Who will you be professionally in five years? I’m not talking about the role you’ll be in. I’m talking about your ideal version of the future you. What does she look like? Is she more self-assured? Does she deal with problems with less drama? Can she say no more freely? Does she attract great people around her? What does she look like? Does she have the kind of style that you’d admire? I bet she does!
One of the greatest limitations in becoming our future best self is the self-limiting beliefs we harbour. And yet, many of us operate with beliefs that do not support the results we desire in our career and the people we want to be.
How we see ourselves in business or life is a function of our beliefs and influences our decisions and what’s possible. Your beliefs have far-reaching consequences: some negative and some positive. These beliefs affect your moods, the relationships that you have, your job performance, your self-esteem, and even your general outlook on the world.
Many of our self-limiting beliefs were developed during our childhood. In his book, The Biology of Belief, Dr Bruce Lipton talks about how from birth to around the age of seven, we operate primarily in brain wavelengths that are very close to a hypnotic state.
He explains, when we’re kids, we are literally sponges soaking up every little thing around us. And, of course, many of our beliefs are formed during this time. Some researchers say as many as 90% of our beliefs are formed during childhood. However, the conflicting part is if we continue through life operating with these early beliefs and they don’t support the results that we want today.
We all have beliefs about the world and how we think it works without even realising we have established notions about what is and isn’t. You see, some beliefs are very real such as a flame will burn your skin. But most of our beliefs are perceived. They’re our version of the truth. Think about when someone says something like, “I am hopeless at networking”, “that stakeholder is consistently difficult to deal with”, or what about, “I look fat in that dress”. They are all our own versions of the truth.
The fantastic news is that some beliefs are helpful and propel us forward. It’s the limiting ones that we want to become more aware of.
Let’s take imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is that state of being afraid that you’ll be exposed as a fraud or as an imposter. It’s pretty common among women, particularly at those junctions in your career where we are genuinely stretching ourselves. It could be a new role, a new boss, or new business expectations.
Let’s say the belief is, “I am an imposter”. When we have a belief like that, it drives some fear, and that fear will very likely prevent us from doing things. Perhaps it’s from speaking up, stepping up, or backing ourselves. In this instance, the result is less opportunity and the cumulative impact of not taking action over a couple of years can be considerable!!
You might think right now, “Well, the easiest way to rid ourselves of a limiting belief is to change it. Create a new one”. Well, let’s look at that. Let’s take, “I am an imposter”, and let’s switch it to, “I’m amazing and everyone loves me”. Now, theoretically, this would work well. Change the belief. Feel and behave differently. Get a different result.
But, it’s a bit of a stretch. Moving to what feels to be a radically different statement feels extreme and it’s not believable.
What high performers do exceptionally well, is that they think about the way that they think. They are intentional when it comes to their beliefs and thoughts. They know there’s no magic pill. For them, it’s a system of managing their thoughts, and it’s part of what they do every day. They make it believable and accessible.
They know having limiting beliefs such as, “I don’t belong here. I’m not as good as my colleagues, or someone is going to figure out that I’m not smart enough”, isn’t going to support their performance. It doesn’t mean they don’t have them. It just means they are intentional in the way they manage them.
Step 1: Develop your self-awareness by identifying exactly what you are thinking. What is the thought driving that emotional state? One of my old limiting beliefs was hard work is the only way to succeed. Nose to the grindstone. Don’t look up. Work like a dog, and you will be rewarded.
Now, this is partly true. Hard work drives results. But that belief always made me feel like my job was a grind. That success was a grind. It was a belief that I inherited, but it was not supporting who I wanted to be, or what I wanted my career to feel like. That’s step one. Figuring out what you’re thinking about yourself.
Step 2: Come up with a better thought strategy. You can do this by identifying what you wish you could believe about yourself. What is a believable new thought?
Let’s say you want to feel calmer at a time you feel really stretched at work, maybe even overwhelmed. Could a new thought strategy be “I am supported. Yes, I have done this before. I see my strengths. I am making this happen and it feels great”.
Step 3: Practice. The more you practice and think these new thoughts, the stronger and more supported the new belief will become. You’ve got to embed it. It’s not just a one-off activity. You’ve got to keep integrating this and practicing it. You see, many of our beliefs are self-fulfilling.
In the RISE Program, my four-month women’s leadership program, we introduce some great tools to get you unstuck. And the progress I see with the women who do the work is incredible. No one will know your value until you know your value. If you want a voice at the table, if you want to step up, command more respect, whatever it might be, you need to have the right beliefs.
Think about your fantastic future self in all her glory. How do you need to think differently to move towards that? What is one belief that you could harness that could move you towards your future self? I think it’s an exciting concept to explore.