The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

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What Is A 'Limiting Belief'?

Limiting Beliefs are mistaken assumptions or worldviews that can act as barriers to getting what you want. You have no “fundamental defects” — there’s nothing that you’re fundamentally incapable of learning or doing. Identifying and overcoming your limiting beliefs is an effective way to improve your results.

Josh Kaufman Explains 'Limiting Beliefs'

In general, there are two primary ways of looking at the world—two mindsets that influence your response to new experiences.

The first basic mindset is that your skills and abilities are fixed. If you try something and it doesn’t work, it’s because you’re “not good at that,” and you never will be. You were born with innate skills and abilities, which will never change.

Using this mindset, if you experience a challenge or difficulty, you’re likely to stop—you’re obviously not good at it, so why bother?

The second basic mindset is that your skills and abilities are malleable. If you try something and it doesn’t work, it’s because you haven’t worked on it very much, but if you choose to keep trying, you’ll inevitably get better. Your skills and abilities are like muscles—they strengthen with use. If you experience a challenge or difficulty, you’re likely to keep going—you might not be good at it yet, but you’re always getting better.

These two mindsets color how you experience everything in the world. In Mindset: The Psychology of Success, Dr. Carol Dweck calls these mindsets the “fixed” and “growth” theories of intelligence. If you have a “fixed” mindset, challenges are a commentary on your ability as a person—you’ve been tried, and found wanting, which makes trying new things feel threatening. If you have a “growth” mindset, challenges are an obstacle to be overcome by working a bit harder.

The fixed mind-set is an example of a Limiting Belief: something you believe is true about the world that holds you back from achieving a Goal you value. The fixed mind-set isn’t true, but it’s capable of holding you back if you choose to believe it.

Some Limiting Beliefs are the result of errors in Pattern Matching. Here’s a common example: if you believe that wealthy people are superficial, unethical, or corrupt, you’ll find it difficult to make money. If you make money than you make now, you’ll become one of “those people,” and the thought will make you uncomfortable any time money is an issue.

If you don’t identify the Conflict and resolve it, money matters will always make you uncomfortable. Your mind is not malfunctioning: part of your brain is anticipating the future and trying to protect you from something you don’t want, but it’s going about the task in a counterproductive way. To make progress, you have to identify and eliminate the beliefs that are holding you back.

Everyone has Limiting Beliefs in certain areas. Any time you use the words “I can’t,” “I have to,” or “I’m not good at,” you’ve discovered a potential Limiting Belief. Most of the time, taking a moment to consciously question the belief is all you need to do to break it. “Is that really true?” and “How do I know that’s true?” are very powerful and versatile Self-Elicitation questions.

Limiting Beliefs also appear when we consider doing things that make us uncomfortable, like applying for a new job or selling an offer to a new prospect. Images of rejection and disapproval start flashing through your mind, and your first impulse is to conclude “this won’t work” before conducting a single test or gathering real feedback.

Here’s a useful rule of thumb for these types of situations: make the other party tell you no. This is a Habit worth installing: you may believe you’re going to be turned down when you make a request or propose an idea, but make the other party say it instead of assuming it’s a given. You’ll be surprised at how often you get what you want, even when you believe the odds are slim.

The way you choose to respond to challenges determines how successful you ultimately will become. It’s important to realize that you have no “fundamental defects” — there’s nothing that you’re fundamentally incapable of learning or doing. It may take time and effort, but you’ll improve eventually if you make the effort.

Viewing your mind as a muscle is the way to help it grow.

Questions About 'Limiting Beliefs'


"Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization."

Eugene V. Debs, labor union activist


From Chapter 7:

Working With Yourself


https://personalmba.com/limiting-belief/



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The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

Buy the book:


About Josh Kaufman

Josh Kaufman is an acclaimed business, learning, and skill acquisition expert. He is the author of two international bestsellers: The Personal MBA and The First 20 Hours. Josh's research and writing have helped millions of people worldwide learn the fundamentals of modern business.

More about Josh Kaufman →