9 Thoughts that are Holding you Back in Life
We’re not that unique when it comes to the reasons or excuses we don’t do things, I noticed a lot of recurring themes in my sessions with clients, so I’ve decided to tackle a few negative thoughts for you and share some personal stories.
1. I’m not good enough
This negative thought is a core limiting belief. At some point, this one comes and bites us all. It’s powerful and deep-rooted. I’ve seen it in 80% of my clients. It’s really important to tune into this thought and recognise when it’s coming up.
You then need to reframe it. Framing is all about perspective and parameters. Dig deep into the belief and move away from this generalisation by being specific and asking yourself these questions:
- What metric are you measuring yourself by? (education, age, wealth, experience) What exactly is GOOD?
- Is it really true that you are just not good enough? Or is it a confidence issue? What evidence do you have both for the belief and against it? (try writing these down)
- What makes others good (or ‘better’ than you)? If they have the capabilities, why can’t you?
- What did they do to get to where they are? How far or close are you from them?
- What is ENOUGH? How high have you set your own benchmark? Too high perhaps?
2. I can’t do it
Question: What’s the fundamental difference between the people that ‘do’ and the people that ‘don’t’?
Answer: Those that ‘DO’ believe they can, or at the very least they can certainly give it a go. Those that ‘DON’T’ – don’t. Period.
It’s the perfect reason to not even try. ‘CAN’T’ is a negative thought that shuts your brain down! Your mind doesn’t feel sorry for you and thinks ‘oh they’re just being a little insecure today, we’ll give it ago anyway’, it takes it as a command! It becomes a belief and so you will avoid any and every opportunity to do it. What it also does is program your focus, this is operated by the Reticulating Activator System (RAS for short), the part of your brain responsible for attention. You’ve seen this guy in action before. For example, ever been thinking of going to Greece on your holidays and suddenly there’s advertisements everywhere, Greece is on TV, you overhear someone talking about it on the train. Must be a sign right? WRONG, it’s your RAS in action.
Check out this TEDx talk if you want to know more.
In short, we are bombarded by sensory information, the RAS’s job is to only bring to your attention the things that are ‘important’ to you. In other words, what you tell it to focus on. You start to see and hear all the references to do with Greece, that doesn’t mean there aren’t lots of references to Italy, San Francisco, and all the other great places, but you are filtering them out. The exact same thing happens with your beliefs, you will ONLY see the evidence to support your belief! So you continue to believe it because now you have concrete evidence. There is a lot of evidence to overturn your belief, but you are subconsciously deleting it!
Besides programming your RAS in the negative, what you are also avoiding is the experience. EVERY TIME you don’t try you lose an opportunity to get better. As such you continue to not be able to do it and the belief endures.
It’s a perpetuating cycle of disappointment! I used to think I couldn’t drive, so I avoided driving lessons and perpetuated the belief. Then I did some work on myself, challenged the belief and turned it into ‘I can drive as long as I have a good teacher’.
This helped because it made things possible. So I went on a hunt for a good teacher. I did fail my test 3 times (I’m not a miracle worker!), but I was really cautious about not falling into this negative thinking pattern. I made a point of telling myself ‘I can drive, I just need more practice in test situations’. This helped. The 4th time I passed and cried with happiness. I believed from the age of 13 that I would probably never drive, I proved myself wrong.
If facing an ‘I can’t’, follow these tips:
- Never allow yourself to utter the words CAN’T or even think them
- Instead replace it with, I can if…
- What do you need to make it a CAN? (more practice, more time, guidance from an expert etc.)
- Then give yourself the support you need
- I can’t or I can are just projections into the future, choose which one to believe and then do it and do it again. practice until you really can.
3. I’m not ready
Seriously. The best way to be ready is to move forward. It’s like not going to the gym until you lose a stone! Or wanting to clean the house before the cleaner arrives. I bet we’ve all waited to be prepared or ready for a promotion at work, but here’s the thing – you’re never truly ‘ready’ until you start! There is only so much preparation you can do, which let’s face it, is all based on what you imagine it’s going to be like.
Three years ago I used to think I wasn’t ready to quit my job and start my own business. I thought I needed another certificate in something (we typically default to needing another ‘qualification’ when we face the moment to jump ship). Then I met a guy, a friend of a friend who had just set up his own business in coaching and speaking, I asked him about his credentials, he had done a four-week course in coaching and he believed he was good enough, that was it. There was me sitting with a degree in Psychology & Interpersonal Communications, fifteen years studying human behaviour and guiding Fortune 500 companies on apply it to business. I worked for one of the biggest marketing companies in the world, had spent 2 years studying to get my Coaching diploma and already had 4 paying clients – yet I was telling myself I wasn’t ready. Not true!
The true ‘readiness’ comes from doing not from preparing to do. You are only ready once you’ve already walked Three steps forward through the door, not when you’re sat on the wrong side of the door looking at it and waiting to be ready.
Meeting that guy gave me the kick up the ass I needed. Don’t wait for ready, it might never come. Be brave and move forward.
You’re never truly ready until you start, so start!
4. Better safe than sorry
Unless we are referring to true life and death situations or anything that has a high probability of physical or mental harm, then fair enough; safety first.
BUT this term is usually used to feel more comfortable about moving away from risk. Nothing amazing ever happened in your comfort zone. If you want greatness, whether it be in experience, in life, in work, whatever, you have to step up and out of your comfort Zone. That means feeling UNSAFE. Consider this, look back in time and find something amazing that happened, an experience, an event, a result, whatever it might be. Guaranteed, that just before that amazing thing was FEAR.
I bought a one-way ticket to Mexico with a plan to spend 7 months traveling overland (alone!) back down to Brazil. It was an epic journey, one of the best times in my life, but for the 4 weeks running up to it, sitting on the plane, the first night in a hostel alone, I was SO SCARED!
The good stuff, the really rewarding stuff happens when you travel through fear. There is a mistake we all make, we take fear as a sign of danger and often stand still or avoid the action because it’s easier in our safe zone. But the threats we face today, the things that generate fear, are not the same as in the past. Fear and our physiological responses (adrenaline, anxiety etc.) used to be triggered by life and death situations. These days it’s usually triggered by the thought of quitting our job, our sensible life, our security.
We need to think about fear differently. It’s no longer keeping us alive, it’s keeping us stagnant! Fear is not REAL. It’s an emotional and physiological response to one possible future outcome, we need to learn to not focus on the worst that can happen but on the best that can happen.
Spend our energy imagining the great things that will become possible if we quit the job we hate or start that adventure we’ve been dreaming off. I always do the death bed test – When I’m on my death bed am I going to regret that I did this or that I didn’t. The answer is always the same: DO IT!
5. I tried that and it didn’t work…
Past experiences can leave you numb, but just because you’ve tried it in the past and it didn’t work it doesn’t mean it won’t work now. DON’T GIVE UP!
Don’t let the past dictate your future. You are not the same person you were when you last tried. You can’t give up on things because of a setback. That makes you a quitter. All the most successful people in life have got decades worth of failed attempts. But you’ve only failed if you actually STOP. Try again. Try it differently. Try it in a different moment.
I worked with a client once (a landscape gardener) who wanted to create an online presence, he totally ruled out blogging/writing free content because he tried that and it didn’t work. After some digging I discovered that he’d written 2 articles, sent out 1 to 20 people and only 2 people read it so he gave up.
There’s so many ways to look at this and see the positive, plus the opportunity. You can say ONLY 2 people opened it or you can see that 10% opened (and read) his article. That’s actually a GREAT open-rate. These people weren’t from a targeted list (in other words it wasn’t aimed specifically at them) imagine what he would achieve when he was targeting the right people. I asked him to write to them again, give them a short taster of an article and ask them what areas they were interested in and what they wanted to know more about. In the last year he has grown his list of interested people to 2,500 he writes every week.
6. I’m too old / too Young / too this / too that
Just excuses, all of them. You’re not too anything, just too scared.
Be careful of the excuses you allow yourself to bow to. We continuously hear stories about people doing inspiring things regardless of their age, health, ability.
Joanna Quaas is an 89-year-old gymnast (pictured left), she does stuff that people in their 20’s don’t do.
Sue Austin is a deep sea diver, she’s unique because she does it in a wheelchair check out her TED talk if you feel like some inspiration.
Next time you hear yourself coming out with an excuse, remind yourself of these remarkable people, If they don’t inspire you, nothing will!
7. I’m not Smart / Intelligent / Educated enough
IQ tests successfully measure your ability to do IQ tests THAT’S IT. Don’t be fooled by the archaic measurements that institutions use to box you and make you feel insignificant. The education system was designed during the industrial revolution, as such it favoured Maths and English. The world has CHANGED but our measurement tools haven’t. The movers and shakers of this world are no longer the top scholars, they are the ‘geeks’, the creatives, the brave, the ideas people, the ‘won’t give-uppers’, they are ALL OF US, ANY OF US. Time and time again we hear stories of unexpected success, why are they still unexpected? Why are we still surprised?
My twin brother, Johnny dragged himself through the education system. He was regularly told he would amount to nothing. He was an undiagnosed dyslexic. The school’s approach to teaching just didn’t work for him. Today he’s a wildlife cameraman, he travels around the world (67 countries and counting) filming whales, anacondas, living with tribes. He’s one of the most successful people I know.
Stop measuring yourself against archaic metrics. Indeed, stop measuring yourself! Go forth, try, fail, try again, learn, grow, live.
8. I’ve got my X and my Y, I should be happy
The X and Y can be anything, but typically it’s ‘a secure job’, ‘a nice home’, ‘money’. These are all the things we’ve been taught to desire, it’s often the prescribed definition of ‘success’ but it’s just not cutting it for people any longer. We are beginning to wake up to a deeper calling, a desire for purpose, to be part of something bigger than ourselves, to have some form of significance in our lives, money and a ‘secure job’ just doesn’t cut it any longer.
Also, any thought with a ‘should’ in it actually belongs to someone else. It’s how you feel you ought to feel, how you think you ought to think. BUT IT’S NOT HOW YOU THINK OR HOW YOU FEEL so don’t give into it. If you’re not content or happy there is something going on that needs to be worked on. Identify what it is and change it. Have you ever asked yourself ‘Who am I and what type of life do I want to lead?’ In life it’s not about ‘what’ you want to be, but ‘who’ you want be. If you haven’t asked yourself these questions then now’s the time to start…and please, don’t then get on a plane to some far-flung destination and hope the answer magically pops up over a hippie campfire on your travels. DO THE WORK. If you don’t know how, email me Jodie@jodierogers.com and lets talk.
9. Work isn’t supposed to be enjoyable, work is work. I shouldn’t complain
We aren’t in the 18th century, we have much more control over our lives today than we ever did. Work takes up a MASSIVE chunk of our waking hours – damn right it should be enjoyed!
Whether it be the task itself, the impact you feel you make or the bigger movement you are a part of, some aspect of that must be enjoyable or it will break you. No, you shouldn’t complain if you are not going to do anything about it. Nothing annoys me more than people who complain about their job/life/relationship and then continue to make the same bad choices every day. You have 2 options: see the complaints as a red flag, explore your options and change something or suck it up, period.
My older brother worked as an environmental scientist, he loved it in the beginning, but soon things changed and he had less and less time out in the field (literally) and more and more time in the office which was his worst nightmare. He stuck it out for a while and then got to the point of misery. He quit, went traveling to South America, wrote this book then retrained as a diver and now his office has happily become the oceans of the world.
What kinds of negative thoughts and excuses sometimes linger in the back of your mind? What’s one belief or negative thought that has held you back?
Share your thoughts with me by leaving a comment below.
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