Limiting Beliefs

How do the following limiting beliefs prevent you from achieving your goal? The following are known as Cognitive Distortions from Dr. David Burns. These are some of the common ways in which we limit ourselves.

Identify one of your goals or areas of life that you are struggling with currently.  What is holding you back from achieving the results you want? Now, take that answer, and see if it is in fact a type of limiting belief or cognitive distortion below.


1. All-or-nothing thinking

  • Black and white thinking
  • Operating from extreme opposite ends of the pole


2. (a) Magnification

  • blowing something out of proportion
  • focusing too much on a negative aspect
  • narrow perspective


2. (b) Minimization

  • brush something off as “no big deal”
  • give something too little focus
  • think that a task can be “put off” to a future time


3. (a) Labelling

  • Assigning a negative label, term or name to yourself based on something you did or did not do. It is a way of overgeneralizing some event or occurrence.

(b) Mislabelling

  • Mislabelling: Using a highly charged label to describe yourself; and the label does not even describe objective description.


4. Should Statements

  • What you tell yourself that you “ought” to do
  • Trying to follow someone else’s values, ideals or hopes for you


5. Personalization

  • Taking responsibility for something that has nothing to do with you
  • Assigning fault to yourself for something that is not your responsibility


6. Jumping to Conclusions: interpreting something negatively without rational evidence.

(a) Mind reading: You think you can read another person’s mind, and you believe that this person’s reaction to you is both personal and negative.

(b) Fortune Telling: You have a feeling of certainty that things will turn out negatively. You treat this   feeling as a fact even though it has not even happened.


7.  Mental Filter

  • Filter your thoughts and focus to only see the negative in something.


8.  Disqualifying the Positive

  • Ignore and deny anything positive about the situation or yourself.


9.  Emotional Reasoning

  • You let your feelings determine what your reality is. If you feel bad about something, than the situation must be bad.


10.  Overgeneralization

  • Taking the meaning you subscribed to one scenario and applying this meaning to all similar scenarios or even different scenarios.

How Do We Change our Limiting Beliefs?

How do we change our limiting beliefs?

1. Examine the state of your life right now. Where do you feel blocked with respect to your goals? What is stagnant? What isn’t working for you? Which results and goals are you having the most difficulty achieving? Here is one example, “My goal is to go on a warm tropical vacation, but I can’t seem to allow myself to do it.

2. In order to change our limiting beliefs, we must define our problem and what the block is in one or two sentences. Be as specific as possible. For example, “I can’t go on a tropical vacation every year because I simply don’t feel that I have the money in my budget!”

3. Write down how this limiting belief or problematic way of thinking is helping you in your life. How does it support and protect you? To continue the above example, “This belief protects me from spending money foolishly, and it prevents me from going broke” Examine this statement further though.  Is going on one vacation really foolish spending? Is it really going to make you broke? Your goal is to question your limiting belief, its validity, and how supportive it really is.

4. Next, how is this limiting belief preventing you from achieving your goal? How is this limiting belief actually holding you back? In order to change our limiting beliefs, we must notice that while our form of thinking is an attempt to protect ourselves, it is also a form of thinking that is blocking us from achieving our goals. Here’s an example: “By holding onto the belief that spending money on a vacation is foolish, I’m excusing myself from being able to have what I want. Despite the reality that it might break my budget a bit, thinking this way blocks me from taking any action or examining any potential solutions that could help me achieve my goal.”

5. To change our limiting beliefs we must brainstorm solutions to overcoming our limiting ways of thinking. Learn to ask yourself more empowering questions. “How can I find a way to go on my vacation without breaking my budget?” Then, create a list of ways that you might do this. For example:

  • Stop buying daily coffees and cut back on groceries by $20 every week for 6 months, to save enough money for my vacation. Put the remaining bill on my line of credit, and create a budget to pay it back with.
  • Shop around for deals for vacations. Maybe they don’t cost as much as I thought they would.
  • Can I go for a 4 day vacation instead of a full week? What difference will this make?
  • Can I borrow money from a relative?
  • Can I pick up a few extra shifts at work to make up for the difference of what money I need?
  • What other creative ways could I temporarily earn more money to cover the cost of this trip?

When you learn to ask yourself good questions about how you can actually reach your goal, you’ll start to see the possibilities for how you can break out of your limiting belief. By simply repeating your limiting belief through self-talk, it doesn’t help you get past your reality that you are on a tight budget.

Just because something is your reality, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a limiting belief. Limiting beliefs are what create the realities that we are trying to escape from. Thus, we must monitor our beliefs closely in those areas of our lives in which we are experiencing results that are less than satisfactory.

Also, ask yourself why you want your goal? For example, “Why do I want this vacation so badly?” When you can create a strong enough “why” behind your goal, you will be more motivated to identify and change your limiting belief systems.

What are some of your habits that need to be changed in order to support this new way of thinking? Be sure to focus on changing habits to support your goal as well.

Finally, if you’re unsure of whether or not your belief is limiting you, ask yourself how well your belief supports your life vision?

These are just a few ideas of how we can recognize and change our limiting beliefs. I would suggest going back to the basics if you haven’t already, and completing the goal setting and motivation program which helps you align what you want with the right beliefs and behaviours.

Good luck!