For the past year we’ve been constrained, hampered, bounded, restricted….name your adjective. We’ve been unable to do many of the things that give us freedom and connection. And we’ve had to adapt, accommodate, live in uncertainty and embrace so much change.
It’s been really hard.
And yet, we recognize we don’t have control over many of our external restrictions, and indeed appreciate it’s what we need to do to keep our communities safe.
But what about our internal constraints and barriers?
You know, the inner critic, the stories we tell ourselves, imagined scenarios, self-limiting beliefs, either/or thinking or our desire to control everything, live in the past and wish things were different.
Acclaimed psychologist and author of the book Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why it Matters and How to Harness Ethan Kross says, “Although the inner voice functions well much of the time, it often leads to chatter—the cyclical negative thoughts and emotions that turn our singular capacity for introspection into a curse rather than a blessing.”
We have enough constraints without the chatter and beliefs that get in our way, keep us stuck and prevent us from moving forward. Indeed, in the internal arena, we have more control than we know.
This blog highlights three barriers that get in our way and offers tips and strategies to reframe situations so we can mobilize.
StoryTelling and Fortune Telling
“The most powerful stories may be the ones we tell ourselves. But beware—they’re usually fiction.”
I can think of two circumstances last week where I was ready to wage war. The story I was telling myself was that I was being ignored which made me feel disrespected, under valued and frustrated. While I wanted to have a conversation to “clear the air” my better–self held me back. And a good job it did, because in both cases the lack of response was due to genuine extenuating circumstances. I would have been totally out of line and frankly would have embarrassed myself.
In the absence of facts, we will make up stories and/or will predict the future. We are great storytellers but the ones we tell ourselves are rarely good. Our ability to make assumptions, see into the minds of others, predict actions, outcomes and results, holds us back.
- We won’t have the conversation with our colleague because it will damage the relationship.
- We won’t speak up because we might get fired.
- We won’t apply for the internal role because we believe having only 85% of the qualifications isn’t enough.
- We won’t have the difficult conversation about bad behaviour with the talented team member because they will quit.
Most of the time we get it wrong. Humans are bad at predicting and typically, the outcomes we imagine are way worse than the reality. The invitation is to get curious about our stories and ask:
What is the story I am making up?
What assumptions am I making?
What do I know?
What don’t I know?
What am I really feeling?
What information do I need?
Self–limiting beliefs are assumptions or perceptions that we believe about ourselves and about the way the world works. They are typically formed in childhood and are based on our experiences. You know them:
I’m too old.
I’m not smart enough.
No one it going to hire me.
You have to have money to make money.
I don’t have the education.
It’s selfish of me to want more.
I don’t deserve it.
We are so convinced that our beliefs are true, they stop us from acting, confine us and keep us stuck. Here’s three ways to think about them.
- Challenge your beliefs: Write it out or verbalize it and ask yourself these questions. “Is this true?” “How do I know?” Then challenge yourself, “What if this belief is wrong?” Generally, self-limiting beliefs lose their power when we consider their validity.
- Ask how the belief serving you: We tend to hold on to beliefs to protect us from struggle and failure. It’s easier to believe that people won’t hire you rather than face the struggle of rejection. Beliefs only stick if they serve us in some way, figure out how your belief is serving you and ask yourself if it’s worth it or not.
- Choose a different belief: Easier said than done, but the more we develop the habit of challenging our beliefs, the more we can imagine new ideas and alternatives. For every self-limiting belief, write down 3 – 4 possible alternatives to that assumption. By doing this, we will increase our self awareness by noticing we have control over what we believe.
Either Or Thinking
Binary thinking is black and white thinking (think yes/no, good/bad, either/or). It polarizes relationships between one thing and another. It also narrows the field of possibilities and the middle ground becomes invisible. In fact, the more we focus on a problem, the more we can only see two extreme alternatives.
This is a universal habit that is hardwired into our brains to protect us. Yet it is a false dichotomy.
In his book BE 2.0, Jim Collins talks about the ‘Tyranny of the OR’, which pushes people to believe that things must be either or but not both. He invites to embrace the ‘Genius of the AND’ to expand the conversation.
A friend of mine was stuck in a job she hated. She shared, “I hate my job, but I need a paycheque”. I invited her to repeat the sentiment, only substitute the word ‘but’ with ‘and’.
“I hate my job and I need a paycheque”.
She felt the difference. It opened possibilities for her. She realized the reality of needing a paycheque didn’t need to come from the organization she was with. It led her to think of many ways she could generate the paycheque and feel happier about what she was doing.
Jim Collins quotes F. Scott Fitzgerald who said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
What would substituting the word “and” change for you?
When thinking in extremes, what options exist in the middle ground?
It turns out that we are not very objective in our predictions, beliefs or choices. And in many ways, we can be our own worst enemies. Yet our perceptions and our understanding of true or false don’t need to constrain us, hold us back or stop us from taking action. It is in our control to challenge them and change them. It is in our control to calm the brain and change our thoughts.
What would it change for you to challenge your stories, self-limiting beliefs and either/or thinking?
How would it unstick you and move you forward?
If we can help you get out of your own way through one-to-one coaching, learn more about our programs.