accompanying strategy
  • Picture yourself dealing with the problems as they arise. Keep the imagery, vivid and detailed and check in on how you are feeling
  • Keep practising until it feels that what you are doing and how you are behaving comes naturally

Don’t let limiting beliefs hold you back from progressing your career. Change  the way you think and you will change the way you feel and behave.

Wishing you greater career success 


                                Photo credit: Campus of excellence 


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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