A belief is defined as any cognitive content held as true (WordNet). It is the feeling, opinion or impression a person considers the reality. It doesn’t matter how incredible the impressions or opinions are, once a person holds them as true, they become his or her beliefs. Beliefs are so important because they form the foundation of our philosophy, which ultimately determines the course of our lives. Someone likened a person’s philosophy to the set of the sail. He opined that destination – where we end up in life – is defined by our philosophy not by what happens around us. The things that happen in the outside world affect everybody but the difference in where we arrive is determined by our philosophy.
Limiting beliefs are exactly what the name connotes; they limit the person that holds such beliefs. Let me share a story I read a long while ago that illustrates the insidious effect of limiting beliefs. The story was about a man going on a stroll along a riverbank where he saw a man fishing. He noticed that each time the fisherman caught a small-sized fish; he threw the fish inside a big ‘take-home’ bowl beside him. But when he caught a big fish, he untangled the fish from the fishing hook and threw it back into the river. The stroller found the sight really intriguing so he stopped to observe what was going on. The fisherman kept at what he was doing. When the stroller couldn’t fathom what was going on, he said to the fisherman: I’ve been standing here for a while watching you. I noticed that when you catch a small-sized fish, you throw it into your bowl but the big ones you throw back into the river. Why are you doing that?” The fisherman gladly responded: “I have a small frying pan. There’s no point catching a fish that won’t fit into my frying pan.” Feeling completely bewildered, the man asked: “But why don’t you buy a bigger frying pan?” The fisherman said, “Well, I never thought about that. I guess I will take your advice and buy a bigger frying pan.”
You say, “How can someone be so stupid as to reject a big fish?” Well, you may not do exactly what the fisherman did but anytime you don’t do something that has the potential to move you forward in certain areas of your lives, you are not different from the fisherman in the above story.
The effect of a limiting belief on a person is like a sheep tethered to a spot on an expanse grazing field with luxuriant green grass. Even though green grass is in abundance all around, the sheep can only graze within a restricted area. If the sheep is to take advantage of the totality of the available grass, the rope with which it is tied must be broken. Until then, the sheep’s lot is that limited area. So it is with humans. Until we break away from our limiting belief, we can never achieve all that we can possibly achieve. It doesn’t matter how many other liberating beliefs we may have, our achievement will not exceed the scope defined by that single limiting belief.
I also had a limiting belief. By virtue of the fact that I was born in November (November 11), my zodiac sign is Scorpio. One of the qualities of Scorpios that I came across many years ago is that Scorpios are secretive people. As a consequence, I held on to the belief that I am a secretive person for a long time. Even though I had been a Christian for a while, almost two decades now, I didn’t let go of this subtle but erroneous belief. I never volunteered an opinion that would reveal who I was at the core. It was so bad that each time I was faced with a situation that necessitated expressing my feelings, my mind told me: “You know you’re a secretive person. You don’t have to let people know all about you.” Then I would recoil into my self-made shell. I remember some observant people used to tell me that they find it difficult to follow my line of argument because I usually start on a strong footing only to start fizzling midway into my argument. Unknown to them, I used to fizzle at the point my mind reminded me about my secretive nature.
It took God’s word to break away from my limiting belief. The Scripture that enabled my breakaway is what Jesus said in Matthew 5:13-16. It reads: “You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp-stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” The question I asked myself then was: How will my light shine when I hold on to the belief that I am a secretive person? It was then it dawned on me that I had to let go of the belief if my light would ever shine. With this new information, I became more open. If you read my first book – LIVE THE SIGNIFICANT LIFE – you would agree that I’ve ceased to be a secretive person. It’s also pertinent to mention that this article you are reading is a proof that I’ve decided to let my light shine by breaking away from the limiting belief of secretiveness.
To break your limiting beliefs, the first step is to know what they are. But before identifying your limiting beliefs, you would need to evaluate your performance in the following critical areas of life: career, leadership, communication, love, faith, success, marriage, money, education, relationship, etc. How well are you doing in these all-important areas? If there’s an area you are not achieving worthwhile results, it’s an indication that you probably have limiting beliefs in that area. You will need to catalogue what your beliefs are in the area. When you’ve identified what your beliefs are, the next step is to ask how well these beliefs are serving you in achieving your set goals in this area. If your beliefs are not serving you well, they constitute the limiting beliefs that you must seek to refine. Refinement of beliefs comes from exposure to new information in the critical areas. With new information, you get new ideas that can be applied. Chances are that these new ideas will serve you well. If they don’t, jettison them and continue the search for the right information. It may also be a good idea if you get a life coach to assist you in the identification and breaking of your limited belief.
The story is told about a man who had always held the belief that he’s achluophobic (someone suffering from irrational fear of darkness). One day, he had the opportunity of listening to a message on overcoming any kinds of fear. As a result of the new information he received, he became adventurous in his orientation towards darkness. He ceased to be afraid of darkness rather, at each available opportunity, he would venture into a dark room for instance. To his amazement, he discovered that nothing ominous happened to him. Having overcome his fear of darkness, he refused to give room to any kinds of fear. His victory over fear made him achieve significant things with his life.