Three ways to work with Limiting Beliefs

Limiting Beliefs again?  yes — but this time THREE ways to work with them to remove their negative power over you!

The best way to start is to think about a few things:

First, let’s just remind ourselves what IS a limiting belief – a limiting belief is any belief that restricts or contrains us: eg “I am rubbish at drawing”; “I started riding late so there is no point trying”; and many more.

if you think about it, you can probably write a list of at least twenty things you say to yourself every week that get in the way of you doing what you want to do — these are often limiting beliefs.

And how does it HELP us?  If we agree that everything we think, believe or do has a positive intent for us (which it must have as otherwise we would not hold onto it, right?) – then what is the positive intent of a limiting belief?

It goes back to the positive intent of our unconscious mind in general – which is to keep us SAFE.  When we think of safety, we tend to think of physical safety.  Which is the primary safety we all think about.  An example of how our unconscious helps us with this is if we sprain an ankle, or pull a muscle – we then consciously adapt our movements to avoid hurting ourselves – but after a very short while we do this unconsciously – our unconscious mind takes over, stops us putting weight on our sprained ankle – -and keeps us from hurting ourselves.

Very useful!  However, the unconscious isn’t quite as good at STOPPING the taking care process – many people discover that months after their ankle has healed, they are STILL favouring their “good”  leg – and many of us end up with other aches and pains after walking funny to avoid hurting our pulled muscle – even though that pulled muscle healed up ages ago.

So this is an example of how the positive intent of our unconscious can lead to not so positive outcomes – and that is something it is important to realise – -just because something has a negative effect, doesn’t mean it didn’t have appositive INTENT.

So what about these limiting beliefs?  Well, some of them help keep us physically safe.  For example, I have a limiting belief that I can’t ride well enough to do a top level three day event.  By believing this, I make sure I don’t try it – and so avoid falling off or having an accident.   Clearly a positive intent.

Some limiting beliefs are also USEFUL:  by having the limiting belief about riding a top level three day event, I will not sign up for one without thinking things through – and instead will be inclined to plan and build UP to that event in a safe way – so in this case the limiting belief is positive intent AND in outcome.

So if some limiting beliefs keep us from physical harm – what about the others?  I mean, how can the limiting belief “I am useless at drawing” have anything to do with staying safe?

Well, as we have all experienced, pain isn’t just physical.  It can be EMOTIONAL too.  Disappointment is often painful, for example.  So, if I were to do a drawing – and be disappointed when it turns out badly (or just less than perfect)  — then if that disappointment really upset me, my unconscious might decide to keep me safe from that pain by giving me a limiting belief that would mean I avoided drawing again – thus staying safe from that emotional pain or disturbance.

Of course, emotional pain can be from patterns that are imposed on us in our childhood – if we grow up learning that anything not perfect is not worth doing – then when we produce something less than perfect, we “run”  that pattern – feel upset and even unworthy  — and of course, then we are in emotional pain and so – yes, you guessed it, our unconscious steps in to prevent that happening again.

A third level of pain isn’t really a pain – but it’s a threat.  Since our unconscious is so concerned about protecting us – it might be worth thinking for a moment about what “us”  our unconscious is protecting.  If I believe in myself as a competent, worthy person who is good at most things – then to do anything that threatens this belief could be upsetting….so my unconscious might stop me from doing anything I might not be good at.   Again we can see a positive intent – to preserve my identity, my sense of self as a competent person – but the outcome could be that I never try anything new and never take the kind of risks that could lead to great happiness further down the line.

So in summary, limiting beliefs are tools our unconscious uses to protect us physically and emotionally – and to preserve our sense of “self”.

And, of course – some of them are useful….

So one of the first things to do when you look at all the limiting beliefs you have – is to identify: what is the POSITIVE INTENT of this limiting belief?

Sometimes just doing this causes that limiting belief to collapse : I worked with someone recently who had a limiting belief that because she had started riding late, she would never be a good rider…when we identified that one positive intent of this belief was to stop her from being upset by negatively comparing herself with more experienced riders – she realised it was actually a belief that had been useful in her early days but not longer really mattered, as she didn’t really care what other riders thought – so it literally disappeared from her beliefs in that instant.

Even if the belief doesn’t collapse, identifying the positive intent can be VERY useful because, one you have identified it you can:

–          Decide if that positive intent is still RELEVANT (it might date from childhood and you now have adult resources to apply to the situation)

–          Decide that you can achieve that positive intent in a DIFFERENT way, without the limiting belief.

And often, these two steps are also enough to “collapse” a limiting belief.



In one of my facebook notes I wrote about why they matter – they matter because if you do not pay attention to them and address them your limiting beliefs will gradually and inexorably shrink your comfort zone until you wake up one day and realise you have missed out on a large amount of your life – and regret what has happened.


What I am now going to do is share with you THREE ways to handle limiting beliefs – what I would like you to do is go through your list of limiting  beliefs –apply the positive intent process from above – and then, with the remaining limiting beliefs, go through them using the approach that works best.  This will take a bit of trial and error – and it is often a LOT more fun if you get a friend or partner involved – this makes it more of a game and less intense and, interestingly enough, the unconscious responds much better to games than instructions!

1.        Extrapolate to the ridiculous

Take the limiting belief (LB from now on) – and step by step, reinforce it to the place where it is laughable – you will know when you get there because you will be laughing.

Example:  because I started riding late I will never be as good as some people

–          Ok – so since you’ll never be as good as them, no point even trying

–          So might as well stop now

–          Lets sell the horses and move into the city

–          And take up mechanical bull riding….or knitting

–          But there are people out there doing those things already – so might as well give up EVERYTHING!

–          Great – let’s veg out and watch reruns of Dynasty….

This is even more fun with a group of friends and a bottle of wine!  The more ridiculous the better. What happens with this approach is that the next time you look at that LB – you remember the laugher and the ridiculousness of where the LB leads – and it loses its power  to limit you.  You view the LB more as a relic of past events than as something that can now control you….

2.       Negotiate with the LB using the bigger picture

In one of my facebook notes I talked about negotiating with your fear – and this is a similar process.  Start off by acknowledging the positive intent of the LB then:

–          Explain the long term effect (negative outcome) of the LB

–          Ask the LB to tell you what the physical, emotional or identity “cost” of sticking to the LB will be five years from now

–          Explain the positive intent AND outcome of NOT sticking to the LB – make this as vivid and intense as possible

–          Ask the LB HOW you can achieve a “win-win” – how you can achieve the positive intent of the LB AND the positive outcome of not sticking with the LB

Example:  a LB of “ I will never be a good jumper” – the long term negative effect of that is that you will not bother to learn to jump at all, and so will NEVER  be able to do anything that involves jumping (eg passing level 3, jumping a log on a hack, riding jumps on a fun ride with friends).   The cost of this will be you will be sad when you look back thinking of the fun you could have had, and you will still be scared of jumping.  If you do not stick to the LB then you can be riding on fun rides with your friends, enjoying the jumps, talking about them afterwards – and never be scared of coming across a log on a hack or trail ride – and can even win rosettes in a clear round show…and you can send in your level 3 audition…

So if we ask the LB how we can achieve those positive outcomes while still keeping the positive intent of the LB (which is “you will fall off or plow into the jump and get hurt!!!)  we might come up with:  take jumping lessons on a school master with an experienced coach, teach my horse to jump online, teach myself to jump online,   — and come up with a plan to achieve the positive outcome while making the LB unnecessary.

3.       Identify the truth behind the LB and find other ways to achieve that

Example:  “I am not qualified to be a coach”:

Ask yourself – so who IS?  What does a “person qualified to be a coach” have? What are the levels of qualification?

Ask yourself – will you EVER believe you are qualified to be a coach? (this identifies whether the LB is fact based or global)

Ask yourself – in what way does this matter?

IF it matters, and IF you have answers to what qualifies a person to be a coach – then get training and get those qualifications…

If it doesn’t matter, or you don’t have answers – then this LB is not about being a coach, but is about your belief and confidence in yourself – which we can tackle in another conversation

Hope this gives you something to be working on!

Let me know how it goes – I would like you each to see if you can write out your positive intent and how you handled the LB for the first ten on your list!

yours in confidence,



One thought on “Three ways to work with Limiting Beliefs

  1. My first exposure to the concept of LB – and yes I have some 😉 I need to idetify the ones I don’t wish to keep…

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