Self-Limiting Beliefs

Recently, I was fortunate enough to visit one of my favorite retreat hotels in Tucson. The guests and the staff are always friendly, so, not surprising for me, I ended up chatting with everybody.

While I was in the buffet line, another guest told me how glad she was that she had enjoyed 5 whole days at the resort and that she was sad to be leaving. It was a Tuesday. She asked me when I arrived, and I told her I arrived Monday morning and was leaving on Friday. She said, “Wow, you must have a generous boss. How do you get that much time off?”

My first thought was “I guess I’m not supposed to be able to take a full week off.” But I paused for a second and said, “I run my own business, and I’m able to build my schedule in a way that works for both my clients and me.”

When I was getting my business up and running, an acquaintance said “well I guess you don’t have a real job anymore.” My self-limiting belief kicked in that unless I was at my desk every day, then I wasn’t really working.  I know how hard I work, the value my clients get and how much I love the work so why did I feel “less than” because I wasn’t tied to my desk?

I don’t know where the self-limiting belief came from but this experience brought me back to my healthcare leadership days.  One time I emailed my boss one day to ask him if I could come in at 7:30 am instead of 7:00 am the following day. He called me confused – he didn’t realize my start time was 7:00 am. I told him that was when I usually came in, and his response surprised me. He reminded me that I never asked for permission to stay until after we closed or to come in on a Sunday, so I shouldn’t have to ask to come in a half-hour after my self-defined start time.

Whew! There’s a self-limiting belief. My mindset was that I had to support this team 7 days a week, 12 hours a day. That included starting at 7:00 am no matter how late I stayed, and working Monday – Friday, even if I worked the weekend. That self-limiting belief produced behavior that was not aligned with my values.

I needed to let go of someone else’s belief about what works, and for that matter, what success looks like.  I needed to kick these self-limiting beliefs to the curb.

What Self-Limiting Beliefs Do You Have?

You may be thinking this isn’t applicable to you because you’re not a business owner. But you’ve got self-limiting beliefs too. And maybe it’s time to kick them to the curb.

Self-limiting beliefs come in many different sizes. These self-limiting beliefs can creep their way in regardless of where you are in life. One way to identify them is to notice when you say “oh, I can’t do that” or “this is the way it has to be”.  Can you truly not do it, or has it been ingrained in your head that you aren’t good enough.  Does it really have to be done a certain way or are you simply following someone else’s rules?

Consider times when you are self-deprecating.  Is it because you are humble and know that we can always improve?  Or is it because you set a limit around what skills you have, what level of success you can achieve?

Rethinking Our Self-Limiting Beliefs

As we consider the mindset of a leader, I want you to think about some of the mindsets, or self-limiting beliefs, that prevent you from doing things. Where do you need to be willing to own your actions so they can better align with your values?

It may be something small, like coming in at 7:30 am instead of 7:00 am. It could be something big, like taking a chance and applying for that role, or asking for help from someone.

I’d love to hear what beliefs you are reconsidering.  Send me an email with your self-limiting beliefs and how you are going to kick them to the curb.

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About Amy Lafko

As a Physical Therapist, Amy spent years in school learning best practices for patient care and how to put the patient first. Like so many technically skilled clinicians, she advanced to a leadership role. Spending 20+ years in operational leadership, she had an epiphany: Putting the customer first isn’t the path to success or fulfillment. Rather, the most successful organizations and practices put their people first – and exceptional customer care, profitability, and effectiveness naturally followed.