Dissolving Limiting Beliefs

July 17th, 2012 by Steve Pavlina

As one of our final stops before we do the passive income walkthrough, I want to address limiting beliefs, which could seriously hold you back from achieving your goals if we don’t take steps to address them.

Types of Limiting Beliefs

Limiting beliefs come in a variety of forms. Here are some of the most common.

If-then beliefs

  • If I try to start a new passive income stream, I’ll fail, and that would be bad.
  • If I express interest in someone, I’ll get rejected.
  • If I succeed in a big way, my friends won’t like me as much.

Universal Beliefs

  • People are inherently selfish.
  • Children always misbehave.
  • Money is the root of all evil.

Personal and Self-Esteem Beliefs

  • I’m not good enough.
  • I don’t matter.
  • I’m not lovable.

How Limiting Beliefs Show Up

Limiting beliefs are usually subconscious. They operate below the level of awareness most of the time. You’ll typically notice them by their side effects first, often when setting ambitious goals and trying to pursue them.

Suppose you want to create your first stream of passive income. If you’ve been following this series since April, then you’ve already set a goal with a specific dollar amount. Maybe you’re aiming for $100/month for your first stream.

Now if we look at this from a strictly objective perspective, this is an achievable goal. There’s nothing spectacular, miraculous, or magical about it. It’s been done many times before, and in certain circles it’s a rather mundane and commonplace event. This goal is not a special snowflake.

But how many people who set this goal will actually achieve it? Is there some doubt as to whether you’ll be one of those who’ll succeed?

Many people are in fact going to succeed. For many of them, however, it won’t be a smooth ride. They’ll succeed not because their ideas are any better or their passion is any greater than most. They’ll succeed because they’re willing to change their beliefs and self-image to align with their goals instead of letting their past mental patterns get in the way of their goals.

A significant part of this shift in thinking involves letting go of mental clutter in the form of limiting beliefs. With the passive income series, you may encounter beliefs within yourself such as:

  • It’s too hard to earn passive income.
  • I’m supposed to go out and get a real job.
  • I’m not smart enough to make this work.
  • Passive income is too strange for me.
  • I should just do what everyone else does.
  • Having a regular job is safe and secure.
Many people who succeed in creating passive income streams start out with limiting beliefs like these. After all, it’s how modern society conditions us to think.

When you start working on a new goal, your limiting beliefs will rarely express themselves openly. Usually they’ll show up by influencing your thinking and behaviors in ways that tear you away from your goal, effectively starving it of attention.

For instance, you’ll start thinking about passive income ideas, and as soon as you come up with a decent idea, your mind will begin coming up with reasons why it won’t work. You’ll talk yourself out of it.

Or you’ll share your idea with your most pessimistic friend, subconsciously knowing that your friend will try to talk you out of it. You could have shared the idea with your most optimistic friend instead, who may have encouraged you to go for it.

Or you’ll begin working on your idea, and suddenly you’ll be struck by the irresistible urge to go out and see a movie or buy a new game.

Or you’ll allocate a few hours to work on your goal, and somehow those hours will get chewed up by web surfing… or perhaps some unexpected crisis like, “Oh no… we seem to be out of chocolate! Guess I’d better head to the store… This goal stuff will have to wait a bit longer.”

You’ve consciously decided that the goal is important to you, but you can observe the pattern that your mind isn’t fully cooperating with you. It keeps nudging you towards distractions when you need to get some real work done.

The culprit in such situations is quite often limiting beliefs.

Why Do We Have Limiting Beliefs?

Many limiting beliefs are installed in early childhood, and they do serve a purpose of sorts. They act as mental shortcuts to keep us safe. But the downside is that our brains overgeneralize in these cases, installing patterns that overlook subtle nuances. Hence these patterns are often inaccurate. But to manage our survival, they don’t need to be perfectly accurate. They just need to be good enough, especially when fast decisions are required.

Partly this is due to how our brains evolved, with our human neocortex wrapped around the much more ancient limbic brain. The limbic brain handles our emotions, behavior, motivation, and long-term memory. The neocortex handles conscious thought, higher reasoning, and language.

These different brain areas evolved to help us survive, but many goals are not necessary for survival. Passive income certainly isn’t. Your brain isn’t naturally wired by default to help you achieve your passive income goal. But fortunately your brain is very flexible and can learn to cooperate with this goal.

When we tackle certain non-survival goals, we can’t simply rely on our default mental programming. That programming is good enough to keep us alive, but more often than not, it doesn’t perform very well when it comes to loftier ambitions. So we need to refine this programming in some areas, tweaking it to remove unnecessary limitations. We don’t want our brains to trigger a fear response, for instance, when we want to switch careers. We want to be able to make sensible decisions based on our knowledge and skills, not on emotional triggers from childhood.

For instance, can you get up on a stage and do public speaking without suffering undue nervousness? Can you comfortable speak off the cuff in front of a group even if you haven’t prepared anything? If you can’t do that, it’s because your limbic brain is triggering fear and danger signals that are paralyzing you. Physically you could do it since all you need to do is get up and talk. Speaking is just talking. It’s really not that complicated.

Similarly, can you go create a new stream of passive income if that’s what you want? The action steps are pretty easy. But will your limbic brain, in charge of emotion and motivation, cooperate with your decision? You may often find that it won’t. It triggers a phantom threat to your survival and makes you avoid actions that could put you in danger, even if the danger is imaginary. As this bubbles up to your neocortex, you’re forced to generate all manner of excuses to explain your inability to take action.

Playing it safe and avoiding areas where predators might be found makes sense. It’s okay if we overgeneralize in some survival situations since one mistake there could be fatal, especially during childhood. But lesser risks like embarrassment or a financial setback aren’t in the same ballpark as genuine threats, even though they can trigger similar responses in your thoughts and behaviors. You can afford to endure some failure in your work and financial life for the sake of learning and growth; in fact, it’s quite beneficial to do so.

Like it or not, you’re still a mammal, and so you’ve inherited some of that mammalian mental baggage. On the bright side, you owe this part a lot of credit for enabling you to exist in the first place. On the other hand, you’ll need to compensate for this baggage, assuming you’d like to live a richer life than most other mammals.

Conscious Thinking vs. Unconscious Beliefs

You have a few basic options for dealing with unconscious limiting beliefs.

Your first option is to ignore them. Let these mental subroutines continue to run as they will. If you do this, you’ll most likely live an okay and mostly average life, assuming your limiting beliefs aren’t too extreme. You won’t get anywhere close to your potential as a conscious human being, but you can still be a proud and worthy mammal. If it’s okay to continue your life on pretty much the same terms as you’ve been living it, then there’s no real mandate to deal with your limiting beliefs. They’ll exert a lot of control over how your life turns out, but if you don’t mind experiencing more of the same, that’s your choice to make. This is essentially the same as accepting that your past programming is the real you.

Your second option is to try to overpower your limiting beliefs. You can attempt to use your force of will to resist by pushing yourself to take action again and again. You may put systems in place to force yourself to get moving and keep moving, such as by increasing the negative consequences of quitting. This can be done, but the effects are usually very short-lived, and it can be mentally exhausting to keep it up. This strategy essentially means that one part of your brain is fighting another.

The third option is to dissolve your limiting beliefs. Instead of resisting them, you can release them. By dissolving a limiting belief, you can remove it permanently so that it no longer subconsciously affects your thinking. Essentially this means that you’re deleting the old subroutines that got installed in early childhood since as an adult, you no longer need them. In place of the old beliefs, you could try to install new ones, but you could also leave the slate blank and allow your brain’s own logical thinking to fill in the gap.

As an adult you no longer need childhood beliefs to keep you safe. You can use your fully developed neocortex to make more intelligent decisions. You can base your decisions on your knowledge, life experience, skills, and outcome predictions. These mental skills were less developed when you were a child, and so you needed your limbic brain to protect you. But in adulthood you can use your life experience and knowledge to determine that lions may still be dangerous while public speaking generally isn’t.

It would be terrific if our brains automatically did this garbage collection as we got older. To some extent they do, but it seems to be a very gradual process. We also tend to become less emotional as we age, which can reduce the effects of childhood conditioning. But we can still speed this process along by doing some manual garbage collection to clear out the clutter of limting beliefs that we no longer need. I really think it’s wise to do this, especially during our 20s and 30s, so these beliefs don’t restrict the kinds of goals we can set and accomplish in life.

Dissolving Limiting Beliefs

I could walk you through the steps to dissolve a limiting belief, but Morty Lefkoe has already put that process online, so it’s easiest to simply refer you to there since you can test it for free. You’ll understand it best if you experience it first-hand, and you gain the side benefit of eliminating one of your own limiting beliefs for good.

If you suspect you have limiting beliefs that are holding you back, especially with respect to our passive income series, Morty’s process will help you identify and dissolve them. For each belief, the process takes about 20 minutes, and all you really need to do is watch a video.

In less than 24 hours, I’m heading to the airport for another travel adventure, and I probably won’t be blogging much while I’m gone. When I get back, I’ll be just about ready to begin the walkthrough of creating a new passive income stream from scratch.

While I’m away, this would be a good time to get those pesky limiting beliefs out of your way, so you don’t have to worry about them coming back to haunt you later. Then if you wish to follow along in creating your own new stream of income while I blog about creating mine, you won’t be fighting yourself in your own mind. You can simply flow along with the action steps as I do them myself.

Also think of how nice it will be to go off on your own travel adventures with all your trip expenses covered by your income streams, so that you continue to earn just as much income while you’re away. No need to ask anyone’s approval or permission — you can just go. Remember that this isn’t some crazy fantasy. If you can dissolve those limiting beliefs that are getting in your way and get into the flow of action, this is all very doable. Just don’t tell your boss what you’re up to. ;)


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