Your beliefs are a powerful driving force that can work for you or against you. Some beliefs empower you, while others limit you. By becoming aware of your beliefs, you can keep the ones that serve you, weed out the ones that don’t, and choose the ones that will support who you want to be.
Here’s an example. A common belief of busy leaders is, “I have to work hard to get ahead.” Immediately the limitations of this belief are apparent. Working from this belief implies that you must sacrifice parts of your life (home life, health, and hobbies come to mind) to “get ahead.”
Now consider this belief instead: “I have to be my best to get ahead.” This belief is more empowering, because it opens up the possibilities. It still accepts the potential for working hard if that is what’s required, but it also allows for the fact that getting ahead sometimes means taking time for the rest and renewal that keeps you at your best.
An example can illustrate how to turn a limiting belief into an empowering belief. Andy was the president of a structural engineering firm who was raised to believe that if you compliment people too much, they become lazy. He was afraid to commend his team, because he believed that to do so would take away all motivation. His belief limited his ability to praise the people who worked for him, and they were becoming bitter and resentful.
To turn the situation around, Andy studied his limiting belief:
“If I praise people too much, they will become lazy.”
As long as he believed this, he would never be the supportive leader his firm needed. He could see that unless he tried something new, he was going to lose support. He tried this empowering belief instead:
“If I praise people more, they will become inspired.”
Andy rehearsed his new belief by trying it out 100 times. Every time he hesitated to praise someone, he stated his empowering belief to himself and gave them a sincere compliment. Before long, the results – a more agreeable, cooperative staff – convinced him to retain the new belief.
Beliefs are fundamental to the way your life plays out. The difference between a limiting and an empowering belief is quite literally the difference between a limited and a powerful life. Choose your beliefs carefully. They make you who you are.
Developing empowering beliefs is a three-step process.
- Become aware of your beliefs. You can go after them directly by asking yourself, “What do I believe,” or you can go after them directly by noticing your behavior and asking yourself, “What would I have to believe to behave this way?”
- Write down your beliefs. Take a look at them on paper with some objectivity. For each one, ask yourself, Is this belief limiting or empowering?
- Turn limiting beliefs into empowering beliefs. Just change the words, looking for the exact opposite of your limiting belief to find one that’s more empowering.
The process of distilling your beliefs takes time. Allow yourself time to try on different beliefs and see what fits and what doesn’t. Notice when you feel limited and deflated, and when you feel expansive and energized. Keep working with the wording of your beliefs until you’ve created the ones that you can claim with conviction—the beliefs that will help you be the leader you really want to be.
Use the Your Beliefs worksheet in The Extension to identify a few beliefs that guide your thinking and actions. Assess them. Are they limiting or empowering? How could you develop new beliefs to help you achieve your vision?
The ideas in this article are drawn from The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership and the accompanying eBook called The Extension. The eBook is designed to give you simple, engaging personal leadership exercises and activities to help you be a better leader, and lead a better life. Get your copy today! Click here for a Preview and to Order.